Guest Author - Rachel Meneses-Ponce
Bangus Festival is relatively a “young” festival being observed in the Philippines. The first Bangus Festival was held in 2002 in thanksgiving for the bountiful harvest of Pangasinan’s biggest produce – bangus or milkfish – and as a means to promote its biggest industry.
In 2003, it merited a place in Guinness Book of World Records when it was recognized as having the longest fish barbecue (1,000 barbecue pits were lined up along a major thoroughfare). It began as a segment of the more traditional festival in the town of Dagupan in Pangasinan Province called Pista’y Dayat.
The festival was such a huge success that it somehow overshadowed Pista’y Dayat so much so that it is now the main event while the latter has become just a part of the festivities.
The two-week celebration of the Bangus Festival commences in April and ends on the first week of May where fun activities are spread out.
The parade called Bangus Ed Karosa is participated in by different groups, each one with decorated floats. Also included in the parade are dancers garbed in colourful costumes generally inspired by bangus. The parade normally signals the start of the festival. There is also a beauty contest in three categories: for the children, for the teens/young adults and for the gay community. Another contest calls for the fastest hand in cleaning the most number of bangus that include scaling and de-boning.
Another highlight is the search for the biggest, longest and heaviest bangus. Entries are from the many fishpond owners in Dagupan. This contest is a good motivation to fishpond owners and operators to continue doing their best in bangus production. There is also a cook-off contest among professional chefs and culinary students called 101 Ways of Cooking Bangus.
The most awaited activity is Kalutan ed Dalan or the grilling of bangus alongside the streets. Residents, visitors (local and foreign tourists) can partake of the grilled bangus for free. Revelry can be for as long as way past midnight.
Other activities are Bangus Rodeo, Gilon-gilon street dancing, drums and lyre competition and trade fairs. Of all the activities, the trade fairs were what I enjoyed, next to the almost non-stop eating of course. The trade fairs feature other products and farm produce of Pangasinan such as delicacies, fruits and handicrafts.
The Bangus Festival has entrenched the town of Dagupan in Pangasinan Province as the bangus capital of the Philippines.