Fun and Games for the People
The Tabak Festival
The first Tabak Festival was held in 2002, the year after the creation of the City of Tabaco. Every year since, the Tabak Festival has grown and evolved into a celebration of everything Tabaknon involving both the local people and local government employees
Tabak Festival events include Street Dancing and Parade, The Mutya ng Tabak and Tabakla Beauty Contests, Cultural Performances, and Padyak and Sibidan races, and also the Karawat Bicolnon Games held on San Miguel Island.
When you think of Festivals in the Philippines, street dancing, bright colourful costumes, loud irritating music and crowds lining the streets come to mind.
This is where i found the Tabak Festival in Tabaco City, Albay to be different.
Yes, there were the usual flambuoyant Street Parades, Beauty Contests and shows on the stage in front of the Municipal Hall with participants from the various LGU Offices taking part.
The secret to any successful Festival is incorporating the local people.
This is where the Tabak Festival excelled.
Tabaco City is known as the Padyak capital of Bicol,with over 3000 Padyaks or Pedicabs carrying passengers and goods all over the city. To celebrate this there was the Amazing Padyak Race.
Bicol is known as Coconut country. Millions of coconut palms grow all over the Region. One look at Tabaco Public Market’s coconut section will testify to this, with more than the average number of coconut stalls selling freshly pressed coconut milk. This was showcased in the Tilad Kudkud Paga ( Coconut cracking contest )
Tabaco City is also made up of four Barangays on the island of San Miguel, which lies six kilometres over the Tabaco Bay. The islanders only means of reaching the mainland is by boat, either the regular pumpboats or by private boat. The Tabak Festival organisers have not forgotten the island either, with the Sibidan and Palayag Boat Race and The Karawat Bicolnon Games taking place on the island.
The Amazing Padyak Race
Tabaco City is the Padyak (Pedicab) Capital of the Philippines
On arrival in Tabaco City you’ll see that the city’s streets are dominated by Padyaks (pedicabs). No wonder that Tabaco is dubbed the “Padyak Capital of the Philippines.
To its credit, the Tabak Festival acknowledges the contribution these Eco-vehicles make to the city and its inhabitants. You can’t get any more eco-friendly than Pedal Power. With over 3000 Padyaks carrying goods and passengers around the city each day, their contribution to the economy is enormous.
Tabaco City’s most common mode of transport has its own event, The Amazing Padyak Race. Like the rest of the Tabak Festival games, the race is mainly for entertainment, but with a monetary prize of P10,000 for the winner, the Padyak drivers take the event seriously.
The Padyak team is made up of the driver and passenger, who need to pass through four checkpoints collecting a piece of jigsaw puzzle along the way. The winner is the first team to return to the finish line outside the Municipal Hall and assemble all four pieces of jigsaw correctly.
Tilad Kudkud Paga
Pili Nut and Coconut Cracking Competition
Lets’s get some terms out of the way first.
- Tilad is Cracking the Pili Nut
- Kudkud is the manual grating of coconut meat using a “Kudkudan”
- Kudkudan is a stool with a coconut grater attached to the end
- Paga means to Squeeze. So after grating the coconut meat, it is then squeezed to extract the coconut milk.
The coconuts were lined up. The contestants ready with their Bolos. The Mayor of Tabaco, Krisel Lagman-Luistro was in attendance and full of enthusiasm, cheering the contestants on.
Let’s begin cracking. One hard swift accurate stroke of the Bolo and a coconut has been cracked open, with fresh coconut water spilling out everywhere. Crack as many as possible in the alloted time.
Next task is to grate the coconut meat. The tool for this is the Kudkudan, a traditional wooden stool with a piece of metal sticking out the end. The tip of the metal bar is usually round and serated. Place the half coconut on the end and grate away. Small pieces of coconut will fall away into the bowl placed underneath.
Hand squeezing (Paga) the grated coconut flesh will produce a white liquid. This is Coconut Milk.
The winner is the one who can squeeze the most coconut milk from the grated coconut.
This task hasnt changed much over the years. Households still use a Kudkudan at home for grating coconut.
Take a walk around the coconut section of Tabaco Public Market and you will see a simple mechanised version.It’s fascinating to watch the vendors in action.
Sibidan and Palayag Boat Race
San Miguel to San Roque – 6km across Tabaco Bay
Sibidan and Palayag Race
The Sibidan and Palayag Race is one of the oldest of the Tabak Festival games. The Race has been a tradition of the Tabaco community long before the first Tabak Festival was held.
Sibidan, is a two-man banca paddling competition made especially for local fishermen (and anyone else who wishes to take part) to showcase their strength and skills in paddle racing. The race has two categories. One for Males and the second for Females.
Using only wooden paddles the Sibidan teams need to paddle the 6km across Tabaco Bay from Rawis, San Miguel to San Roque Port in Tabaco.
The Palayag event has only one man in the banca who is able to use both a paddle and a colourful triangular sail to make the crossing.
The crowds of spectators lining the shore to see each heat off, were in good voice as the crews paddled hard to try and gain the advantage of being in the lead. Roars of laughter were heard when some of the womens heat started to go off course and bump into each other, giving those who were alert to the incident the incentive to push harder and get away from the pack.
The weather was fantastic for this years event, with a calm sea, blue skies and clear views of the Mayon Volcano. The Coastguard was also present to make sure that all participants stayed safe. Only one crew had to be rescued after their banca started to take on water through a crack in its plywood hull.
The Tabak Festival Games, Rawis, San Miguel Island
The Karawat Bicolnon games are part of the Tabak Festival tradition. Held on the island of San Miguel, a short 15 minute boat ride away across the Bay of Tabaco.
Traditional local games such as Line Fishing, Banig Making and Patintero are played with huge enthusiasm. The main event though is the Inter-Barangay Volleyball competition, between four Barangays Hacienda, Rawis, Sagurong and Visita..
This event caught my attention. The female participants have to weave a Banig (Mat) one metre wide by two metres long, as fast as they can. They work in teams of two, their hands and fingers moving so fast its hard to keep up with them. Heres a short video to give you some idea of the skill needed to enter this competition.
Watch the Banig Making Video
Piggyback and Sack Race
An inter-Barangay competition, these two Tabak Festival games are played the world over, usually by junior school kids at their school sports day. But here at the Karawat Bicolnon on San Miguel it’s the adults who are keeping them alive and are playing with all the energy, verve and vigor of a six year old. They are fun to watch and the spectators love them, shouting at and cheering on their own Barangay team.
WATCH the Sack Race Video
WATCH the Piggyback Race Video
This is the first time i have seen this game played, so it took me a while to figure out the rules etc.
A large rectangle is divided into eight smaller rectangles with welldefined lines in the sand or dirt.
There are two teams. The idea is to move forward from your half of the pitch to the opponents base line without being touched. “Touchers Team ” may only move to and fro along the dividing lines between rectangles. The other team may move anywhere within the rectangle keeping out of the arm length of the Touchers.
You need to progress from one rectangle to another usingthe skill of movement deception to bypass a toucher or to allow a team member to pass.
As its a team game , once a team member has been touched, roles are swtiched. The team that reaches the opponents Baseline first wins.
WATCH the Patintero Video
As a fishing community, they have found a way to introduce the main livelihood of the islanders into the Tabak Festival Games. Although not very exciting for spectators, this game needs lots of patience, which is one of the virtues ofa fisherman in everyday life.
With their fishing line wound around a stick or bottle, some bait is fixed onto the hook and the line cast out as far aspossible. The contestants must stand still at the waters edge and only use their skill at tempting a fish to bite.
THE FIRST ONE TO CATCH A FISH WINS 🙂
Travel Tips & Suggested Reading
How to Get to Tabaco, Albay
By Air – Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have regular daily flights from Manila to Legazpi. Cebu Pacific also flies between Cebu and Legazpi daily. From Legazpi you will need to take a tricycle or taxi from the airport to the Central Bus Terminal where there are frequent bus and Van services to Tabaco If you know the dates you are travelling to Bicol keep an eye open for online promo fares from Cebu Pacific. Sign up for their Promo Alerts.
By Bus from Manila– There are many bus companies leaving Cubao, Edsa, and Pasay for Legazpi and Tabaco. (Cagsawa, Amihad, Alps, Penafranca ) Travel time is between 10 to 12 hours.Its best to take an overnight bus as these are direct trips. Buses leaving Manila during daylight hours cantake up to 18 hours. Current Fares start at P850 for a regular aircon bus. Make sure to take warm clothing or a blanket as it can get pretty cold.
Tabak Festival Recommended Further Reading
- A Tale of Two Tabacos – Celineism
- Mutya Ng Tabakla Queens 2017 – Adobolife
- Sunday Stroll on San Miguel Island – Silverbackpacker
- Tabaco City’s Tabak Festival – The Backpacker Guide