Tacloban City, Leyte
June 29, 2018

“This gathering is the perfect opportunity to showcase the religious heritage of your people and express your passionate devotion to the Sto. Niño,” President Rodrigo Roa Duterte said as he graced the Sangyaw Festival of Lights in Tacloban City, Leyte.
In his keynote speech, the President shared that the festivity does not only enrich the culture of the Taclobanons, but also strengthens their bond as a community.
“By preserving and passing on the heritage to the next generation, you not only safeguard our unique identity amidst these changing times, but also make development meaningful as we embrace the diversity of our society,” President Duterte said, adding that the progress of Tacloban City today is a testament of its people’s resilience, which have been tested by various challenges in the past few years.
“May the Sangyaw Festival of Lights further highlight the unwavering spirit of the Filipinos and inspire everyone to use the lessons of the past as the source of strength and hope, as we make and realize our goals and aspirations of our country,” the President added, as he also expressed his confidence in the collective efforts of the local government in making Tacloban City a vibrant and thriving community.
Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards in Leyte and Samar, the islands’ natives, known today as the ‘Warays’ or the ‘Waraynons’, had a tradition of oral literature fused with ritual dramas that were demonstrated during festivals and family gatherings. Sangyaw was already existent long before a term was coined to define the said event.
The term ‘Sangyaw’ in local dialect means ‘to announce or herald a news’. It was based on a popular belief when the icon of the Sto. Niño, patron saint of Tacloban City, survived a shipwreck around the 1880s. The Waray people deemed the encounter worthy to be passed down to future generations, hence the celebration of the Sangyaw Festival.
As it stands today, the festive event has evolved into a grand celebration with national participation, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the city through dances and religious pageantry as an expression of the Waraynons’ unique diversity.
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