General Santos City

GenSan’s Kalilangan festival: A vibrant tapestry of history, culture, and heritage

Brian Jay B. Baybayan

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

GenSan’s Kalilangan festival: A vibrant tapestry of history, culture, and heritage

CELEBRATION. Dancers representing the Christian, Blaan, and Maguindanaon communities come together in harmony, showcasing the vibrant and jubilant spirit of GenSan's Kalilangan Festival. Photo by the Office of GenSan City Mayor Hon. Lorelie Pacquiao

The Kalilangan festival honors the arrival of the first 62 Christian settlers, led by General Paulino Santos on February 27, 1939, on the shores of Sarangani Bay

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – While General Santos City is known for its Tuna Festival, the city also flourishes with the Kalilangan Festival, held annually in February. This vibrant celebration commemorates the city’s founding anniversary, weaving together cultural threads to highlight the rich tapestry of GenSan.

Kalilangan is derived from the Maguindanaon term “kalilang,” which means celebration. Kalilang could be a wedding, merrymaking, or even the enthronement of traditional leaders.

According to the City Government of General Santos City, the festival honors the arrival of the first 62 Christian settlers, led by General Paulino Santos, in Dadiangas (GenSan’s former name) on February 27, 1939, on the shores of Sarangani Bay. These settlers were welcomed by the Blaan and Maguindanaon communities, laying the foundation for harmonious coexistence among Christians, Blaans, and Maguindanaons.

When did it start?

Through the years, the Kalilangan Festival has become one of the largest events in the city. This year’s theme, “Sa Kultura at Saya Tayo ay Sama-sama” (Together in Culture and Joy), marks the 35th Kalilangan Festival and the 85th Founding Anniversary of the city. The festivities began on February 23 and will conclude on February 27, 2024.

According to Gandhi Kinjiyo, Community Affairs Assistant of the Integrated Cultural Communities Affairs Division of GenSan, the inaugural Kalilangan Festival took place in 1989 during the administration of former Mayor Rosalita T. Nunez (currently the city Vice Mayor).

“The festival’s name was coined by the late Bae Labi Janena Tito, who served as the education secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and vice-chancellor of Mindanao State University-GenSan,” added Kinjiyo.

Since then, this significant event has celebrated the city’s unique cultural tapestry, forged through generations. 

GRACE. Tribal dancers take center stage, showcasing the city’s diverse heritage through dynamic performances. Photo courtesy of GenSan City Mayor’s office.

Cultural significance

One of the highlights of the festival is the installation of the Tribal Village, which features traditional costumes, traditional food, musical instruments, and dances of the Indigenous Peoples and the Muslim community of the city.

Further, Kinjiyo underscores the significance of celebrating the Kalilangan festival for the people of GenSan.

“For us, the Kalilangan Festival is important because it promotes an understanding of the culture and traditions of the indigenous cultural communities,” he expressed.

“When we understand one another’s socio-cultural differences, it can build harmonious relationships among us,” he added.

Ammar Lambac, 21, also expressed how this festival honors his ancestors, who were among the first settlers of GenSan.

“Kalilangan Festival honors the rich history and cultural diversity of my beloved city. As half Maguindanaon and Blaan, who were the first settlers of the city, it feels great that we are recognized as part of GenSan’s history,” Lambac said.

“Kalilangan Festival has been a tradition of the Generals (as residents of GenSan call themselves). It brings joy, pride, and a sense of belonging and appreciation for one’s cultural traditions and heritage,” he added.

The Kalilangan Festival is more than just a celebration; it is a testament to GenSan’s unique cultural identity. It brings people from various communities together to share their cultural heritage and foster a sense of unity. –

Brian Jay Baybayan is a campus journalist from the Mindanao State University-General Santos City. Editor-in-chief of The Papyrus, he is also an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow of Rappler for 2023-2024.

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!