Aswang Festival in Roxas City: Short Lived Yet Controversial -

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Aswang Festival in Roxas City: Short Lived Yet Controversial

Every Pinoys out there have heard stories about “aswang”; a blood thirsty man-eating creature of the night.  Some Pinoys would even claim that they saw at one point in time some of these creatures like “kapre”, “manananggal,” and “ulong pugot.”  Capiz, a province in the Visayas which has Roxas City as its capital, is reputed to be a haven for these horrific creatures.  Stories abound depicting how “aswangs” capture and devour their human preys in different places of this province.  Thus, in 2004, some leading figures in Roxas City decided to hold a festival dedicated to the “aswangs.”

Aswang Festival

The first edition of this festival was held October 29-30, 2004, as a prelude to Halloween.  Unfortunately, the festival was not embraced by church leaders and condemned those who implemented the festival as promoting witchcraft and idolizing the devil.  Catholic leaders even read Pastoral Letters condemning the event.  Organizers were quick to retaliate and point out that the real intent of the festival was to promote Roxas City as tourism destination by capitalizing on local folklore. Thus, they were actually transforming the negative image of Roxas City brought by “aswang” stories into positive ones.  The same sentiments were shown by the Catholic hierarchy each time the event was celebrated until the festival was stopped in 2007 by Mayor Bermejo, the city mayor at that time. 

While the parade of the “aswangs” was the highlight of the festival, there were other engaging activities during the festival such as:

·    Trade exhibits where local and small business men showed and peddled their wares for tourists to buy and appreciate.

·      Culinary competitions to show just how rich and bountiful the harvest from the sea Roxas City has.  The city is known as the “Sea Food Capital of The Philippines.”

·      Aswang Symposium is the educational aspect of the festival where “aswang” concepts are dissected from different perspectives; cultural, historical, and paranormal. The symposium was geared towards removing the negative stigma of “aswang.”  This is similar to what Romania did with regard to “Dracula” stigma by making vampire stories as the center of several festivities in Romania. 

Indeed, the festival was a unique way to invite local and foreign tourist and discover Roxas City as it has lots to offer when it comes to food, fine sandy beaches, and of course historical and cultural significance; one of the largest bell towers in Asia is just less than an hour drive from Roxas City.  The question is, should this one be revived or not?  Do raise your voice!

Contributed by Alden Bula. Visit his blog   

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