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Experience Sublian Festival Batangas – Is It Worth It?

sublian festival
Courtesy of Choy Rosales @ Flickr

One of my favorite things about the Philippines is the number of festivals (called fiestas) they have throughout the year. Every time I visit, I try to do two things — visit incredible beaches and attend a festival.

I usually try to make a point to schedule my trips during a time that I know a festival is occurring. 

Several years ago, I went to Batangas during July and was able to experience the Sublian Festival.

Immersing myself in the area’s culture and the people’s dedication to prayer, song, and dance during this celebration was both eye-opening and fascinating, especially seeing the “Subli” dance that they perform as the main attraction. 

If you are in Batangas City in July, I highly recommend adding this festival to your itinerary. Here are all the important things you’ll need to know about how the festival started and what you can expect to do and see while you are there. 

Sublian Festival History

The history of the Sublian Festival dates back to 1988. In July of that year, the Mayor wanted to observe Batangas cityhood and bring back the practice of the subli.

The origin and cultural background of the Sublian festival are deeply rooted in the subli, which is a dance that the local people perform during a feast to express worship towards the image of the Holy Cross, which is the patron of the Batangas municipalities of Alitagtag and Bauan.  

The Holy Cross was found in 1595 in Alitagtag, during the Spanish regime and when it was called Bauan Sur. A gambler’s wife had an apparition of blinding light and a cross in front of an anubing tree while she was collecting water.

When she knelt in front of the cross and prayed, suddenly, her jug became filled with voluminous amounts of water. Soon the whole area knew about the miracle. 

What is Sublian Festival? 

Sublian Festival Batangas
Courtesy of Choy Rosales @ Flickr

The most important thing to know about Sublian Festival is that it is an annual two-week celebration that reaches its finale on the day of July 23rd. Initially focused primarily on the subli dance, today, the festival incorporates many more activities and events. 

There is still devotional dancing and singing, but today’s festival also includes street dancing, Filippino games, serenades, sharing of Nilupak (a local dish made of sweet potato and banana), and a Malunggayan Fiesta to celebrate the nutritional benefits of the moringa plant.

The festival’s main event is the parade held on the morning of July 23rd, and you’ll find government officials, schools, and other socio-civic organizations participating in it. 

Sublian Festival Location

Sublim Festival celebration
Courtesy of Choy Rosales @ Flickr

Sublian is a festival celebrated in Batangas City, which is the capital city of the province of Batangas. Batangas is one of the most visited destinations near the Metro Manila area and is where you can find the second largest seaport in the Philippines. 

In Batangas City, you can also find the Taal Volcano, Taal Heritage town, many beautiful beaches, and excellent diving spots.

Another interesting fact about the area is that all of its waters are part of the Verde Island Passage, considered to be the center of marine shorefish diversity. The people of this area speak Tagalog, and the Tagalog culture is present everywhere you go.  

 When is Sublian Festival Celebrated? 

The Sublian Festival takes place annually in the month of July. It is a two-week celebration, with the event’s climax being the parade held on the last day of the festival, July 23rd. The festival’s timing also aligns with the observation of the cityhood of Batangas City. 

Sublian Festival Costume

sublian fetival costume
Courtesy of junsjazz @ Flickr

The costume of the Sublian Festival is very colorful, and all of the dancers that participate in the subli wear it. The men and women dancers each wear a specific style of costume.

Men usually wear red trousers and the Barong Tagalog, which is the Philippines’ official formal attire and national dress. It mainly consists of a long-sleeved embroidered shirt made of sheer textiles and worn over an undershirt. 

The women typically wear a Balintawak dress (another traditional Filipino costume), tapis (a cloth wrapped around them), and a buri hat. The Balintawak typically has a shortened skirt, puffy short sleeves, a low-cut bodice, plaid textiles, and very ornate embroidery.

The buri hat is made of the leaves of the native palm plant by the same name. 

The participants also wear adorned subli hats that symbolize the attributes and customs of living in Batangas. 

Sublian Festival Music 

The Sublian Festival songs are upbeat and consist of lots of drum beats and wooden castanets held by the dancers. There is also a lot of chanting involved and devotional singing along with poetry.

The purpose of the music is to accompany the dance ritual that pays homage to the Holy Cross and the Child Jesus, so the tone and beat reflect this devotion.  

Sublian Festival Description

sublian festival philippines
Courtesy of Donald Seminiano @ Flickr

The festival is considered a religious festival. Some of the distinguishing characteristics of the Sublian Festival include performing the subli dance and the Lupakan or making the nilupak snack while singing folk songs.

These are two events that you will not want to miss if you attend the festival. 

The subli dance is quite a sight to witness, as the whole performance consists of lengthy prayers, songs, and dances. Either one, two, or eight couples participate in the dance at a time.

The movements of the male dancers are intense and robust (they often hit the ground with a bamboo stick), and the women dancers move gracefully with a focus on their delicate wrist and finger movements.

Only trained dancers can perform the dances, and they know which way to move by the way their partners move their bodies. 

The morning of the last day of the festival begins with an hour-long parade in which you’ll see beautiful floats and important members of the community, like government officials.

There is also street dancing to celebrate Foundation Day. At this time, more than a thousand student dancers perform the subli through the streets.

Once the parade has finished, the remainder of the day stays busy with scheduled programs at the City Hall complex. 

Sublian Festival Tips

sublian celebration batangas

If you attend the Sublian Festival, here are some important things to consider. 

  • Although the festival officially lasts for two weeks, the parade and main events occur on the festival’s last day, July 23rd. 
  • The festival takes place in July, the wet season in the Philippines. Be prepared to experience at least some rainfall while you are there. You will want to carry an umbrella and wear appropriate shoes. 
  • The area of Batangas has many beautiful resorts, so you should not have trouble finding a place to stay. Many of the resorts offer luxurious accommodations. 
  • Make sure that you get up early and get a spot to watch the parade. It is the first event of the day on July 23rd, and if you aren’t in place in time, you will miss it. 

How to get to Sublian Festival

Batangas City is very easy to access, and you have many different transportation options to get there.

It is only 2 to 3 hours away from Manila by bus. You can also easily take a direct bus from Alabang or Cubao to the city.

If you rent a car, there are three different highways lead into Batangas. 

Some other things to do during your stay in Batangas City and around

Batangas City is a top-rated tourist destination. There are plenty of beaches and beach resorts in Batangas to keep you busy with activities when you are not attending the festival. You can also shop at one of the many malls or other shopping areas for local souvenirs.

Make sure also to visit the Taal Volcano, a complex volcano on the island of Luzon. It is the second most active volcano in the Philippines and provides tourists with some of the most beautiful views in the area. 

The Monte Maria shrine is a must-see as well. The people built this international pilgrimage and conference center in honor of the Virgin Mary. The sight attracts both religious visitors and regular tourists and is considered one of the top Batangas tourist spots. 

Where to Stay in Batangas

More Festivals in the Philippines