Negros Oriental’s BUGLASAN FESTIVAL and the country’s first Festival of Festivals.
In olden times Negros natives and residents of nearby islands referred to our island as BUGLAS. Two accounts attempt to explain the origin of the name. One is that it derives from an upheaval during which the island was ripped off (buklas) from a larger land mass. The other is that the predominant vegetation on the island at that time were tall napier-like reeds called buglas.
While anchored in Bohol in 1572, Miguel Lopez de Legaspi’s attention was captured by the island and he sent a crew to reconnoiter it. The crewmen encountered dark-skinned natives and thereafter renamed the island NEGROS. However, a map dated 1572 and attributed to a member of the Legazpi expedition, Diego Lope Povedano, shows Negros Island labeled BUGLAS INSULIS.
In 1981 Foundation University and the Balikatan sa Kaunlaran – NCRFW Negros Oriental Chapter staged a competition in cooperation with the Provincial Government to determine the Province’s delegation to the First National Folk Arts Festival organized by Imelda Romualdez Marcos. Among the event’s consultants was Bayanihan Founder-Choreographer and later National Artist for Dance, the late Lucresia Reyes-Urtula. Dubbed BUGLASAN FESTIVAL in memory of the island’s beginnings, when its cultural character began to take shape, the event comprised booth presentations, indigenous culinary competitions, and street dances and field presentations of various local cultural productions that had evolved into modest festivals. In recognition of the unique and distinct nature of each one, the competition was called the FESTIVAL OF FESTIVALS.
The five LGUs that participated in the first Buglasan Festival, along with their entries, were: Siaton (Inagta and Palihi), Zamboanguita (Polka Biana), Dauin (Kasal Kadauinonan), Tanjay (Sinulog) and Manjuyod (Amamaranhig). The first four contingents composed the Negros Oriental delegation. On Dr Urtula’s instance, the Palihi was chosen as the opening number of the First National Folk Arts Festival at the Folk Arts Theater.
In 2002, the Provincial Board passed Ordinance No. 15 adopting the BUGLASAN FESTIVAL as the Province’s annual Provincial Fiesta to be held every October. With the support of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Department of Tourism, BUGLASAN is produced by the Negros Oriental Culture and Arts Council assisted by the Negros Oriental Tourism Council, the Negros Oriental and Dumaguete City Divisions of the Department of Education; the Negros Oriental Hotels, Resorts and Restaurants Association, the Sidlakang Negros Producers Association, the Sangguniang Kabataan, the Sidlakang Negros Association of Tourism Officers, and several sports and extreme games organizations.
Strict guidelines ensure that the staple events promote research and unique cultural values while showcasing the creativity and talents of the Oriental Negrense. The competitions are designed to involve all sectors and age levels. Among these are the Buglasan Balak and Balitaw, Children’s Choir, Folk Dance, Modern Dance, Dancesport, Rondalla, Duet and Quartet, and Live Band. The Lutong Garbo sa Sidlakang Negros competition presents the culinary treasures of Negros Oriental. The Buglasan Tourism and Agri Fair features theme booth presentations projecting the LGUs’ finest tourism and agricultural products. Buglasan peaks with the Festival of Festivals Streetdance and Field Presentations (above left) where the spectacle and exciting rhythms of champion contingents from over 20 festivals in various stages of development can be experienced in one venue.
These festivals complete most of the fiestas of the Province. They are basically celebrations of thanksgiving for bountiful harvests of land and sea. Most of these are secular (non-religious) in nature: SANDUROT (Dumaguete City), TAWO-TAWO (Bayawan City), YAG-YAG (Barangay Cangmating, Sibulan, right, Champion of the 2003 National Streetdance Competitions), LANGOB (Mabinay), SIPONG (Bais City), KAPAW (Basay), KINAIYAHAN (Dauin). Legends related to local patron saints and religious practices are the heart of MASULOG (MASLOG, Sibulan), SINULOG DE TANJAY (Tanjay City), HAMBABALUD (Jimalalud), LIBOD-SAYAW (Bindoy), PASAYAW (Canlaon City), AYUQUITAN (San Jose), BUDYAS (Amlan), and PAKOL (Santa Catalina).
Two of Negros Oriental’s biggest festivals are school-based, eclectic in nature, and driven by themes determined yearly by the organizers: the relatively new HUGYAWAN-DALANSAYAW of Negros Oriental State University; and the Kasadya-an December Festival of Foundation University, at some 60 years the longest-running festival of Negros Oriental and the longest mardi gras parade in the Province.
The Buglasan Festival of Festivals brings all these together for a “one-stop shop” of Negros Oriental’s achievements in cultural advancement and creativity.
The Province’s annual cultural calendar is packed with pageantry and dramatic expressions of religious fervor and civic pride.