Pili Festival is cultural and fruit festival and religious fiesta in the city of Sorsogon, Philippines held every June 29. It puts a spotlight to the bountiful harvest of pili (Canarium ovatum), a fruit-bearing tree that grows abundantly in the province, and it also coincides with the patronal feast of Sts. Peters and Paul.
History of Pili Festival
Pili Festival was conceptualized in 1999 by Irma Alindogan-Jacobs, former Provincial Information Center Manager of the Philippine Information Agency under the Office of the Press Secretary. At that time, then municipality of Sorsogon did not have any official festival.
The concept of the fest was a response to the call to promote pili as a high-value crop of the town. Jacobs stated that the fruit and its related products were a source of livelihood of the townsfolk. It’s also shaped the way of life in Sorsogon, and that many people had fond childhood memory of picking the fruit from the trees, drying them out in the sun, and cracking the nuts.
The fest was proposed to be the town’s primary festival, a grand and joyful activity that would unite its people and encourage community participation, a vehicle to popularize pili, a religious observance of the town’s patrons, and a celebration of Sorsogon’s identity, culture, and heritage. The idea was supported by then mayor Rosario Jun Delgado.
The first Pili Festival was organized in 2000 when Sally Lee was the mayor. Since then, it has been embraced by the people as the city’s festival annually and has evolved through the years. It became part of the Department of Tourism’s Wow Philippines campaign under then Secretary Richard Gordon and has been included as one of the official festivals of the Philippines.
What is pili?
Pili is a fruit-bearing tree that is native to the Philippines. It is also sometimes referred to as Java almond. Pili is found and produced mainly in the Bicol region and some parts of eastern Visayas. Its tree can reach up to 20 meters in height.
It is farmed for its pulp and seeds, which are called pili nuts, that can be eaten. The fruit can be roasted, boiled, salted, or made into candies. It is also utilized in culinary dishes and delicacies such as conserva.
Pili oil extract is one of its prized derivative products. In addition, the tree’s fruit, other parts (roots, bark, leaves, etc.), and oil can be used for various purposes such as obtaining reportedly medicinal benefits such as a laxative, treatment of skin conditions, and a part of skincare regimen. Emeli oil, which is extracted from the bark of the tree, is used as an ingredient in the production of perfume.
The province of Sorsogon is known as one of the largest producers of the fruit in the country. In 2018, the province had the most agricultural area of 1,373 hectares dedicated to its cultivation in the Bicol region. It is succeeded by Albay, Masbate, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, and Catanduanes.
In the city of Sorsogon, there are 245 hectares of land planted with pili with a total number of 29,875 trees.
Religious fiesta of Sts. Peter and Paul
Pili Festival is also a religious fiesta of Saints Peter and Paul, the patrons of the town and of Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral, which is also called Sorsogon Cathedral and it is the ecclesiastical seat of the Diocese of Sorsogon.
The history of the cathedral began in 1569 when Augustinian friar Fr. Alonzo Jimenez arrived in Gibal-ong which is located in the village of Siuton in the town of Magallanes. He was among those who joined the expedition led by Luis Enriquez de Guzman as the chaplain, and he officiated the first mass not only in Sorsogon but also the first ever mass in Luzon.
The Franciscans formally established the Christian presence in the province when they erected the churches in Casiguran in 1600 and then in Bacon in 1617. Sorsogon was a visita of Bacon until it ceded as a separate parish in 1628 with Fr. Francisco San Diego as the first parish priest. The church then was placed under the patronage of St. Anthony de Padua. In 1680, the parish was taken care of by the secular clergy and by the Recollects beginning in 1768.
It was on June 22, 1792 that the patron of the parish was replaced by Sts. Peter and Paul. The secular clergy would administer the parish once again starting in 1794. The Diocese of Sorsogon was established on June 29, 1951 the parish became a cathedral.
Pili Festival Activities
The religious aspect of the festival starts with the nine-day novena. It begins in June 20 and the last novena prayers are heard in June 28. A pontifical, concelebrated mass is held the next day. All the religious events take place at the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral.
The city government of Sorsogon takes care of the secular activities. Its calendar can be as long as the entire June, with culminating activities occuring in the last day of the said month. The kick-off activities is the ceremonial “pagtilad” by the mayor.
Other events include sports, cultural shows, outreach programs, street dancing, parades, trade fair, talent competitions, cook fest, music events, etc.
Tiriladan sa Dalan
Pagtilad is the act of cracking open the pili nut. The fruit is placed on a woodn board and it is opened with a strike of a bolo on its shell with such precision to preserve the kernel within.
Tiliradan sa Dalan is community-participated. In 2004, it recorded the longest line of people cracking pili nuts with 10,000 people joining the activity.
Miss Pili Festival
Miss Pili Festival is the beauty pageant for females and it is considered the most prestigious search in the province.
How to reach Sorsogon City, Sorsogon
The nearest airport is Legazpi Airport, and the city is about 60 kilometers away in a land trip that would take roughly one and a half hour.
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