Legazpi City is the social, and political center of the province of Albay in the Philippines as it is its capital and most populous city. It is also its province’s literal center, being located in its geographical core. Like the rest of the country, the City of Legazpi is very much smitten with the celebration of fiestas or festivals that are celebrated in honor of the area’s patron saint or its cultural heritage.
There are two major fiestas celebrated in Legazpi City. Though both are technically festivals commemorating the province’s cultural heritage, they are both primarily celebrated in Legazpi City as it is the capital. The first of these two Bicolano festivals is the Magayon Festival while the other one is the Ibalong Festival.
The Magayon Festival, though technically a festival for the whole province, is celebrated primarily in Legazpi City. The Magayon Festival derived its name from the word ‘magayon’ which translates to beautiful from Bicolano, the dominant language in the province of Albay and the adjacent regions. The festival was first enacted by the Albay’s governor and celebrated in 1998 to stimulate tourism in the province. It is basically a celebration of the province’s Catholic tradition and its unique traditional way of living thereby giving the festival a very local color which is perfect for those tourists who wants to experience Albay’s culture and heritage.
Aside from the usual Filipino way of celebrating festivals such as street dancing and communal feasting, the Magayon Festival also holds some attractions that feature and emphasizes Bicolano culture. One of such events is the regional cooking competition that aims to highlight the region’s unique culinary tradition. The contest focuses on the preparation of delicacies that are made using ingredients indigenous to Bicolano cuisine such as coconut and chili. The festivities of the Magayon Festival also include a marathon and an eco-camp, both of which are events aimed at fostering consciousness for the province’s environment, which is very much appropriate given Albay’s natural treasures such as the Mayon Volcano.
The Ibalong Festival is a week long series of festivities celebrated from October 25 to 31 every year. The festival’s name is derived from one of the province’s foremost epic, the ‘Ibalong’ which detailed the myths and legends of the region long before the colonizers came. Apart from commemorating a cultural landmark, the Ibalong Festival is also a celebration of the province’s people and their resiliency, given the string calamities that regularly befall the region given its typhoon-proned geographical location.
Like most fiestas in the country, the main event of Ibalong Festival is its choreographed dances performed in the streets of Legazpi City. Such performances depict the numerous myths and legends contained in the Ibalong epic of the province and are done with the majestic visage of the Mayon Volcano, with its perfect cone, as their backdrop. The street dances are commonly performed by students from high schools throughout Albay and some times even from those outside of the province are invited to participate in the street dance which also doubles as a contest.
Being a week-long celebration, Ibalong Festival also features other merry-making actitvities aside from street dances. Other attractions include street parties, band concerts in the evening, flea markets in the streets of the city, drag races, and fireworks display. With the uniqueness of Bicolano cuisine, food fests and cooking demos are also one of the main features of the festival.
The two festivals of Ibalong and Magayon are celebrated to commemorate the province of Albay’s identity as their events feature the province’s unique culture and tradition. These makes the two perfect draws for tourists as they present to people not from the region a lively presentation of Albay’s heritage.