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The Kalilangan Festival: A Celebration of Culture and History

February 23, 2024 - February 27, 2024

The Kalilangan Festival is an annual festival that takes place every February in General Santos City, also known as GenSan, in the province of South Cotabato. The festival celebrates the founding anniversary of GenSan, as well as the culture and tradition of its people, who are composed of various ethnic groups such as B’laan, Maguindanaon, and Christian settlers.

The word “Kalilangan” comes from the Maguindanaon word “kalilang”, which means “festival” or “celebration”. The festival reflects the festive spirit and cheerful disposition of the people of GenSan, who are known for their hospitality and generosity. The festival also showcases the talents and skills of the locals in various fields such as arts, music, sports, and cuisine.

The origin of the festival can be traced back to 1989, when then mayor Rosalita T. Nuñez and its first festival director Bai Janena J.A. Tito organized a half-day sailboat race to promote GenSan as a tourist destination and showcase its potential for development. The successful organization of the race paved the way to the creation of the City Tourism Division. The name of the festival was derived from “kalilang”, a word in Maguindanaon language that means to celebrate or commemorate. Kalilangan thus refers to a gathering, celebration, merry-making, or revelry.

The festival was later influenced by the history of GenSan, which was established as a settlement district by the National Land Settlement Administration (NLSA) in 1939. The first settlers were mostly from Luzon and Visayas, who were enticed by the government to migrate to Mindanao. They were led by General Paulino Santos, who was accompanied by 62 agricultural and trade graduates. Their mission in GenSan was to cultivate the fertile expanse of land. They arrived on February 27, 1939, which is considered as the founding date of GenSan.

The festival today is a month-long celebration that culminates on February 27th, which is also declared as a special non-working holiday in GenSan. It features various events and activities that showcase the culture and heritage of GenSan, such as art exhibits, musical performances, cultural shows, food fairs, and other contests. The highlight of the festival is the grand street parade or Sadsad Kalilangan Festival Street Dancing Competition , where thousands of participants from different barangays or districts compete for prizes and honors. The participants wear colorful costumes and masks that depict the evolution of the distinct cultures of the B’laan, Maguindanaon, and Christian settlers into a singular wave of rhythms. They dance to the beat of drums and music, while chanting “Hala Bira! Pwera Pasma!” (Go on! No pain!), which expresses their enthusiasm and energy.

The festival is not only a feast for the eyes, but also for the taste buds. Visitors can enjoy various delicacies that are unique to GenSan or South Cotabato province, such as tilapia (freshwater fish), tuna (saltwater fish), chicken inasal (grilled chicken), piaya (flatbread with muscovado filling), napoleones (puff pastry with custard filling), barquillos (rolled wafers), ibos (rice cake wrapped in coconut leaves), suman latik (sticky rice cake with coconut syrup), kinilaw (raw fish marinated in vinegar and spices), lechon (roasted pig), sisig (chopped meat seasoned with calamansi juice and chili peppers), kakanin (rice cakes), pansit habhab (noodles eaten without utensils), Lucban longganisa (Filipino-style sausages), hardinera (meatloaf), broas (ladyfingers), tikoy (sticky rice cake), espasol (rice cake rolled in coconut flakes), bagoong (fermented fish paste), alaminos longganisa (garlic-flavored sausages), calasiao puto (steamed rice cake), tupig (grilled rice cake wrapped in banana leaves), pigar-pigar (stir-fried beef with cabbage), binungey (sticky rice cooked in bamboo tubes), and bangus sisig (chopped milkfish seasoned with calamansi juice and chili peppers). They can also buy souvenirs made from wood, silver, beads, or kiping (leaf-shaped wafer).

The Kalilangan Festival is not only a celebration of culture and history, but also a celebration of life and progress. It is a way of preserving and promoting the traditions and values of GenSan and its people. It is also a way of showcasing the beauty and diversity of South Cotabato province and Mindanao island.

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February 23
February 27
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General Santos City, Philippines
General Santos City 9500 Philippines + Google Map