There is one thing you will witness at any place and any month you visit in the Philippines: festivals. Filipinos are merry people who love to celebrate every little milestone. The most prominent festivals you see in the country celebrate culture, tradition, and, most of the time, religion.
The Philippines’ religious mark sets it apart from its Southern Asian counterparts. With 92.5 percent of Christian Filipinos comprising the majority of 82.9 Roman Catholics, according to Cultural Atlas, it is Filipinos’ second nature to have ways to celebrate their faith based on their fun-loving qualities.
The daily prayer, Sunday masses, and annual “Simbang Gabi” are some simple Christian Filipino practices. The religious festivals to honor a patron are the grandest ones. It is no surprise that Philippine churches and streets are flooded with devotees and tourists alike during a festival.
Religious Festivals in the Philippines
You can participate in a lot of dancing and merrymaking at the most famous religious festivals, such as “Sinulog” in Cebu to immortalize the beginning of Christianization in the Philippines and “Ati-Atihan” in Aklan to honor the Santo Niño.
Beyond the streets, several religious festivals are celebrated along the bodies of water, specifically the river.
Apung Iru Fluvial Festival in Apalit, Pampanga, honors its town Patron, St. Peter, is a famed festival highlighted by a colorful fluvial procession. Among the most important religious fluvial festivals is the Penafrancia Fluvial Festival in Bicol, where devotees witness the return of the image of the Virgin Mary, carried in a barge, from the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral to the Basilica shrine.
While these famed festivals draw several faithful visitors, we should also highlight the underrated religious and cultural festivals that deserve attention. There is an honor to witness an event before the rest of the world.
If you are an adventurer at heart and looking for new ways to express your faith, this is the place to be. Suppose you are a tourist in the Philippines looking for a house and lot. In that case, the Kahimoan Abayan Festival in Butuan City, Agusan Del Norte, must be on your Butuan bucket list.
Discover Kahimoan Abayan Festival in Butuan City
Kahimoan Abayan Festival is an annual riverside celebration in Butuan City. It is to honor the Patroness of the Agusan River, St. Anne. Abayan came from the word “abay” which means “guide,”. It is held to ask guidance from the patron against crocodiles that once infested the Agusan River.
When is it celebrated?
Kahimoan Abayan Festival is celebrated every last Sunday of July. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the previous quarter of 2019, Kahimoan Abayan Festival was held on July 28. It marked the start of the week long celebration of “Adlaw Hong Butuan”, an important celebration for Butuanons. “Adlaw Hong Butuan” is a separate celebration held every August 2 to showcase the lifestyle and traditions of the city.
When did Abayan Festival start?
According to local historian Greg Hontiveros, the tradition is traced back to Spanish colonial times. He told MindaNews, a news service of Mindanao Institute of Journalism in 2012; that during the Spanish times, the river connects places as there were no roads. The historian said that the fluvial procession existed as early as the late 1600s.
Hontiveros pointed out the “1976” marking with the name of St. Anne at an old Spanish bell in San Vicente village. He said it suggests St. Anne was already a part of the Butuan tradition before 1976 as a secondary patron saint to Saint Joseph.
What are the activities to expect during Abayan Festival?
Festivals in the Philippines are marked by the crowding of people, some dressed in creative costumes, decorative venues, and bustling activities. Kahimoan Abayan Festival is no different. When you come during the highlight, you will witness the Filipino faithful along the banks of the Agusan River.
Most of them are residents of Butuan City’s riverside villages. Join them in chanting “Viva Señora Sta. Ana” and experience the spirit of the Kahimoan Abayan Festival firsthand.
The queue of people in the banks witnesses the fluvial procession of several boats. The lead boat carries the image of St. Anne and is followed by adorned boats in varied shapes and sizes.
Apart from remembering the patron saint, Kahimoan Abayan Festival also honors the creativity and talent of locals. The most thematic, decorated, colorful sea vessels participating in the fluvial procession are recognized. Likewise, riverside villages are judged according to their theme, color, decoration, and the chants of the residents witnessing the passage of the procession.
Furthermore, a “Baruto” or boat racing competition forms part of the festival, which recognizes men and women peddlers. You can watch several events like hip-hop, drum, lyre, and cheer dance competitions and join several parlor games.
More than faith and merriment, what is Kahimoan Abayan Festival all about?
As Kahimoan Abayan Festival honors the patron saint and delights visitors with fun activities, it also serves as a venue to forward environmental protection. In several celebrations in the past, government officials and the clergy stand as one in the call to protect and preserve the Agusan River.
Devotees believe that there are corresponding consequences from the higher powers when people harm nature, like the Agusan River. On the other hand, government officials also see the Kahimoan Abayan Festival as an occasion to highlight the importance of environmental protection.
While the festival was created to ask for protection against crocodile attacks, Butuan Bishop Cosme Damian Almedilla said in 2019 that the Agusan River needs protection against human aggression.
He noted that some of the severe threats people inflict on the body of water are improper garbage disposal and the dumping of mining wastes. His points were echoed by Butuan City Mayor Ronnievic Lagnada, who said that it is not only the Agusan River that needs protection but all the river basin in Caraga Region.
The Mighty Agusan River
Agusan River is the longest river in Mindanao and the third longest in the Philippines. It drains most parts of the Caraga Region and some of the Compostela Valley province. This river’s headwaters are located in the Compostela Valley mountains, flow through the Agusan River Valley, and drain into Butuan Bay.
Butuan’s famed tagline, “In the beginning, there was no Philippines, but there was Butuan,” is supported by the historical value of the Agusan River. The mighty river is believed to be the site of the oldest settlement in the country.
Museum artifacts show that this river’s history and people are traced back to the 4th century.
Agusan River is also an essential economic player in the city from the past until now. Butuan earned the title “Timber City of the South” because of the Agusan River’s colossal help, which facilitated the trade and transport of agro-forestry products like logs, especially in the early years.
Apart from land travel being impossible without roads in the past, Agusan River’s strategic location also easily connects vital commercial areas.
Agusan River also boasts of its tourism potential. It is one of the must-visit places offering a peaceful vibe and picturesque view. The preservation efforts of the sectors in this body of water make it more appealing to tourists.
What you should not miss in your Agusan River Visit
Seize your visit to Butuan City for the Abayan Festival in July and make the most of your stay along the Agusan River. You can hire a boat for a river cruise showing you the Agusan River’s raw beauty. You can also relax in these spots along the river:
- Agusan River Park – Gather your family and friends and spend quality time at the riverside. You can also jog or bike here as the cool breeze, and relaxing sound of the river soothe your soul.
- Maharlika Bridge – There is no other place to get an excellent view of the Agusan River than the Maharlika Bridge. Coming here, especially during the golden hour, promises you great photographs for you to keep.
- The Sto. Niño Shrine – After you attend the Abayan Festival, head to the Sto. Niño Shrine along the Agusan River. Complete your religious trip to Butuan and visit this famous shrine.
What other festivals are there in Butuan City?
Butuan City will not run out of activities and festivals to merry you any time of the year you wish to visit. In addition to the Abayan Festival, here are some of the festivals you can witness in the “Timber City of the South”:
- Kahimunan Festival – Every third week of January, the city comes alive with a week-long celebration of the Kahimunan Festival. It came from the Manobo term “kahuna,” which means “to gather.” Kahimunan Festival is a religious feast in honor of Senyor Santo Niño.
- Balangay Festival – Another must-see festival in Butuan is Balangay Festival which falls in May yearly. This month-long celebration is done to remember the arrivals of the early transients that came to the country through Balangay boats. A fluvial parade at the Agusan River also forms part of the festivity.
- Between Festival – This festival is a feast for the Butuan patron, St. Joseph. It was first celebrated in 2013 to replace the Balangay Festival during that year. Butwaan Festival is jam-packed with Church activities, whereas Balangay Festival is jam-packed with coalition events.
- Unaw Festival – Every June 27, Brgy. Baan welcomes festival-goers to its Unaw Festival, which corresponds with the fiesta celebration of Mother of Perpetual Help.. This festival centers on the abundance of Unaw or Lumbia starch sourced from the Lumbia tree.
- Paglasing Festival – Butuanon does not only celebrate the abundance of ingredients but also the delightful delicacy it makes. Paglasing Festival, held every August 2 along with the Adlaw Hong Butuan, puts the local delicacy “paglasing” into the limelight.
- Unaw and young coconut are used to make this moist and chewy treat.
It will take a long list to enumerate the significant events and festivals in Butuan City. Not to mention that these are on top of the tourist attractions and other cultural sites in the “Timber City of the South” you might not want to miss. Discovering these as a tourist is a worthwhile experience. Living with Butuan City’s rich culture and peaceful atmosphere as a resident is a gift you will forever treasure. Make this city your future address with the largest homebuilder in the Philippines, Camella Homes.
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While satisfying your desire to unwind with the Abayan Festival, why not address your growing needs as an adult by investing in a house and lot for sale in Butuan City?
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