Higantes Festival is a month-long artistic, cultural, and religious festival held in the town of Angono, Rizal, Philippines every November. Dedicated in honor of St. Clement of Rome, also known as Pope Clement I, and as thanksgiving for good harvest, it is known for its grand fluvial parade in Laguna Lake and colorful giant puppets made out of paper machie. It is one of the Philippines’ intangible cultural property and listed on the International Information and Networking Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region.
History of Higantes Festival
Higantes Festival comes from the word higante (loaned from the Spanish word gigante), which means giant. Records of a church in the town of Angono dates back as early as 1571 as documented by Fr. Gaspar San Andres in Conquistas delas Islas Filipinas. It is the only church in the Philippines that is under the patronage of St. Clement of Rome, the patron saint of mariners and fisher folks.
For years during the Spanish rule, the town’s yearly fest did not include any giant puppets as part of celebration, the life of St. Clement and its commemoration precluded any use of them. They were introduced by the townspeople eventually. Exactly how, when, and why are inquiries that open up to multiple, varying accounts.
One possible explanation provided is that they were instruments of protest against abusive land-owners towards the end of Spanish colonization. Giants were made to look very much like the prominent elite in town, making available a language with which the poor can register their mockery. However, James Owen Saguinsin of Far Eastern University demurred and mentioned that such vindictiveness was directed against a certain Karias Tangkad, a caretaker of a property who was known to be bad-tempered and unpleasant, a man described to be a giant. In another but related story, his name was a mean-spirited Zacarias Tangkad who was not a mere caretaker but a land-owner to whom many in town had displeased enough that they made mocking effigy of him during the fiesta.
Another account stated that common folks were forbidden to hold more than one fiesta. They then made the most out of this restriction of their public and social life that they raised paper-mache higantes, a skill that was taught by Spanish friars. Higantes, just like the claim above, were made to resemble the wealthy, ruling families of the time that was taken as a good-natured, half-meant retort. In time, the paper giants were presented as groups of three representing father, mother, and child. It is said that in 1897, Perdigon Bolacan took the initiative to conduct the first ever Higantes Festival.
One last account is that the phenomenon of giant puppets is a rather recent development in post-war period. Saguinsin expressed it was Carlos Francisco, national artist, who asked the first ever puppet-creator Artemio Tajan to make higantes to enliven the festivities.
In 2013, the local government of Angono officially organized Higantes Festival. And in 2020, activities were available for streaming online to avoid crowds in response to COVID-19 pandemic. In the next year, visitors were discouraged from attending and a select number of townsfolk were part of the activities.
Higantes are over ten feet tall and have a girth of about four to five feet. They mostly are human in form especially of prominent people in society, but plenty of them are in the shape of animals, objects, and vegetables. Towering and multi-colored, they are eye-catching and impressive as as hundreds of them come down the streets during parades. Materials are traditionally paper mache and wood, while there are creations made of aluminum and fiber.
Higantes Festival was one of the country’s festivals featured in commemorative stamps issued by the Philippine Postal Corp. (PhlPost) on November 22, 2014.
Higantes Festival Schedule of Activities
Higantes Festival have many events lined up leading to, during, and after the feast day. Competitions are launched in the categories of cooking, dance, singing, and street dance. There are also shows in fashion, art exhibits and fairs, concerts, fun runs, fireworks display, and music fest.
Here are some of the biggest events.
Fluvial parade occurs on the feast day after the Holy Mass. The image of the patron is brought to a floating bamboo raft bedecked in flowers and decorations as it makes its way along Laguna Lake. It is followed by other boats that are likewise richly decorated. A foot parade follows with parehadoras, kids wearing traditional costumes, paddle, and traditional footwear called bakya, and devotees wear the traditional costume of their trade complete with fish nets, paddles and traps. Participants engage in basaan where they sprinkle, shower, or douse others with water as an expression of celebration and in giving blessings.
Serenata ng mga Banda
Serenata ng mga Banda is a musical fest that occurs in the Church of St. Clement. It boasts of the popular Angono Symphonic Band and Angono Concert Band.
Higantes Grand Parade
Higantes Grand Parade happens a week before the feast day. It is conducted to such merriment and joviality with the higantes taking center stage. It is also the venue of various important contests such as marching band, drum and lyre, higante stop dance, and higante palaro.
Ginoo at Binibining Angono 2019
Ginoo at Binibining Angono are beauty tilts for men and women that were established in 2014. Winners are judged the best of the year’s candidates and who represent the virtues espoused by the festival.
- Churches in Rizal. Municipality of Rizal. Retrieved August 2, 2022
- Peralta, Jesus T. (Editor). Pinagmulan: Enumeration from the Philippine Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage. International Information and Networking Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 2013. Retrieved August 2, 2022
- The Angono’s Higantes Festival for San Clemente. International Informtaion and Networking Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. November 17, 2017. Retrieved August 2, 2022
- All dolled up as giant puppets. The Straits Times. November 18, 2019. Retrieved August 2, 2022
- Marcial, Elida Bianca. Home of the Higantes Festival – Angono, Rizal. Municipality of Angono. September 6, 2017. Retrieved August 2, 2022
- Andrade, Nel. Angono, Rizal LGU bans visitors to Higantes Festival 2021. Manila Bulletin. November 22, 2021. Retrieved August 2, 2022
- Macairan, Evelyn. PhlPost to issue stamps featuring festival masks. The Philippine Star. November 18, 2014. Retrieved August 2, 2022
- Calica, Aurea. Nov. 23 a holiday in Angono. The Philippine Star. November 18, 2012. Retrieved August 2, 2022
- Roces, Alejandro R. The Higantes of Angono, the Higantes of today. The Philippine Star. November 23, 2006. Retrieved August 2, 2022
- Cinco, Maricar. Angono to dress up ‘higantes’ as front-liners in online festival. Philippine Daily Inquirer. October 30, 2020. Retrieved August 2, 2022
- Rodriguez, Fritzie. Angono’s Higantes Festival: How giants are made. Rappler. November 22, 2014. Retrieved August 2, 2022
- Panganiban, Kendrick Ivan. Angono Church elevated to diocesan shrine. Business Mirror. May 29, 2022. Retrieved August 3, 2022
- Angono’s fiesta of higantes. The Manila Times. November 24, 2006. Retrieved August 3, 2022
- Andrade, Nel. Angono, Rizal LGU bans visitors to Higantes Festival 2021. Manila Bulletin. November 22, 2021. Retrieved August 3, 2022
- Higantes Festival: Angono honors frontliners during celebration of feast of Saint Clement. ABS-CBN News. November 22, 2020. Retrieved September 12, 2022
Higantes Festival Summary
Name Higantes Festival Celebration Arts, Culture, Religion Church Diocesan Shrine and Parish of St. Clement Country Philippines Date November 23 Duration Month-long Established 2013 Facebook www.facebook.com Location Rizal, Angono Organizer Municipality of Angono, Diocesan Shrine and Parish of St. Clement Patron Saint Clement of Rome Religion Roman Catholic Website angono.gov.ph
|Celebration||Arts, Culture, Religion|
|Church||Diocesan Shrine and Parish of St. Clement|
|Organizer||Municipality of Angono, Diocesan Shrine and Parish of St. Clement|
|Patron||Saint Clement of Rome|