The Annual Sagada Bonfire Festival

Our  Sagada Bonfire Fest 2013 souvenir 
If you want to experience a different kind of nightlife where people gather around the biggest bonfire they probably have ever seen in their whole life, come visit Sagada during last week of December. They have this event called Sagada Bonfire Festival where traditional games and folk dances of Igorots (people of Sagada) are performed as a way of educating the guests of the lives of their ancestors during pre - colonization period. I am very lucky I was able to catch it during my Sagada tour with side trips to Banaue, Benguet and Baguio.

The climate from December to February in Sagada and neighboring mountains are at its coldest so you will get to feel the winter sans snow! I suggest you bring a cap, scarf, jacket, wear long sleeve attires and pants instead. 

You may be wondering of all the things that Sagada can make a festival out of, why bonfires? I think obviously because it represents their resilience to the cold weather. One can just stay in the room the whole day and whole night for that kind of weather then forget to plant crops or learn new skills outside but they proved that was not a problem. Their rice terraces are one of the world's most admired architecture that has baffled a lot of engineers on how these were built without aid from technology hundreds of years ago!

I also love seeing the houses in Sagada built near the edges of the mountains with chimneys as if I am reminded of my favorite Christmas cartoon series I love to watch when I was a kid. I am very lucky to stay in a house where there was a fire place and it is not every day I get to see a bonfire lit inside it. 

Me playing with this cute Igorot girl 


A bonfire plays an integral role to Sagada's public cemetery as well. A candle when lighted in the graves or epitaphs at Sagada cannot stand the strong cold wind from the mountains so in a short time its flames die very soon. Yes you got it!  They light a bonfire instead in each of the graves. It should be small enough not to compromise the other bonfires of other graves nearby. Now imagine during November 1 when the All Souls day is celebrated, imagine how beautiful to see these one of a kind sight in a cemetry? This could be also one of the best time to go up there!

Here's the proof

Now let's go back to the Annual Sagada Bonfire Festival.  I wanna share to you some traditional dances and games presented that night:


BALANGBANG:  A victory dance, also, a dance for the many
TAKIK:  A courtship dance.  A Solibao or drum and Takik (2 peaces of metal rods)  are mixed with the gongs.
 PALAKIS: Another courtship dance which involves a dance while holding the handkerchief.
BOOGIE: A dance which involves more cooperation by the couples.









DANGPIL: Leg restling
TULSI:  Finger wrestling
NUN-UWANG: Head wrestling.









I have emailed Gareth Likigan, a local guide in Sagada and interviewed him about this so I can help spread the word.

How was the Sagada  Bonfire event conceived?

The bonfire started with guests need to experience nightlife in Sagada. As guides, we are accustomed to going the extra mile in order to entertain our guests, so we suggest bonfires as part of the itinerary(free). Each guide has their own group for a bonfire on the mountains or just near the guests lodging..

More and more guests wanted to experience a bonfire, as they (Locals) have not ever tried such activity. Some times, we (guides) would talk to each other and combine our guests. We've been doing the bonfires for more than a yeah, either just the group until why don't we just make 1 single Bonfire Activity for any guests who would want to come!


And so, it started..... we started with a very simple 1, that involved at least 11 people (location: Langtiw, near the entrance of Sumaging)  then the next year, around 150 people, with Boodle fight meal, pinikpikan as the only menu (location: Lake Danum). The next year, we changed the venue at Kiltepan with at least 300 participants, and the next year at Kiltepan again with 350 participants, Then we transferred the venue at Langtiw, where at least 400 came, then the next at 500, and lately the count was 1, 100 participants.

Who are the people / organization behind it?
This is an activity managed by the officers of SAGGAS (Sagada Genuine Guides Association Inc.) a private tour guide organization, different from the guides at the Municipal Hall. Because of the increase in numbers, we have increased the days of the Bonfire Activity into Two.. December 28 and 29th... mind you though that, it is a major tourist influx season so, you should book your lodging atleast 3 months before.





For the finale, the guests were invited to join to dance with them. Perfect to fight the coldness of the mountains.  The free wines: cassava, blueberry and rice flavors did a good job to warm our bodies inside.




If you want to join us to the next Annual Sagada  Bonfire, we offer a 3 day and 2 night Sagada tour with side trips to Baguio, Banaue and Benguet package . Whole year round, we have a regular tour which includes a roundtrip van to save on cost. The departure is every Thursday 9PM then back to Manila 12mn of Sunday. 
For more information please contact 0919 893 7236 or email mariaronab@gmail.com anytime. 

4 comments

  1. Replies
    1. awesome! i hope you had a great time there as well :)

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  2. Do you happen to know a travel tour service which caters a solo traveler (lenient to be included in another group)?

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  3. yes we do have :) pls send us an email at mariaronab@gmail.com or text/call via 0919 893 7236

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