Sangyaw Festival in Tacloban: Everything You Need to Know

Sangyaw Festival in Tacloban: Everything You Need to Know

Every June, Tacloban hosts the vibrant and fun-filled Sangyaw Festival. Discover its history and cultural significance. Learn more about this unique tradition by reading on. PHOTO (IN BACKGROUND): airasia Super App/Facebook

Known as the "Gateway to Eastern Visayas," Tacloban City is home to numerous tourist attractions and occasions, including the Sangyaw Festival, which is a major annual event.

It is a religious, socio-cultural occasion and a prominent local celebration held every June 29 in Tacloban City. 'Sangyaw' is a Waray-Waray term that means "to proclaim news." It was initially held between 1974 and 1986. However, it was discontinued in subsequent years.

This event was brought back to life in 2008 by Mayor Alfred Romualdez, and it has since become one of the most well-known celebrations in the region.

Continue reading to learn more about Tacloban City's Sangyaw festival. [If you have not yet booked a hotel for your trip to Tacloban City for Sangyaw Festival, you may read the article "LIST of Hotels to Stay in Tacloban City this 2022" for a list of recommended accommodations.]

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What is Sangyaw Festival?

Sangyaw Festival is an annual festival held in Tacloban City that celebrates the cultures of Eastern Visayas and honors Senior Santo Niño. Sangyaw has grown in popularity since its inception in 1976 by then-First Lady Imelda Marcos.

The celebrations were a yearly tradition until 1986, when the late Corazon Aquino became president of the Philippines and abolished the festival.

It wasn't until 2008 that Mayor Alfred Romualdez, a nephew of the former first lady, successfully resurrected the Sangyaw Festival. The event was immediately welcomed by the revitalized Taclobanon population in the city and throughout the region.

(Photo courtesy: Leyte Best Properties/Facebook)

Where did Sangyaw Festival originated?

Sangyaw is based on the widespread belief that the statue of Santo Nino miraculously survived a shipwreck in the 1880s. This happened after the original statue, imported by the Spaniards in 1888, had to be returned to Manila for restoration and refitting.

In making its way back to Tacloban, the vessel "Luzon," which served as its carrier, was involved in a catastrophic fire and ultimately sank. Hermano Mayor Arcadio Zialcita, who served as Tacloban's alcalde or mayor at the time, was affected by the loss of a patron and felt grief and sadness as a result.

However, at some point in the month of May 1889, the Governor of Leyte received a letter from the Military Governor of Mindoro, Jose Gil de Avalle, informing him that the Barrio Lieutenant of Barrio Semirara in Mindoro had spotted a box labeled "Santo Niño, Patron han Tacloban." 

As soon as the news spread, volunteers were mobilized and eventually recovered the image, which made its way to the shores of Tacloban on June 30, 1889. The "salubong" or gathering place, where the image was received and celebrated, can be found in the area around the present-day Balyuan Amphitheatre, which is close to the Archdiocesan Shrine of Santo Niño. [1] 

TODAY, the Sangyaw Festival commemorates the conversion of Filipinos to Roman Catholicism after abandoning their previous pagan beliefs. The image of Santo Niño de Tacloban is thought to be miraculous, and it is housed inside the Archdiocesan Shrine of Santo Niño.

On June 30, a procession of Senior Santo Niño, escorted by boats, travels over the San Juanico Strait as countless believers pay respect to the miracle statue.

(Photo courtesy: Jackylyn Sabulao)

When is Sangyaw Festival celebrated?

The Sangyaw Festival is a significant local celebration held each year on June 29 in Tacloban City. It falls on a Wednesday in 2022. It is celebrated before the Tacloban Fiesta which is June 30.

However, as of this writing, there has been no word from the City Government of Tacloban on whether the festival will be held this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is the main attraction of the Sangyaw festival?

The Sangyaw Festival's attractions usually involve street dancing and the 'Parades of Lights.' Aside from that, the city hosts a month-long celebration that includes the Sangyawan Music Festival, Miss Tacloban, Cultural Night, and other events.

Tacloban City and other Eastern Visayas towns' culture and heritage are celebrated at the Sangyaw Festival through street dancing. Warriors dressed in vibrant costumes, women performing elaborate rituals, and the incorporation of Christianity are just a few of the events on display.

Participation of several municipalities, other cities, and even tribal groups is a remarkable accomplishment that Sangyaw has accomplished. The city extends a warm welcome to anyone who visits, regardless of whether they are from Tacloban or not. 

The main attraction is the devotion to the Senior Santo Niño, Tacloban City's patron saint. Local contingents will usually include a woman carrying the Santo Niño statue who will dance in a trance, symbolizing the native Catholic ritual that thanks God for the blessings and luck that have come to this lovely bayside city in Eastern Visayas.

(Photo courtesy: Jackylyn Sabulao)

Meaning of "Sangyaw"

The term "sangyaw" is derived from a Waray-Waray word that roughly translates as "to announce or herald a news." As a result, the Sangyaw Festival proclaims good news as people celebrate the blessing brought by Senior Santo Niño.

Who is the patron saint of Sangyaw festival?

As previously stated, Senior Santo Niño is the patron saint of the Sangyaw Festival. The event honors him as well as the cultures of Eastern Visayas, particularly in Tacloban City.

(Photo courtesy: Mayor Alfred Romualdez Facebook Page)

What other activities you can do during Sangyaw Festival?

As the Sangyaw Festival is a month-long celebration, tourists, visitors, and individuals can also tour Tacloban City and the surrounding attractions.

Tour Tacloban City

Tacloban has an interesting and great history. It served as the temporary seat of the Commonwealth Government as well as the temporary capital of the Philippines between October 1944 and February 1945.

During World War II, the Leyte Provincial Capitol, a National Historical Landmark, served as the temporary national capitol.

Other nearby landmarks and attractions:

  • San Juanico Bridge - Previously known as the "longest bridge in the Philippines," it is also revered by Waraynons as a symbol of love, connecting the sister islands of Samar and Leyte.
  • M/V Eva Jocelyn - A shrine or a monument located in Barangay Anibong, Tacloban City. It is also known as the Yolanda Memorial Monument after a Super Typhoon hit the city in 2013.
  • Archdiocesan Shrine of Santo Niño - Founded by the Augustinians in 1770, it houses a century-old miraculous image of the Child Jesus, revered and honored as the Patron of Leyte. The parish was canonically established as an Archdiocesan Shrine on November 1, 2021.
  • MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park - One of Leyte's notable landmarks. It is the location of the renowned bronze statue of General Douglas MacArthur that commemorates his historic return to the island of Leyte on October 20, 1944.
  • Santo Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum - The Santo Nio Shrine and Heritage Museum is a popular tourist destination in Tacloban City, housing relics, furniture, and art pieces from all over the world acquired under the first Marcos administration.
  • Madonna of Japan - The Madonna of Japan is a historical landmark in Tacloban City that serves as a memorial to Japan's and the Philippines' friendship. It also commemorates the valiant soldiers who fought and died on the battlefields of World War II.

Shop till you drop

Tacloban City boasts shopping malls as the only highly urbanized city (HUC) in Eastern Visayas Region. Mall hopping is an option for those who prefer to shop. Robinsons North Tacloban, Robinsons Place Tacloban, Metro Gaisano Mall, and SaveMore Tacloban are some of the city's most popular shopping destinations.

(Photo courtesy: Mhae Serrano)

Watch the Sangyawan Music Festival

During the month-long "Sangyaw Festival," the Sangyawan Music Festival features daily musical performances. The best local and national talents will dazzle you at a free concert, so go out and watch them perform while enjoying a drink or eating food with your colleagues or family.

Enjoy the beaches and resorts

Another reason for visiting Tacloban City is to take advantage of its many nearby resorts and beaches. La Villa Francisco Resort and San Juanico Beach Resort are just two of the options. While the city's San Jose district is home to some of the city's best-known beachfront.

You can also enjoy the illuminated San Juanico Bridge at night by going to the resto-bars in Cabalawan district.

Practical Tips for Sangyaw Festival

  • Arrive at least one day before the peak of the Sangyaw Festival in late June. If you're trying to avoid getting stuck in traffic, this is your best bet. You may get caught in terrible traffic on a congested street on your way to your accommodation if you fly during the actual day of festivity.
  • Book your lodging ahead of time. For the month-long celebration in Tacloban, hotels may already be fully booked. This is critical. If you can, try to get the best deal possible.
  • Wear clothing and shoes that are easy to move in. You must wear loose clothing and bring an umbrella because the weather in Tacloban can be hot and humid at times. You may also wear shoes, slippers, or sandals because the roads will be closed.
  • To avoid dehydration, bring water with you. During a festival, people have been known to faint because of the heat and crowds. Bring a reusable water bottle or tumbler to reduce the amount of plastic you use.
  • Don't carry around too many expensive items. Bring as little cash, gadgets, and other electronic devices as possible because they may get lost. Keep an eye on your surroundings and keep your belongings hidden in your pocket or bag.
  • Don't get behind the wheel while intoxicated. If you're going to one of the street parties or spending the night at the Sangyawan Music Festival, don't plan on getting behind the wheel later.
  • Keep your cool. Sangyaw Festival is expected to be one of the busiest festivals in the Philippines, with thousands of people expected to attend.


When you go to the Sangyaw Festival, you won't be able to help but be blown away by the incredible cultural exhibits and performances by artists from Eastern Visayas and beyond the region. In addition to this, it provides the chance to take some time off and go sightseeing in the city that is known as the "Gateway to Eastern Visayas." —iTacloban

[1] History of Sangyaw: A Tacloban Heritage (Tacloban City Guide, Retrieved May 2022)

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