Kaisa Festival

Kaisa Festival is the cultural festival and religious fiesta in the city of Tarlac, Tarlac, Philippines every January 20. It is held as a celebration of the city’s culture and history and in honor of St. Sebastian, the patron saint of the city.

History of Kaisa Festival

The city of Tarlac used to hold the Malatarlak Festival every January 20. The name of the fest comes from a kind of grass indigenous to Luzon. One can see the archives found in the Senate of the Philippines of the list of presidential proclamations declaring the date as a special non-working holiday for this festival in Tarlac spanning from 2004 until 2010.

Starting in 2012, the city government led by Mayor Ace Manalang changed the name of this yearly celebration from Malatarlak Festival to Melting Pot Festival. It is inspired by how the city has become a home for people from different backgrounds particularly among Ilocano, Tagalog, Pampangueno, and Pangasinenses. The convergence of peoples from different parts of the country has brought forth a vibrant culture and diversity in the city.

Then in 2017, the Melting Pot Festival was again changed to Kaisa Festival by Mayor Cristy Angeles. The name of the fest is derived from the Filipino word “magkaisa” which means to unite. It pays tribute to the unity shown by the people of the city in confronting challenges head on and a recognition of the year-round blessing received.

Devotion to St. Sebastian

The devotion to San Sebastian (St. Sebastian) began with the story of Christianity in Tarlac City during the Spanish conquest. Christian missionaries belonging to the Augustinian order established the church in 1686, which they managed as a visita of Magalang, Pampanga. Decades later, it ceded from Pampanga and gained independence as a separate parish in 1727. However after thirty years, it was absorbed back to the parish of Magalang.

From the beginning, the church was placed under the patronage of St. Sebastian, saint and martyr who died in the name of Christian faith. He is called “Apung Baste” by the devotees.

The first house of worship was made of light construction materials in the 18th century. It was rebuilt into a stone church in 1872 and completed in 1890. It was ruined during World War II and reconstructed years later. The church was elevated to a cathedral when the Diocese of Tarlac was established on February 16, 1963.

Kaisa Festival Activities

Kaisa Festival’s schedule of activities can be divided into two, religious and secular. Religious activities are organized by religious authorities while the secular calendar of activities are organized by the city government of Tarlac.

Religious activities start with the nine-day novena and masses. On the tenth day, a high mass or pontifical mass is held. Afterwards, a solemn foot procession is conducted where the processional image of St. Sebastian is brought out to the streets along with a throng of devotees.

On the other hand, secular activities often span for a week (such as the 2018 calendar for example). Activities include job fair, trade fair, float parade, music festival, coronation of Miss Tarlac, homecoming night, etc.

Pana-Pana Festival

Launched in 2020, Pana-Pana Festival is the street dance competition within the Kaisa Festival. It reenacts the martyrdom of the saint whose body was tied and pierced by arrows. During the festivity, different dance contingents representing the schools of the city compete to come up with the most creative rendition of the patron’s life.

How to reach Tarlac City

The nearest airport to Tarlac City is through Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). Regular bus trips are available which would take about three to four hours.


Kaisa Festival Summary

NameKaisa Festival
CelebrationCulture, Religion
ChurchTarlac Cathedral
Contact(045) 982-6005
DateJanuary 20
Duration1 week
FounderCristy Angeles
LocationTarlac City, Tarlac
OrganizerCity Government of Tarlac
PatronSt. Sebastian
ReligionRoman Catholic
Simultaneous eventReligious Fiesta of St. Sebastian