Experience and have Fun at Pintados Festival in Tacloban City
The Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival is a merry-making event lasting a whole month, highlights of which include the Leyte Kasadyaan Festival of Festivals, the 17th Pintados Festival Ritual Dance Presentation and the “Pagrayhak” Grand Parade. These festivals are said to have began from the feast day of Señor Santo Niño, held every June 29th. The Leyteños celebrate a religious festival in a unique and colorful way. Since the Visayans are experienced in the art of body tattooing, men and women are fond of tattooing themselves.
The Pintados Festival displays the rich cultural heritage, incorporating native music and dances, of the people of Leyte and Samar. The Leyte Kasadya-an Festival of Festivals, meanwhile, showcases the unique culture and colorful history of the Province of Leyte. Started by former Leyte Governor Remedios Loreto-Petilla, the celebration was first held on May 12, 1996. The festivities weren’t always held every June 29th; the first three years saw different dates. It was only in 1999 that it was fixed to June 29, the Feast of the Señor Santo Niño de Leyte.
“Kasadyaan” in the Visayan tongue means merriment and jollity. Various municipal festivals of Leyte gather together in the original capital of Tacloban City for the celebration. There, lively dance-drama parade of many colors takes place. There is an important role that the festival plays, and it is strengthening the Leyteños’ sense of pride. Every municipality mounts a storyline all their own to portray with pride their local folklore and legends.
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The Pintados festival of Tacloban City is a Filipino festival with its own unique flavor. This Pintados festival recalls Pre-Spanish history of the native Leytenos from wars, epics and folk religions. The most expected aspect of the Pintados festival are the festive dancers, painted from head to toe with designs that look like armor to resemble the tattooed warriors of old. During the course of the Pintados festival, dancers whose bodies are painted in an amazing array of colors fill the streets of Tacloban city. At first sight, they may seem outrageous as grown men pour into the streets decorated in such dazzling colors as luminous blue or neon green. But as one gets used to this and sees the dances depicted, one gets a glimpse of the history of the people that once lived on the islands of Leyte so long ago.
The folk dances presented by the dancers portray the many traditions that flourished before the Spaniards came. These include worship of idols, indigenous music and epic stories. The hypnotic rhythms of native instruments beat through the air accompanying the dances performed on the streets as the Pintados festival goes. Aside from the folk dances, is the much likely parade, which crisscrosses the avenues of Tacloban city. The parade traditionally begins at the Balayuan Towers and proceeds throughout tacloban leyte city. The surprised spectators follow the procession of dancing colors from the beginning to end. The Pintados festival concludes in much merrymaking with a signature traditional Filipino fiesta, where everyone is invited to join the fun and celebrate the Pintados Festival.
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In 1668, the Spaniards came to the Visayas and found in the islands heavily tattooed men and women, whom they called Pintados. These people had a culture of their own, commemorating victories by holding festivals and honoring their gods after a bountiful harvest.
It was in 1888 that missionaries from Spain brought the Child Jesus image known as “El Capitan” to the island. It had a rich and colorful background that draw out the devotion and worship of the Leyte natives to the Santo Niño.
Then in 1986, the Pintados Foundation, Inc. was founded by civic-minded businessmen and entrepreneurs based in Tacloban City. They began organizing religious cultural activities for the city fiesta in honor of Señor Santo Niño. This marked the advent of the Pintados Festival, which was first celebrated June 29th of the year 1987. Today, it is called the Leyte Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival and is called as the “Festival of Festivals.”
The name “pintados” is derived from what the native warriors, whose bodies were adorned with tattoos, were called. In those times, and even in some places today, tattoos were a mark of courage and beauty. Since tattoo-making was not yet as precise as it is today, they were rather painful and one risked the chance of contracting an infection. Therefore, a man who faced the dangers of tattooing and lived was considered to be both strong and brave. But even before the tattoo process itself, one would have to earn them after fighting heroically in wars.
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Tattoos (pintados) served as a status symbol; much like a general’s badge would today. It was the mark of courage, rank and strength. The bravest warriors were heavily adorned in tattoos which covered every inch of their bodies, head to foot. Indeed, these men were in fact such an unusual sight that western missionaries considered them frightening and uncivilized upon their first glimpses of these warriors. But as time passed, they learned to see the tattoos as a part of the life of native peoples and even as a sign of beauty for them. With the passing of time, as the story is with all things, the old made way for the new. The traditions of tattooing (pintados) and worshiping earth spirits were replaced as modernization came. But these traditions are still remembered with the celebration of the Pintados festival.
This Pintados festival helps us to see the worth and beauty of the traditions of the country’s ancestors. It gives us the opportunity to feel a rare first-hand experience, the experience of culture
By air, Philippine Airlines flies at least once daily to Tacloban City. Travel time is 1 hour and 10 minutes.
By sea, it takes as long as 36 hours, and only the ship departs from Manila thrice a week. The days of departure are fixed a week prior.
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