Salakayan: Celebrating Miagao’s Living History

Text and photos by Bombette G. Marin

Miagao, Iloilo is celebrating its 304th Foundation Anniversary which will culminate in the 22nd Salakayan Festival on February 3-9, 2020.

This is a story about a community rebelling against the Moros that later transformed into a festival that attracts thousands of spectators every year.

Salakayan, from the Hiligaynon word “Salakay” or “to attack,” is a weekend adventure back in time with the early conquest of Spanish missionaries and the town’s involvement in the Moro Wars. The festival, which brings to life those turbulent days, is an annual commemoration of the historic battle that happened on May 7, 1754, and interpreted as the central theme of their annual dance-drama competition.

As it furthered Christian missionary efforts and the occupation of the islands, Spain created an implacable enemy – the Muslims of the south. The Spaniards considered conversion through baptism to be a symbol of allegiance to their authority which the Muslims resisted.

Spanish chroniclers recorded major slave-raiding of Christians by Muslim pirates. Quickly and silently spreading out, pirates divided and waited along the shoreline. At a given signal, firebrands were employed to torch churches and houses, matched with simultaneous attacks on the sleeping inhabitants.

Miagaowanons consider Salakayan to be an important part of their culture and like to describe this re-enactment festival as a “liberating” event. Salakayan Festival is one you will remember.

With this year’s theme,” Panawagan sa Kultura sang Dayalogo Padulong sa Paghidait,” a series of week-long special events were prepared to entertain the community and its guests.

February 3 (Monday) opened with a Pamukaw at 5 a.m., Transport Sector Caravan at 6 a.m., Salakayan Mass at 8:30 a.m., Opening of Agro and Industrial Fair at 9:30 a.m., Opening Salvo at 2 p.m., Opening Program and Raising of Barangay Banners at 5 p.m., Opening of Food Fair at 6 p.m., Mga Pinili nga Lanton Naton by UPV Miagao Campus at 6:30 p.m., Miss Salakayan Talent’s Night at 7:30 p.m.; February 4 (Tuesday) Laro ng Lahi at 9 a.m., LIGA Night at 6 p.m., Zumbathon at 6 p.m.; February 5 (Wednesday) Pottery (Banga) Painting Contest (Kararaw, Banig, and Salakot) at 9 a.m., Cavalcade of Dances at 2 p.m., Balikbanwa Night at 7 p.m.

February 6 (Thursday) Mountain Bike/ Fun Ride/ Race at 7 a.m., Miss Salakayan Pageant Night at 7 p.m.; February 7 (Friday) Mass and Fluvial Parade at 8 a.m., Salakayan Re-enactment at 10 a.m., Games at Sea at 10:30 a.m., Transport Sectors Night at 7 p.m.; February 8 (Saturday) Tribes Contest at 8 a.m., Float Parade at 2 p.m., Tribes Night at 7 p.m.; February 9 (Sunday) Thanksgiving Mass at 7:30 a.m., Motocross at 8 a.m., and the Coronation of the Queen of Miagao at 7 p.m.

Visitors will get a unique street-level experience at this charming festival, vibrating with the atmosphere of a time gone by. Yes, this is Salakayan Festival of Miagao and it presents an organized event steeped in history.

The historical town of Miagao is 40.5 kilometers or an hour land trip south from Iloilo City. Composed of 199 barangays with a land area of 13,286 hectares, Miagao is bordered by the towns of Igbaras to its northeast; Guimbal to its east, San Joaquin to its west; and the municipality of Sibalom, Antique Province to its northwest.

To get there, one can take a jeepney at the Don Benito Q. Acap Sr. Southern Iloilo Perimeter Boundary Terminal in Barangay Mohon, Oton, Iloilo or at Iloilo Terminal Market at the back of Robinsons Place Iloilo. Metered taxis are also available at the terminal.