San Joaquins Bayluhay Festival A Celebration Of Panays History

Western Visayas is considered a region of festivals which commemorate local history and culture.

One of the regions traditional fiestas locals and foreign visitors should witness is the Bayluhay Festival in the southern town of San Joaquin, Iloilo.

The annual event which is slated every 3rd week of January commemorates the landing of the ten Bornean datus and the historic barter of Panay Island, both of which happened in the shores of San Joaquin.

Bayluhay was coined from the Hiligaynon word "Baylo" which means "barter or to exchange".

It was said that sometime between the 13th and 15th century, ten Shri Vijayan Datus led by the Sultanate Minister Datu Putih, together with their families, households, and subordinates fled Bornay (Borneo) using their balanghais (boat for sea travel) in search of a new life.

Some historical accounts would tell that the group landed in Siruanga (Siwaragan River in San Joaquin) where they bartered their gold and jewelries with the local "Ati" (Aeta) Chieftain Marikudo with his wife Maniwantiwang for the lowlands, plains and valleys of the Aninipay Island (Panay) they called "Madya-as" or paradise.

After the transaction was sealed, the Atis were believed to have retired to the mountains and the Malays took complete control of the lowlands.

As one of the highlights in the celebration of the town fiesta, the tribal dance competition re-enacted the folkloric barter of Panay.

Five groups from the different secondary schools in the municipality participated in the competition which showcased performances that explored the rich ancient rituals practiced by Panays early ancestors.

These groups which are called "Kabikahan" (tribe/clan) utilized five of the ten Bornean datus name who landed in San Joaquin including Datu Paiburong, Datu Bangkaya, Datu Paduhinog, Datu Sumakwel, and Datu Lubay.

San Joaquin municipal mayor Nimfa S. Garin said that the Bayluhay Festival is a manifestation of the townfolks celebration of lifes bountiful blessings.

She said that it is an expression of the peoples gratefulness for the blessings endowed to them and the honor of being known as the progenies of the great and noble ancient rulers of this land.

San Joaquin is a second class municipality and the southernmost town of Iloilo province. It is about 53 kilometers away or an hour and 20-minute drive from Iloilo City.

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