Naliyagan Festival is Agusan del Sur’s province-wide festivity which coincidentally starts on June 12 which is the Philippine Independence Day and culminates on the Foundation Anniversary on June 17. Incepted in 1993 during the incumbency of the late Gov. Democrito O. Plaza, the festival is recognition of the Manobo people’s loyalty to their tribal leader Datu Lipus Makapandong.
In 1993, weeks before the 26th Foundation Anniversary of the Province of Agusan del Sur a gathering of all Tribal Leaders in the province was held and presided by the Provincial leader Datu Lipus Makapandong, Governor D.O. Plaza. The Manobo leaders unanimously agreed to call that day of celebration as Naliyagan Festival.
Naliyagan is a Manobo word which means “the chosen one” or “the most loved one”. It is a weeklong celebration of socio-cultural and arts exposition of indigenous tribes in the entire Agusan valley and displaying their skills and culture through ritual activities, an exhibit of native products, ethnic games and a host of sporting tournaments and special events.
The festival depicts the Agusanon’s culture and heritage. Natives from far-flung places usually come down and display their skills through tribal dances and rituals. A trade fair displaying the province’s cottage industries also takes place in Naliyagan Cultural Center Grounds at the Gov. D. O. Plaza Government Center, Prosperidad.
Naliyagan festival is a day of thanksgiving among the natives for the bounties received for the year. Thus, they bring in during the festival their agri-industrial products for the people in the valley to buy and savor.
Move by the unfaltering support of the indigenous people of the Province, then Governor Democrito O. Plaza thought of a day that these people which he loves must be given a day of recognition. Thus, in the year 1993, in the time for the foundation anniversary of the province, it will also be the day the indigenous people of the province will take the center stage to showcase their rich cultural heritage, products and artifacts, as well as their cultural practices.
And as a fitting name, the Governor upon consultation with the manobo elders of Agusan del Sur chose the word “Naliyagan” which means the chosen one, the most loved one. Hence, the word Naliyagan Festival which will be held at Naliyagan Plaza, a space inside the Government Center designated as the place for official celebration in the province as well as the venue for official programs. Here, all the indigenous natives of the entire river valley of Agusan del Sur converge to display their dances, songs, products both agricultural and cottage industries, novelties intricately handmade displaying their glorious past of the natives.
Usually celebrated for a week and starts with the celebration of the Philippine Independence Day anniversary every June 12th, the Naliyagan Festivals opens with a manobo high priest called “baylan” will call on the spirits of the forest to spare the day for the celebration and drive away from the evil spirits that might harm the grand celebration. Then a pig is butchered and its blood offered by the baylan to appease the spirits so they may not harm the mortals celebrating. Offerings of tobacco, eggs, white chicken, gin, candles and beetle nut fruit and leaves as “mama”, a concoction usually chewed by the natives.
On the other hand, the Christians present will also have their own holy mass celebration as thanksgiving for the blessings enjoyed for the year and in the years to come.
After all the spiritual invocations, follow the rising of the colors both national, provincial, municipal and barangays. Each barangay numbering 318 all in all has its own barangay flag and is raised at its assigned flag pole within the Naliyagan plaza. After which is the release of the giant balloon and 3218 small balloons representing the many high aspirations hopes and dreams of the Agusanons for its total development entrusted in the hands of their leaders. Adding color to the raising of colors and balloons is the ethnic choral ensemble rendering the official song of the nation, the province and the doxology.
The highlight of the Opening Day celebration is the tribal agro-industrial fair where all indigenous cottage industry products and agricultural products are displayed for sale to the general public. The fair lasts until the end of the Naliyagan Festival which is June 17, the founding anniversary of the province. The second day of the celebration is conducted the different contest like essay-writing, cock derby, native games like spear throwing, boat rowing contest, boxing, and other sports competitions. The third day is a continuation of the second day.
The fourth day is highlighted with the talent competition among candidates vying for the title, Bae Naliyagan which is the most prestigious beauty pageant in the province. The talent competition is part of the search for miss Agusan del Sur dubbed as Bae Naliyagan.
The 5th day is the pageant proper usually held at the San Francisco Gymnasium. The pageant is the Search for Bae Naliyagan or Miss Agusan Del Sur. Here, 14 lovely beauties from the 14 municipalities of the province compete for each other in the beauty and talent to vie for the prestigious title that brings with it a cash prize and the privilege of becoming the ambassadress of the goodwill 0of the province.
The 6th day falls the foundation anniversary of the province and the culmination day of the celebration. The highlight of the day is the Drum and Bugle competition, the ethnic street dancing contest where each indigenous tribe in the province will show-off their ethnic dances first along the street of Government Center then finally the tribal theater where each competing team will present a choreograph dance depicting some cultural practices of the past which lead them to the present times. It is also the day that dignitaries is invited to grace the occasion are made to deliver their speeches to the delight of the natives present as this is their only chance to view in person dignitaries they often times could see only in their television sets and newspapers.
Before the day ends, awarding prizes to the different contests is to be given then follows the lowering of the colors then a thanksgiving mass is again held in gratitude to a successful celebration.
Credits to: agusandelsur.gov.ph