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The Aliwan Festival - Melting Pot Of Culture

By: Nathalie Santos – Dayo

The Aliwan Festival (Fiesta), dubbed as the grandest and the mother of all Festivals, brings together the different cultures and fiestas in the Philippines.

Manila Broadcasting Company along with the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the cities of Pasay and Manila bring this event annually which started 2003 to the delight of many Filipino and foreign photographers.

There are three main competitions in the Aliwan Festival

1. The Float Parade – where in contingents are only allowed to use materials which are indigenous to their region.
2. The Beauty Pageant
3. Cultural Street Dance Competition

I started photography quite early, since I was never one who is comfortable in front of the camera, but I never took the hobby seriously until February of 2009. So I missed a couple of chances to watch the Aliwan Festival from the time it started.

Street Dance Competition

Last year when my friend invited me to watch it, I took the chance to watch this annual parade of the diverse Filipino culture for the very first time.

I was fortunate last year because I was able to watch the contingents rehearsing for the street dance competition before I went to the photographers’ area.

The street dancers were tireless in their rehearsals under the heat of the sun.

They were dancing to the beat of these pulsating drums as the drummers make and play their music.

After watching the endless and tireless rehearsals, I proceeded to the photographers’ area which was the best place to be at that time since the performers were right in front of us. We stood there patiently waiting for the parade to start. Here’s an example of one of the ingenious floats.

The Bamboo Float

Up until this day, I still don’t have the words to describe how I felt when I saw this wonderful float.

After each float, the competitor for the street dancing competition takes the center stage.

Cultural Street Dancers

It didn’t matter to these performers even if it was already starting to drizzle.

They danced and danced to the beat of the drums.

The costumes were as beautiful as they were colorful.

I wasn’t able to watch all contingents because of the rains as the day progressed.

This year the Aliwan Festival assembly area was at the back of the SM Mall of Asia (MOA) in Pasay City, I made sure to be there early so I can watch the assembly and the rehearsals just like the previous year.

Mindanao float photo by Benji Dayo (used with permission)

I was busy taking shots of the contingents, performers and their muses that I almost did not notice that the floats were arriving.

I looked for my husband and there he was happily taking photos of the different floats which joined the competition this year.

This float attracted the both of us with its colors and everything else about it.

The float was from the contingents coming from the Mindanao area.

The float was designed with fabric from the Mindanao region and it also had traditional adornments native to Mindanao.

This year I agreed with my husband that we will not go to the Aliw Theater in the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex to watch the street dance competition.

What I did was I took photos of the rehearsals of the contingents instead.

Staked dragonflies

I wondered what the giant things on the sticks were. After taking this photo, I went for a closer look and found out that these were giant dragonflies!

And before we went home, I made sure that I have a photo of something that would represent the music in the Aliwan Festival.

I found someone making music with these bronze gongs.

A music that is soothing to the ears. The music being played was something from the traditions of the Mindanao region.


Mindanoan Music

Tribal and ethnic, the kind of music that is unique to the people of this region.


A smile from Baguio


A child of Mindanao

And I did not forget to take photos of the unique and warm smile of the Filipino people, something that we are all proud of.

I can’t wait for the next Aliwan Festival!

So if you’re visiting Manila on the month of April, don’t forget to look up the schedule of the Aliwan Festival.

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