Busig-On Festival: A Retelling of an Epic Bicolano Tale | Camarines Norte

As a spectator many times over of numerous Philippine festivals in the past, I still overflow with enthusiasm each time I witness a new one. After experiencing the Ati-Atihan three times and the Sinulog twice already, I’ve had more than enough dose of fun from those twin-festivals honoring the Sto. Niño. However, I’m always game to immerse in the different vibe of other lesser-known festivals in the country. Camarines Norte’s Busig-on Festival isn’t just previously unknown to me, it also has an interesting backstory involving a widely retold local story. Therefore, during my 8-hour bus ride to the province, I already visualized the kind of frenzy atmosphere that awaits me.

Cheekie Albay

The Epic Tale of Busig-On

Busig-On Festival is celebrated every first week of September in Labo, Camarines Norte. As a town lavished by the abundant waters of Labo River, it follows naturally that all commercial and even cultural activities of the town would center on their revered river.

Mariane Tagaca

This is also another reason why a contemporary story was written centering on a mythical character named Busig-On. The name of the leading protagonist was derived from the Bicolano word “Busig”, which means “Water” and “on”, which translates to “plenty”. Thus, the name Busig-On directly translating to “plenty of water” in reference to Labo River.

Camarines Norte Travel Guide

The epic tale written by Dr. Carlos C. Galvez charts the exploits of Busig-On and Princess Maraya. Despite coming from two combatant tribes, the two fell in love with each other. After they got married, their warring tribes forged a peace agreement. 

Koryn Iledan

Soon, the couple bore a son named Tarik-Kuduok, who inherited the leadership role when his parents died. A great famine dried much of the land and to save his people from further misery, Tarik summoned spiritual guidance from the departed Busig-On to help his people.

Alyanna Bromeo

Unlike most epic tales, the epic of Busig-On dishes a happy ending as the vast dry land was soon filled by water. Natural pools formed until it grew bigger and flowed downstream to fill other tributaries. Not long after, inhabitants enjoyed an abundant source of livelihood through fishing and much needed source of farming irrigation.

Jomie Naynes

That body of water gave birth to Busig-On river, which is now the main tributary of Labo River.

A Laid-back but Vibrant Street Parade

What it lacks in matching the bounteous energy of the Ati-Atihan, Sinulog and the Dingyang Festivals in the Visayas, the Busig-On Festival made up for it with an easy-going revelry while retaining the colorful characteristics of other popular Philippine Festivals. The crowd was evenly scattered through the long sidewalks and it seems everyone can dive right in into the action and partake on the street carousing—much like the Ati-Atihan but in a smaller scale.

Charisse Tumlos

As a photographer, I savored the laid-back celebration as I was able to take decent photographs of the performers up close. You could feel that Busig-On Festival is every bit of a small-town fiesta. It teams with its own unique allure and bursting with intimacy that seem to draw the locals tightly bonded with each other. 

Jessica Millare

Like in most festivals in the country, the drumming beats are still as loud as they can be, the costumes popping with colors, and the choreography wildly entertaining. You can say Philippine Festivals are all “same-same but different”, because as you pinpoint several similarities you can also sense a myriad of variances.

Potpot Pinili and Mujee Gonzales

As I watch the performers adorned with flamboyant costumes perform the interpretive dance of the Epic of Busig-On through the streets, I picked up a thing or two about some of the town’s traditions like the act of courtship, fish harvesting and their forever act of homage to Busig-On river. Because as never-ending the streams coming from Busig-On river will remain, the resolve of the townsfolks to meet any challenges that come their way, shall also remain steadfast. What better way to celebrate that kind of resiliency than through a madly pulsating festivity.

Erika Garcia