Philippine tourism

Dagupan brings back Bangus Festival after 2-year pandemic break

Ahikam Pasion

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Dagupan brings back Bangus Festival after 2-year pandemic break

NOSTALGIA. Dagupan City saw its last Gilon-Gilon ed Baley, a street dancing competition, in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled the city's famous Bangus Festival. Gilon-Gilon is a dance depicting the harvest of bangus from Dagupan's brackish waters.

Mayor Belen Fernandez/ Jojo Estrada Tamayo

The festival returns to its original site in the heart of the city, where more than 1,000 barbecue grills await more than 12,000 bangus heads

DAGUPAN CITY, Philippines – This city’s famous Bangus Festival will be back from April 18 until the end of the month after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The festival’s highlight on April 30, the Kalutan ed Dalan (Barbecue on the Street), will feature more than 1,000 barbecue grills for this city’s famous milkfish product.

Dagupan City Mayor Marc Brian Lim said this year’s Bangus Festival marks not only the return of the city’s flagship feast; it is also thanksgiving for the Dagupeños’ resiliency and economic recovery.

More than 800 grills have been reserved for the Kalutan, Lim said.

Around 4,500 kilograms, equivalent to more or less 12,600 bangus heads, will be harvested for the Kalutan event alone.

This is the first Bangus Festival for Lim since he took over as city mayor in 2019. Three previous local administrations built up the Bangus Festival from a simple celebration to a globally-known revelry.

The city will launch a new trademarked logo for the festival on April 18. 

On April 19, there will be a River Cruise and docking along the Dawel River, called Pisasalamat ed Ilog (Thanksgiving for the River).

On April 24, cyclists will have their event at the De Venecia Extension, followed by a youth festival on April 26 at the Dagupan City Plaza, and a mass wedding on April 27.

On April 28, the city rolls out the festival’s Bangus Rodeo, a search for the largest, the heaviest, and even the prettiest bangus, along with the fastest bangus eater and deboner.

Five stages will be established along the stretch of the city’s central business district for live bands and other entertainers.

Lim is confident the city can hold the Bangus Festival safely and in accordance with IATF protocols.

As of March 31, 2022, Dagupan’s vaccination rate was at 173%, partly because it allows residents of other Pangasinan towns to get vaccines in the city.


The city usually starts planning for the month-long celebration eight months prior to the festival’s opening. 

“Eight months ago we were still suffering from the pandemic. We could not imagine that we would be able to push through,” said Lim.

WORLD RECORD YEAR. The 2003 Dagupan Bangus Festival Kalutan snatched the world record for the longest barbecue. Photo from Nandaragupan Book/Dagupan City Heritage Commission

Even with the time constraint, 10 sponsors stepped up and the city was able to finalize preparations for seven events.

Lim said this year’s festival will return to its roots at the heart of Dagupan City, where Mayor Benjamin Lim, the incumbent’s father, launched the first Bangus Festival in 2002.

It was here that the city bid to take the world record of “World’s longest barbecue,” then held by Peru at 613 meters long using 536 grills, and participated in by around 20,000 people. 

Dagupan City failed in its first try. But a year later, on May 3, 2003, the city made it to the Guinness Book of World Records with the title of “World’s longest barbecue.”

“The longest barbecue measured 1,007.56 meters (3,305.64 feet) and was created by the people of Dagupan City, Philippines on May 3, 2003 as part of the city’s Bangus Festival,” the certificate sent by the Guinness Book of World Records to the Dagupan City government read.

The yearly tradition of hosting the festival on AB Fernandez Avenue persisted until 2013, when the older Lim lost the mayoralty post to then-vice mayor Belen Fernandez. The Kalutan was eventually placed at De Venecia Extension, providing a longer avenue for guests and partygoers. 

Fernandez noted that from 20,000 to 40,000 visitors, the Kalutan in 2019 drew an estimated 700,000 revelers, according to local police.

The town of Bayambang, also in Pangasinan, currently holds the world record for the longest barbecue at 8,000 meters. –

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Ahikam Pasion is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.

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