Viva Vigan Binatbatan Festival of the Arts 2012

Binatbatan Street Dancing
Binatbatan street dancing along Crisologo Street

 On a regular day, the UNESCO-listed heritage city of Vigan possesses an effortless charm of its own which never fades every time I visit. This quality, however, is heightened every first week of May during the Viva Vigan Binatbatan Festival of the Arts, established in 1993 by the Save Vigan Ancestral Homes Association, Inc. (SVAHAI) to showcase the historic city’s artistic and cultural values. There are several activities lined up during the festival period, including street dancing, kalesa (horse carriage) parade, fishing competition, abel house decor contest, carabao painting contest, traditional games and a trade and food fair, where handicrafts and local delicacies are sold, such as Vigan longganisa (native sausages) and bagnet (fried pork) at competitive prices.

Santacruzan 2012
Celebrated in towns across the Philippines in May, the Santacruzan is a historical and religious pageantry


I was able to first witness the carabao (water buffalo) painting contest (also called Karbo Festival), where the lumbering beasts of burden become living canvasses.  While some animal welfare advocates denounces this practice as animal cruelty, I think this is a great way to honor and celebrate the Filipino farmer’s best friend, and ubiquitous icon of rural life in the country. I believe being painted on is a welcome break for these animals after working in the fields everyday. The paints used in the contest are non-toxic and water-based.

Carabao Painting Contest (Karbo Festival)
Carabaos become colorful living canvasses in Karbo Festival


Another event is the quintessential pageantry of the Santacruzan. It was my first time to witness this Filipino tradition, and what better place to see on that along the picturesque cobblestone streets and colonial houses of the Mestizo District! The historico-religious parade cum beauty pageant commemorates the discovery of Jesus Christ’s cross by St. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great. This Filipino tradition started in the mid-19th century, sometime after the Immaculate Conception of Mary was declared official dogma in 1854.

Binatbatan Street Dancing
Binatbatan is inspired by the process where cotton fibers are separated from the fruit with two bamboo sticks


Culminating the festival is the Binatbatan street dancing, which started in front of the Vigan Cathedral, and ended along Crisologo Street, where old houses were festooned with abel iloco decor for the house decorating contest. The term binatbatan refers to the first step of the weaving process, wherein the cotton balls are separated from the seeds by beating them with the use of two bamboo sticks. Later on, binatbatan inspired an Ilocano folk dance.  Costumes and props were created with abel iloco and the choreography was inspired by the weaving process.

For information on transportation and accommodation, please check out my DIY Walking Tour of Vigan City.

7 comments

  1. Weeee!!! beautifully written Edgar. The people of Vigan will surely love this post 🙂

  2. Edmar, thanks so much! And, again, thank you for the warm hospitality. I hope to return the favor someday, when you visit Manila or Cebu!

  3. Paolo says:

    we biguenos surely love your post! im glad that u visited our quaint little city. anyway thanks for ur wonderful writings about our town. God bless po. i do hope u enjoyed ur trip here.. 🙂

  4. Hi Paolo, a trip to Vigan is always rewarding every time I visit! Thanks for dropping a line =)

  5. KULAPITOT says:

    waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah … kaw pala yung nakita ko yung binatbatan festival … na kumukuha ng pics kasama ng mga photographers … 😉

  6. aintto says:

    hi edgar,

    kelan kaya yung Karbo Festival particularly yung carabao painting? may idea ka kung ano yung date for may 2013?

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