Samar is a province located in the eastern region of the Philippines. It is about 700 kilometers from the country’s nerve center, Manila and relative to other parts of the country, it is rife with poverty due to the lack of infrastructure and its geographical position that make it prone to natural calamities. Fortunately, these circumstances have not kept Samar from celebrating life as evidenced by the numerous festivals it observes in the course of a year.
If one wants to experience the bulk of Samar’s festival’s it is best to trek to the province between the months of March and September. Coming to Samar within these months will make the trip memorable due to the numerous festivals held in the province’s municipalities.
One of the more interesting merry-making activities in Samar is the Embajada Festival. Unlike most festivals which are confined to a single area, the Embajada Festival is held in numerous areas at two different dates. The first Embajada Festival is held in January in the municipalities of Laoang and Catubig while a second festival bearing the same name and characteristic is held in the 19th of June in Catarman. It is basically a festival based on the Moro-Moro tradition indigenous to the Philippines, which is a comical depiction of the conflict between Christians and Muslims that has existed in the archipelago since Spain’s colonization of it Another festival held in Samar that features this dramatization is the Sakay-Sakay fluvial procession held in Laoang, which starts with a moro-moro presentation.
Kadayaw festival is another of the more well-known examples of the island’s numerous celebrations. Not to be confused to the equally popular Kadayawan festival of Davao, Samar’s Kadayaw festival is a festival that is held on the day of when the first full moon appears in January. It is basically a commemoration with Catholic undertones like most Philippine festivals as it is held to thank God’s blessing to the town of Pambujan which celebrates it.
There are also festivals that center on the town’s main form of livelihood. Example of such festivals is the Parayang Harvest Festival of San Roque Municipality which is celebrated with elaborate stage performances and choreographed street dances. Another festival that centers on farming aspects is the Pahoy-Pahoy festival of the town of Calbiga. A festival whose name is derived from the local word for scarecrow, it is also one that is centered on scarecrows and it owes its creation to the local inhabitants’ gratitude to the farming effect, as it has saved them from famine countless times due as the town’s famrs are regularly subjected to attacks by destructive rice birds. The festivals’ main attraction is the parade of gigantic scarecrows made by the locals, after which the best scarecrow would be chosen as the winner in that year’s festival.
Apart from festivals focused on the virtues of farming, Samar also has festivities featuring another main livelihood of the province’s people: fishing. The town of Dalupir-San Antonio has its Pasidungog Festival which features the town’s fishermen parading around town clad in the colorful and fancy costumes. A boat race is done in the town of Lazavares during its Bangkathon Festival. Perhaps the most popular among these fishing festivals is the Bangkules of Palapag whose main event is that of fishermen going to the sea and coming back with their boats teeming with their catch of fishes of every kind which are all to be cooked and eaten by those who participate in the event and wait in the beach for the fishermen.
These festivals of Samar show that even with the unfortunate circumstances that befall the island, celebrating the joy of living is not beyond its people, a trait which brands its festivities truly Filipino.