KINABAYO FESTIVAL: Dapitanon’s Way of Honoring St. James the Greater

When I hear the word Dapitan, the first thing that comes to my mind is the National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. In fact, Rizal has become synonymous to Dapitan as this city became his home when he was exiled in Mindanao. But there’s more to Dapitan than just Pepe.

While the City is best known for its rich history, it is also home to some grand celebrations and festivals the city hosts every year. One of these is the Kinabayo Festival, a colourful celebration staged every year in honor of the city’s patron saint, Saint James the Greater, who is also the patron saint of the entire Spain.

Dapitan City is among the first territories in Mindanao colonized by Spaniards. Aside from the deep Catholic faith, the colonizers left the Dapitanons with a very extraordinary and unique legacy – the tradition and pageantry of Kinabayo Festival which was celebrated even back in the olden days. Kinabayo is a unique festival re-enacting the Spanish-Moorish wars particularly the Battle of Covadonga.

During the early years of the Spanish rule, Dapitan was still flooded by Moro pirates. To protect the Dapitanons from an attack of Moro invaders, the Jesuit priests made St. James the Greater as their patron saint with a strong faith that the Patron Saint will protect the town and the people from the invaders. Back in the fifth century in Spain, it was believed that there was an apparition of St. James the Greater riding a horse carrying a sword guiding the Spanish Christians to win the battle against the Moors in the Battle of Covadonga. After three centuries, St. James the Greater played the same part this time in the lives of the Dapitanons.

For quite some time now, Kinabayo Festival of Dapitan has become one of the most celebrated festivals in the whole Zamboanga Del Norte. Dapitanons have remained faithful to their devotion to their patron Saint and Kinabayo Festival is their great way of honouring him.

Celebrated on the feast day, July 25, a magnificent re-enactment of the Battle of Covadonga is staged before the city folk and a sea of tourists. Thousands of residents would gather at the city center not just to be entertained by the number of events lined up for the festival but also to show their devotion to their patron saint.

Kinabayo Festival has also become the most visited season in Dapiatn City. The celebration attracts tourists – both local and foreign – to come to the southern region to experience culture and tradition embedded in Kinabayo Festival. And those who come here, they don’t only enjoy the festivities but also got to enjoy the many amazing destinations Dapitan City has to offer.

Apart from Kinabayo Festival, Dapitan City is renowned being the home of Dakak Beach Resort, the most famous beach resort in Zamboanga Peninsula. Aside from Dakak, the city also hosts the Rizal Shrine and Park, a 16-hectare property where national hero Jose Rizal was exiled from 1892 to 1896. This has garnered the city as the Shrine City of Mindanao. Dapitan also houses the only Disney-themed family and recreational park in Mindanao, the Gloria’s Fantasyland de Dapitan.

Shout out of gratitude to the LGU of Dapitan City for the invitation for the Kinabayo Festival most especially to Ms. Apple Marie Agolong, the City Tourism Officer. Same goes my to travel buddy Ida Nanette Damo of ChoosePhilippines for her letting me use of her photos in the post. Daghang salamat! Viva Senior Santiago!