My Biniray Festival Experience
Romblon, Romblon — When you become a part of a week-long festival, from witnessing traslacion, joining parades, competitions to non-stop celebrations, life instantly becomes more interesting. Here in the Philippines, there are various festivals held annually devoted to their patron saint, which in recent years has drawn visitors from all over the world – and one of the festivals you should experience every January is the Biniray Festival of Romblon.
Recently, I was invited by DOT Mimaropa to join fellow travel bloggers in rediscovering Romblon. Our first stop was at Romblon, Romblon, where we experienced the Biniray Festival. Romblon isn’t just known for being the marble capital of the country but is also visited by tourists during their annual Biniray Festival.
Biniray Festival of Romblon is held every 2nd week of January to pay tribute to Sto. Nino de Romblon. Various fun-filled activities are lined up to showcase the rich culture and Christian faith of Romblomanons. The festival features a fluvial parade with the image of Sto. Nino on the lead boat donned in vibrant and colorful buntings. The boats are decorated each year according to a theme proposed by the Fishermans’ association and then capping off the parade by returning to the town pier filled with freshly caught seafood.
During this week-long festival, the locals celebrate these joyous times with fun-filled activities such as ethnic dances, live music, and exhibits of local products.
The festivities usually last for a week celebration filled with float competition, street dancing, beauty pageant, sports tournament, and ethnic dances and music.
Origin of the Festival
The festival isn’t just about celebrating the bountiful harvest but also commemorates the day when the typhoon surges the Spanish galleon, which carries the replica of Cebu’s Sto. Niño. According to history, the Sto. Niño was forced to go back to Romblon because of the typhoon. After the Spanish brought the Sto. Niño to the church and had a mass, the statue was said to be unbudging when the Spanish tried to bring it back to the galleon.
Since then, the Sto. Niño is said to perform some miracle, including covering the island with the thick cloud to protect them during World War II.
To those who aren’t yet familiar with Tonton, this is a religious event happening the day before the festival. Good thing we were with Rodne Galicha – a multi-awarded environmentalist who happened to be a Romblomanon. To better witness the religious event, Rodne assisted us to the elevated Choir Section to get a better vantage point. From where we are, we stayed till the end of the mass and witness the start of traslacion.
Tonton is a traditional practice in which the 400-year-old replica of the Sto. Niño de Romblon is taken down from the altar and paraded on the streets. The crowd chants “Viva Señor Sto.Niño! Viva!” as it’s being brought back to the church with a well-choreographed move.
The Fluvial Parade
The locals usually wake up early in the morning to catch up with the parade starting from the St. Joseph Cathedral. The fluvial parade goes around the Romblon Bay seven times, which also symbolizes the seven attempts of the expedition of Loarca to sail out of the Poblacion.
Another notable thing during the festival is that people who join the Biniray paint their bodies to achieve the black coloring that symbolizes the “ATI.”
But of course, no festival is ever complete without having to dance accompanies with traditional instruments such as gongs, drums, bamboo tubes, and sticks.
The Festival Experience
From Dream Paradise Mountain Resort about 15 minutes away from the town center, we left early in the morning to catch the start of the street dance parade. There were lots of people colored in soots to portray the “Ati,” while some are donned in a vine and flower ensemble.
If Cebu has Sinulog, then Romblon has their Biniray. The overall festival experience, together with some media friends was worth it, as we get to immerse in their rich culture and socialize with the hospitable locals.
Even the locals also get to join the parade and adorned themselves with flowers and vines as a sign of the vibrant festivity. This festival, without a doubt, is one for the books.
The Biniray Festival of Romblon might not be as famous as other Sto. Nino Festivals of the Visayas Region, but it was one of the few I truly enjoyed. Walking on the narrow streets while taking photos was more pleasant, and the crowd smiles at you like an old friend.
More than just a religious festival, it was a happy reunion of friends and relatives, and for a visitor like me, I genuinely felt I was one of them. For most of them, it was a homecoming, but for me, it was about discovering a new home away from my hometown. And YES, I was #RomBlownAway by Romblon’s beauty, tradition, people, and food! Viva Senior Sto. Nino.
How To Get Here
Book a flight to Tablas and, from there, catch a ferry to Romblon Island. You can also check out a direct ferry from either Sibuyan or Tablas.
From Batangas City Port, you can take a ferry ride to Romblon Island. Another option would be taking an overnight ferry to Tablas and then a ferry to Romblon. Read our Romblon Island Travel Guide for a detailed guide on how to get to Romblon.
Disclaimer: Our Romblon Island and Sibuyan Island Familiarization Trip was organized by the Department of Tourism (DOT) MIMAROPA Region in partnership with the Provincial Government of Romblon, the municipalities of Romblon, Magdiwang, San Fernando, Cajidiocan and Dream Favor Travel and Tours.