Cebu Celebrates – The Kaumahan Festival

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A festival group on the way to the festival showground, a fiesta for every photographer

Text & photos by Rudi Roels

When I travel to Asia, I try to choose my travel dates so that they match up with the amazing festivals the region is so famous for. I have seen psychedelic, vibrant and vivid festivals in India, China, Indonesia and many other countries.

But for me the Philippines is particularly special, with a myriad different festivals all year round. I had the pleasure of attending one of the most colourful of them: the Kaumahan Festival in Barili, Cebu. It was an amazing experience – so many colours, so many warm people, with everyone willing to be photographed.

The dressing stage before the dancing begins; most of them make their own costumes

Flamboyant dancing in the streets and pounding drums beats are the festival’s high points, and there’s also ample opportunity to showcase the town’s agricultural products. In the Visayan dialect, the word kaumahan means “farm” or something that pertains to a rural area, and all the revelry and merrymaking of the Kaumahan Festival is about giving thanks to God for His graces and blessings for a bountiful harvest.

The festival lasts for a few days, but the costumes and dance routines require many months of preparation. The villagers take the festivities very seriously: participating groups compete with one another to produce the most beautiful and captivating dance in the parade. The stakes are high – after all, everyone wants to be the best!

The leading girl, dressed to the nines, as she represents her village in the competition

As a photographer, I’m always looking for something special, of course. When you attend these kinds of festivals in the Philippines, there is a lot more to capture than just the central parade. When the participants stop from time to time, this is the moment I really use my camera, shooting as many portraits and capturing as much colour as I can.

For the rest of this article (Asian Geographic No.98 Issue 5 /2013 ) and other stories, check out our past issues here or download a digital copy here

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