Negros Occidental

Negros Occidental’s ‘Bailes de Luces’ triumphs at ‘Olympics of Talents’

Ambo Delilan

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Negros Occidental’s ‘Bailes de Luces’ triumphs at ‘Olympics of Talents’

PHILIPPINE PRIDE. La Castellana, Negros Occidental's Bailes de Luces performers win big in the United States.

courtesy of La Castellana Mayor Alme Rhummyla Nicor-Mangilimutan

La Castellana town's festival performers triumph at the 27th World Championship of Performing Arts in the United States, emerging as the senior grand champion and securing three gold medals

BACOLOD, Philippines – Despite the challenges posed by the June 3 Kanlaon Volcano eruption, which displaced over 20,000 residents, La Castellana town in Negros Occidental has found a beacon of hope and pride. It’s from an eruption to euphoria.

The town’s Bailes de Luces (Dances of Lights) Festival performers triumphed on Saturday, July 6, as the senior grand champion in the group dance category at the nine-day 27th World Championship of Performing Arts (WCOPA) in Long Beach, California in the United States. 

La Castellana’s bet also secured gold medals in three individual dance categories: contemporary, ethnic folkloric, and open.

Representing the Philippines in the group dance category, the Bailes de Luces performers made history as the first local festival from Negros Island to qualify for the prestigious WCOPA, often referred to as the “Olympics of Talents,” with participants from 67 countries this year.

La Castellana Mayor Alme Rhummyla Nicor-Mangilimutan was in high spirits on Sunday, July 7, saying, “Competing in WCOPA was no ordinary journey, but we did it, we conquered it, we won it.”

Mangilimutan noted that the Bailes de Luces group’s success lifted people’s spirits in her town, which was among the worst-hit areas in Negros Occidental during last month’s eruption.

“Winning in the WCOPA is God’s precious gift for La Castellana, for Negros Occidental, and for the Philippines. And this is a nice takeoff for us to tell the world that La Castellana has so much to offer,” she said.

Mangilimutan dedicated the win to the people of La Castellana and Negros Occidental, and credited the province’s governor, Eugenio Jose Lacson, for his unwavering support to the town’s quest for international recognition.

Jennylind Cordero, an operations officer for the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Western Visayas, said Bailes de Luces’ victory was a proud moment for the department.

“Festivals are economic engines of a local economy. Bailes de Luces has been a unifying factor in the community, and being grand winner in the WCOPA signifies excellence in the field of performing arts. We are so proud of La Castellana,” she told Rappler on July 7.

Established in 2000 under the leadership of the late mayor Enrico Elumba, Bailes de Luces was conceived to celebrate hope and thanksgiving among hacienda workers in the municipality at the foot of the majestic Kanlaon Volcano. 

The festival, held annually from December 30 to January 5, originally had dancers using torches while performing to Samba music. These torches were later replaced by light-emitting diodes (LEDs), enhancing the festival’s allure with vibrant and dynamic displays.

The Bailes de Luces group has performed internationally in countries such as Germany, Hong Kong, and Korea. 

Mangilimutan, however, said that performing on the WCOPA stage was an unparalleled experience. 

“This is my dream for Bailes de Luces since I became mayor in 2016. Now, we have achieved even more than what we expected. This is really God’s will,” she said. –

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