Sambali Festival – Religious Cultural Revival to Commemorate Christianization of Itawis

Sambali Festival is a religious and cultural revival to commemorate the Christianization of the Itawis region of Cagayan. During the 16th century when the Spaniards set foot in Cagayan, they found out that the Itawis town, particularly Piat was inhabited by an aggressive Kalong sub-ethnic group that originated from the mountains of Calinga Apayao. The Spaniards tried to convert them to the Catholic faith, but they failed and it led to war. However, the Spaniards did not give up. In 1604, the image of Our Lady of Pi at, which was originally known as “Nuestra Senora del Santissimo Rosario” was brought to Ka ga yan from Macau and made numerous miracles. Because of this, the people of Pi at were gradually converted to Christianity.

The Lady of Pi at is also called as the “Black Virgin Mary” because of its color being brown. She was also named “Queen of Heaven and Earth”, the Ibanags call her “Yena Tam Ngamin” and to the natives of Piat as “Apo Baket” The word sambali means “war” in the Mallaweg dialect. It is depicted through dance between different tribes. It starts with two native women, running and shouting to forewarn both parties about an imminent war. The Catholics march to the battlefield armed with shields and spears. The fight begins as the warriors dance to the ethnic drum and gong beatings. The fight ends with the Catholics rising victorious, which symbolizes the reign of Christianity over pagan beliefs and practices.

During the Sambali Festival, different activities are held including novenas, beauty pageant, sports, tournaments and the famous Sambali Parade where the war dance is performed in the streets of the town together with colorful street dancing, evening shows and cultural presentations. Thousands of pilgrims and devotees are expected to flock the Basilica to participate in the festivities and to the different activities lined up in the week-long event. The highlight of the festival is the fluvial procession venerating the holy image of Our Lady of Pi at which starts from Aparri at the Cagayan River to Buntun Bridge in Tuguegarao City and proceeds through a motorcade to Piat.

SambaliFestival , #ophirph

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