Sakura season in Japan is lovely, yes. But we don’t need to go that far to enjoy beautiful blossoms. Palawan is famed for many things, and one of them is the annual Balayong festival. This annual celebration happens in Puerto Princesa and attracts crowds from all over the Phillippines, as well as international visitors. This week-long festival involves a host of events, culminating in the crowning of Miss Puerto Princesa on the final night.


What is the Balayong Festival all about?

Balayong blossoms
Image credit: eca_joy@Instagram

The roots of the Balayong festival can be traced to the time of the Spanish colonists. On March 4th 1872, Spanish colonists were sailing the shoreline around Palawan looking for a place to set up their capital. They settled on a spot and named it Puerto Princesa or Princess Port and that’s how the city got its name.

The Balayong festival celebrates the founding of Puerto Princesa by focusing on the Balayong tree. This beautiful tree looks almost like the Japanese sakura tree from afar, as it produces a spray of light pink flowers too. The Balayong tree is native to the Palawan islands, and the Balayong Festival is always started off with a Balayong tree planting ceremony.

The Balayong flower itself has a strong symbolicism for those in Palawan, as it represents feminine strength and beauty in the language of flowers. In fact, Balayong itself is a local Cuyuno name given to this tree, otherwise known as the Palawan cherry.

In 2005, Puerto Princesa’s local government passed an ordinance to make March 4th the official Balayong day to commemorate the city’s founding, as the Balayong Festival has always taken place around this date.

What goes on at the Balayong festival?

Balayong festival
Image credit: whaleman_wanderer@Instagram

The Balayong festival involves a week-long flurry of activities. One of the foremost of this is a beauty pageant to crown Ms Puerto Princesa. Additionally, there are also competitions for pop singers, plus-sized beauty pageant, Mrs Palawan beauty pageant, a bike race, and a ‘Tabuan’ parade.

During the parade, the local communities take the opportunity to showcase their creativity by dressing in costumes inspired by the Balayong cherry blossoms. Groups from schools and local social organizations take to the streets to dance and provide a festive atmosphere full of cheerful pinks and pastels. Everyone enjoys this particular side of the festival and its one of the events where the whole town comes out to watch.

Balayong festival Phillippines
Image credit: Bongbong Marcos page@Flickr

It takes part in some of Puerto Princesa’s main streets, so if you’re a tourist you’ll be able to catch it totally free of charge, without having to worry about gaining entry anywhere.

In 2018, the grand parade took place on March 4th itself, starting from Rizal Avenue through Baltan Street and all the way to Princesa Baywalk. After the parade, there was a pyro-music display for the crowds to enjoy both lights and sound.

When is the Balayong festival happening?

Balayong festival 2016
Image credit: Bongbong Marcos page@Flickr

For 2019, the Balayong festival is set to happen from February 26th to March 4th in 2019. If you want to travel there, then most of the main events will take place on March 4th, or one or two days before.

The official schedule of events isn’t out yet, but you’ll want to follow the festival’s official Facebook page to know immediately once the schedule comes out.

How do I get to Puerto Princesa?

If you are lucky enough to live around the area, we envy you! If like us you need to travel to enjoy the festival, no worries. It’s really easy to fly to Puerto Princesa from Manila, and the trip takes less than an hour. Airlines that provide flights include Air Phillippines, Cebu Pacific, Zest Airways and Phillippines Airlines.

If you’re travelling from Cebu or Iloilo, Cebu Pacific operates flights several times a week, and if you’re flying to and from Busuanga/El Nido, South East Asian Airlines provide a weekly flight.


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