Experience Gigantic Celebrations: A First-Timer’s Guide to Higantes Festival in Angono, Rizal

If you seek a vibrant and culturally rich experience in the Philippines, look no further than the Higantes Festival in Angono, Rizal.

Photo taken by Jilson Tiu, from behance.net

This annual festival, featuring amazing paper mache sculptures or the popular higantes puppets, colorful costumes, giant puppets, and traditional dances, street dance, marching band, is a must-visit event for both locals and tourists.

Higantes Festival History

The annual celebration of the Higantes Festival traces its roots back to the Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines. The word “Higantes” is derived from the Spanish word for giants, and it aptly describes the star attractions of this event – the larger-than-life paper mache giants.

The town feast itself is a secular celebration initiated by the Filipino people during the Spanish colonization as a way to express their cultural identity and resistance against foreign rule.

Agrarian Protest and Patron Saint Clemente

During the waning years of the Spanish colonial era, the Filipino people, particularly those in the municipality of Angono, used the Higantes Festival as a form of agrarian protest. They created these gigantic papier mâché giants to symbolize the oppressive wealthy ruling class and Spanish friars.

The festival was a means to voice their grievances while honoring their town’s patron saint, San Clemente.

A Frenchman’s Prediction Come to Life

It was said that higantes began when Angono was a Spanish hacienda and that these giant paper mache are in fact the larger-than-life caricature of their Spanish landlords.  

The creation of the first giant paper mache was influenced by its Mexican counterpart, called piñata, who reached our shores through Spanish priests.  

Another account tells of a Frenchman who passed by the town of Laguna de Bay from Manila Bay. The fact that the town of Angono is divided by a river fascinated the Frenchman who predicted that giants would one day emerge from the town and put Angono on the map.

While actual giants did not appear in their town, Angono created and delivered to the world two national artists, Carlos “Botong” Francisco for visual arts and Professor Lucio de San Pedro who conquered the field of music.

Transition to a Secular Celebration

Over time, the Higantes Festival evolved into a more secular celebration, blending the religious and cultural aspects. It became an annual event, celebrated on San Clemente feast on November 23.

Today, the festival continues to celebrate both the town’s patron saint and its intangible cultural heritage.

The local government of Rizal with the participation of different barangay and businesses hold this amazing papier mache giants festival annually to express gratitude for the town’s blessings and prosperity.

What to Expect at Higantes Festival

One of the highlights of the Higantes Festival is the grand parade featuring the iconic papier mâché giants, colorful costumes, and vibrant street dancing.

Different barangays (neighborhoods) in Angono region participate in the parade, each showcasing their own unique giant puppets and traditional dances.

The energy and enthusiasm of the participants are infectious, making it an unforgettable spectacle.

The star attraction

The star attractions of the festival are, of course, the larger-than-life papier mâché giants. These giants, measuring four to five feet tall, are meticulously crafted by skilled artisans in Angono.

Each giant represents a different aspect of Angono folklore, Filipino culture, or even international information. The craftsmanship and attention to detail are truly impressive.

Mass honoring San Clemente

The festivities kick off with a solemn mass in honor of San Clemente. After the religious ceremony, a grand Higantes procession takes place, where the papier mâché giants are paraded through the town’s streets.

Pilgrims and tourists alike join the procession, offering holy water and expressing gratitude to the patron saint.

Grand fireworks display

As the day turns into night, the sky over Angono lights up with a breathtaking fireworks display. The colorful bursts of light and sound add an extra layer of magic to the celebration, making it a spectacle that you won’t want to miss.

Higantes Festival Schedule

If you’re planning to attend the Higantes Festival in Angono, it’s essential to know the schedule to make the most of your visit. The festivities typically culminate on the feast day of San Clemente, which falls on November 23rd. Here’s a general overview of the schedule:

Early Morning: The day begins with a solemn mass in honor of San Clemente, the town’s patron saint.

Morning: As the day progresses, the excitement builds with preparations for the grand parade. Giant puppets are readied, and participants don their colorful costumes.

Afternoon: The main event starts with a grand parade that features the towering papier-mâché giants, local marching bands, and street dancers. It’s a spectacle of vibrant colors and cultural pride.

Evening: The celebration continues into the night with fireworks display that lights up the sky, marking the grand finale of the festival.

Tips for First-Time Visitors

Check the Higantes Festival Schedule

Before planning your visit, be sure to check the official Higantes Festival schedule. The festivities usually begin in the morning and continue throughout the day, culminating in the grand parade and fireworks display. Arrive early to secure a good spot to watch the events.

Dress for the Occasion

Don’t forget to dress comfortably for a day of festivities. Since the event involves a lot of walking and standing, wear comfortable shoes and lightweight clothing. You can also choose to don a vibrant Filipino-inspired outfit to blend in with the locals.

Sample Local Cuisine

While enjoying the festival, be sure to feast on the delicious local cuisine. Angono is known for its culinary delights, so do not miss the opportunity to savor traditional Filipino dishes and street food offered by local vendors.

Support Local Artisans

Consider purchasing souvenirs crafted by local artisans. You’ll find an array of handmade products that reflect the rich culture of Angono. It’s a great way to support the community and take home a piece of the festival’s spirit.

Respect the Traditions

Finally, remember that the Higantes Festival is not just a tourist attraction; it’s a deeply cherished tradition for the people of Angono. Be respectful of the cultural and religious aspects of the event and immerse yourself in the festivities with an open heart and mind.

The Higantes Festival in Angono, Rizal, is one of the Philippines’ biggest events, celebrating the town’s history, culture, and traditions.

With its amazing papier mâché sculptures, giant puppets, and colorful costumes, it is a unique and unforgettable experience that offers a glimpse into the rich heritage of the Filipino people.

Mark your calendars

So, mark your calendars and make plans to attend this once-a-year festival that showcases the best of Angono’s artistry and spirit.

Join the grand parade, witness the giant puppets, and immerse yourself in the vibrant colors and lively traditions of the Higantes Festival. It’s an adventure you won’t want to miss!

For more information on the Higantes Festival, you can visit the official website of the municipality of Angono or check with the local government’s tourism office.

Be sure to capture the magic of the festival in photos and share your experiences with the world, as the Higantes Festival deserves its place on the international stage as one of Asia Pacific region most captivating cultural celebrations.

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