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The Naliyagan Festival 2023: Celebrating the Rich Culture and Heritage of Agusan del Sur

Naliyagan Festival

The Naliyagan Festival is an annual event held in the province of Agusan del Sur, located in the Caraga Region of the Philippines. The festival is a celebration of the province’s rich cultural heritage, and it showcases the indigenous culture and traditions of the Manobo people, who are the province’s largest indigenous group. Naliyagan Festival is a six-day celebration. It starts with a remembrance of the country’s independence day and an anniversary of its establishment as a province.

History of Naliyagan Festival

Manobo Dance
Image Source: Naliyagan Festival | Facebook

The Naliyagan Festival is derived from the word “Naliyagan” which is a word in the Manobo language that means “the chosen one”. It was created during the governor’s term under Democrito O. Plaza, in collaboration with Manobo Chief Datu Lipus Makapandong and other tribal chieftains, who organized the festival to celebrate their costumes and culture.

The first Naliyagan Festival was held in 1993. It was also an initiative that was a provincial-wide one to celebrate the diversity and cultural traditions of people from Agusan of the Sur. It is attended by the different municipalities and cities, which are also represented by their respective representatives. They participate in numerous activities and bring their products at the trade show that is held annually as a tiny group of Manobo tribes that resided in the city of Agusan del Sur. 

The goal was to preserve and propagate the culture and heritage of the Manobo people which was gradually disappearing because of modernization and globalization. Back then, the festival increased in both size and popularity with people from all over the country, and even different parts of the world. 

The Naliyagan Festival Manobo
Image Source: Naliyagan Festival | Facebook

Additionally, Naliyagan Festival is a celebration of the province’s founding anniversary. The province was at first time’s a part of Surigao until it was made an independent province through the passage of Act No. 1693 on August 20, 1907. This was later divided into Agusan Del Norte and Agusan del Sur following the passage of Republic Act No. 4979 on June 17, 1967. However, Agusan del Norte also celebrates its founding anniversary, which is known as Araw ng Agusan del Norte.

In addition, the Naliyagan Festival starts every 12th of June, the nationwide adherence to Independence Day.

Where is the Naliyagan Festival Celebrated?

Naliyagan Festival Venue
Image Source: Agusan del Sur, My Home | Facebook

The Naliyagan Festival is held in the province of Agusan del Sur, which is located in the Caraga Region of Mindanao, Philippines. The festival is specifically celebrated in the town of Prosperidad, which is the capital of Agusan del Sur. Prosperidad is a predominantly Manobo area, and the festival is a tribute to the Manobo people’s rich cultural heritage.

What is Panawagtawag Ritual in Naliyagan Festival?

Panawagtawag Ritual
Image Source: Naliyagan Festival | Facebook

The Naliyagan Festival usually starts with a Manobo ritual called Panawagtawag which is a ritual of the Agusan Manobo tribe to pay respect to their Ancestors and call for guidance from the Spirits and Magbabaya, it is led by ababaylan or high priest. During the ritual, the babaylan sacrifices a pig or some chickens to summon the good spirits of the forests. 


Aedow/Aldaw Tumgo Tribong AgSurnon – The Naliyagan Festival 

The “Aedow/Aldaw Tu Mgo Tribong AgSurnon” festival is a celebration of the rich cultural heritage of the Manobo people. The festival, which translates to “Day of the Gathering of Tribes,” is a time for members of different tribes to come together and celebrate their unique traditions, costumes, and way of life.

Manobo tribe in Agusan
Image Source: Naliyagan Festival | Facebook

Aedow/Aldaw Tumgo Tribong AgSurnon is a day dedicated to the celebration of the customs and practices of ethnic minorities of Agusan del Sur. Based on ethnographic research done by Abraham L. Masendo, the province is home to five distinct indigenous communities: Manobo, Aeta, Bagobo, Banwaon, and Mamanwa. The activity provides them with an opportunity to showcase their culture, space, and the opportunity to display the beauty and diversity of their indigenous cultural heritage.

One of the highlights of the Aedow/Aldaw Tu Mgo Tribong AgSurnon is the Cultural Games competition, where Manobo tribes from different municipalities in Agusan del Sur gather to showcase their skills and prowess in traditional games. These games are not just for entertainment but also serve as a way to preserve and pass on the traditional culture and values of the Manobo people to future generations.

Aedow/Aldaw Tu Mgo Tribong AgSurnon
Image Source: Naliyagan Festival | Facebook

Here are some of the traditional games played during the Cultural Games competition:

  • Patintero – a game played by two teams, where each team tries to cross the other team’s territory without getting tagged.
  • Pag-ipas – This game is similar to a relay race, where teams of four race to pass a wooden ball from one player to the next using only their feet. The first team who finish first will be the winner.
  • Sagang – This game involves throwing a small wooden ball at a target made of coconut shells. Points are awarded depending on which shell the ball hits.
  • Higaonon Pinogpoganon – This is a tug-of-war game played between two teams. The rope used in the game is made of rattan and decorated with colorful ribbons.
  • Bagitong – This game is a test of strength and endurance. Players have to carry heavy stones on their shoulders and run around a designated area. The player who can carry the most stones wins.

These traditional games are not only a source of entertainment but also serve as a reminder of the Manobo people’s deep connection to their culture and heritage. The Naliyagan Festival provides a platform for the Manobo people to share their traditions and values with the rest of the world, helping to preserve their culture for generations to come.

The Naliyagan Festival Exhibition

The Naliyagan Festival Exhibition features various displays of crafts and arts which include paintings, sculptures ceramics, handicrafts, and pottery. It’s a celebration of the imagination and creativity of the people living in Agusan of the Sur. The exhibit is open to everyone visitors, and they are invited to spend time in the vivid and vibrant exhibits.

Naliyagan Festival Painting Competitions
Image Source: Naliyagan Festival | Facebook

A very well-known exhibit at The Festival Exhibition is the traditional weaving and embroidery. Visitors can observe the weaver’s work in progress and admire the intricate designs and patterns on the final products. The fabric used in the tradition of weaving comes from natural materials, such as abaca or pineapple fibers. The colors used are extracted from natural dyes and plants. 

Naliyagan Festival Exhibits
Image Source: Naliyagan Festival | Facebook

Another attraction part of The Festival Exhibition is the pottery exhibit. Visitors can appreciate the skills of potters as they design intricate patterns and forms by using traditional methods. The pots on display are not just functional, but also pieces of art that represent the rich heritage and culture of the region.

It is also a great opportunity to see the Festival Exhibition also features an assortment of handicrafts, which include hand-crafted jewelry, bags, and other accessories. The objects displayed are made of natural materials like shells seeds, and fibers and are decorated with intricate embroidery and beadwork.

The Naliyagan Festival Exhibition of the Naliyagan Festival is not only an opportunity to showcase the talents of artists but it is also a celebration of the local community. The festival provides a platform for individuals to express themselves artistically and communicate their distinctive culture and traditions to the world.

Naliyagan Festival Games

One of the most memorable aspects of the festival is the variety of sports events which show the athleticism and skill that the people of Naliyagan have. Here are some of the events during the Naliyagan Festival:


Naliyagan Motorsports Competitions
Image Source: Naliyagan Festival | Facebook

The sounds of the roaring engines and the racing tires were heard throughout the air during the motor racing event that began during the Naliyagan Festival. Participants from all over the province pumped up their engines and raced around the difficult course, demonstrating their speed and driving skills. The adrenaline-inducing event attracted large crowds of fans who cheered on their favorite racers and were amazed by the incredible tricks performed by the daredevil on their motorbikes. The motor racing event was not just an exciting spectacle, but also a tribute to the dedication and passion of the motorsports enthusiasts in the province. 


Naliyagan Festival Boxing Competition
Image Source: Naliyagan Festival | Facebook

A ring was placed in the center of the grounds boxers of different weight classes competed in intense fights in the Naliyagan Festival’s boxing tournament. The contests were a demonstration of skill, strategy, and endurance as boxers exchanged blows and danced around one competing to outwit and outmuscle their opponents. The audience’s cheers as well as the sounds of gloves striking flesh resonated throughout the event as boxers battled to win the title. The boxing event proved that the province’s passion for the sport and its skilled boxers. 

Mountain Trail Mountain Trail

Naliyagan Festival Mountain Trail Mountain Trail
Image Source: Naliyagan Festival | Facebook

 Naliyagan Festival also featured a mountain trail competition that showcased the beauty of nature and the rough landscape of this province. Participants of the event were challenged to walk through the rugged trail, steep slopes, and thick forests of the mountains. The race was an exercise in endurance as well as strength and mental toughness as runners fought the tough terrain and fought the elements. When they crossed the finish line happy and exhausted the runners were welcomed with cheers and applause by the crowd. The mountain trail race was not just an opportunity to celebrate the natural resources of the province, but it was also a celebration of the endurance and strength of its citizens. 

Naliyagan Festival Street Dancing

Naliyagan Festival Street Dancing
Image Source: Naliyagan Festival | Facebook

The most thrilling part of the Naliyagan Festival may be the street dance competition, which is characterized by colorful and energetic performances performed by groups from various towns within Agusan del Sur. The dancers are dressed in elaborate costumes, adorned with beads, feathers, and other native materials, and perform with the rhythm of drums as well as the sounds of the kulintang – the traditional Manobo instrument.

Street dancing at Naliyagan Festival is a fusion of contemporary and traditional dance styles. It blends the movements and rhythms of traditional dances with modern street dance. The result is an enthralling show that captures both the spirit of celebration and the crowd.

The street dance contest is open to people of all ages and genders. Participants are divided into different categories that include elementary, high school, and college. The competition is intense, with each team aiming to show off their best moves and beat their opponents.

The streets of Agusan del Sur are alive in the street dance competition. People line the streets in a frenzy of cheers and applause as the teams take to the stage. The excitement and energy are evident as dancers dance according to the music.

One of the main attractions of the contest is the bright costumes that the contestants wear. They reflect the rich history and culture that the community has. They are made of indigenous materials and are decorated with intricate embroidery and beadwork.

The street dance competition at Naliyagan Festival is more than just a show of dancing skills. It is an expression of the people who make up the community as well as the bonds that bind the people together. It is an occasion to celebrate the traditions and history that makes the region distinctive.

Bai Naliyagan

Bai Naliyagan
Image Source: Naliyagan Festival | Facebook

Bae Naliyagan translates the “chosen woman”. It is a remarkable beauty pageant for females, and it is also known as Miss Agusan del Sur. Each province of Agusan del Sur sends in its best candidate for the competition. The winner is chosen as the best candidate who embodies beauty and talent, and then she becomes the province’s “ambassadress of goodwill.”

Cultural Show 

Cultural Show - Naliyagan Festival
Image Source: Naliyagan Festival | Facebook

It’s the final day to celebrate the Naliyagan Festival, and it’s an annual cultural event for the Manobo people, who showcase their rich cultural heritage and their customs. The Manobo are among the most populous indigenous peoples in the Philippines and their cultural performance is a celebration of their distinct culture and unique way of living.

The cultural show is a time when the performers wear traditional Manobo costumes and dance music, rituals, and songs that are a reflection of the Manobo lifestyle. The show usually includes shows that include “lumad” dance, which is a dance traditional to Manobo and is performed at numerous Manobo celebrations and ceremonies.

Cultural Show - Naliyagan Festival
Image Source: Naliyagan Festival | Facebook

It is a Manobo Cultural Show that also has traditional music performed on instruments such as “the kulintang” a set of gongs that are played using beaters made of wood. The performers usually perform songs that reflect the Manobo lifestyle which includes songs about agriculture, nature, and communities.

It’s more fun at The Naliyagan Festival!

Apart from its cultural significance, Naliyagan Festival also offers other entertainment to its people. This includes Modern dance and Battle-of-the-Bands competitions that are open to everyone. The Naliyagan Ground is also filled with different local stalls and vendors. A display of the different municipalities’ local products is also a highlight. At night, more crowds and tourists come to enjoy the place together with their family, friends, and loved ones with varieties of foods, drinks, and music from different bands playing all night long. Every 10 pm, the most awaited Fireworks Display lights up the night sky. Aside from that, National artists and bands also come to visit, celebrate and entertain the people making it more fun in Naliyagan Festival.

Kamikazee - Naliyagan Festival
Image Source: Naliyagan Festival | Facebook

Moreover, this Naliyagan festival brings a significant impact on the economy in the region that is Agusan of the Sur. As the festival brings thousands of people each year, this creates revenue for local businesses and creates employment opportunities for those living within the region.

Additionally, the festival helps promote the tourism industry in Agusan del Sur which is renowned for its beautiful natural beauty and diversity. Visitors can visit the province’s lush forests as well as scenic waterfalls and stunning beaches, which provide a variety of outdoor pursuits like swimming, hiking, and snorkeling.

It is said that the Naliyagan Festival is an opportunity to celebrate traditions, culture, and friendship. It is an opportunity that allows Manobo people to showcase their culture and traditions. Manobo people show off their culture and heritage, as well as for tourists to be able to witness the diversity and variety. 

The Naliyagan Festival is not only a celebration of the Manobo culture but also a way of promoting unity and harmony among the different tribes and groups in the province. It serves as a platform for the different municipalities in Agusan del Sur to showcase their unique cultures and traditions and to work together towards a common goal.

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