Cuyo’s Pagdayao Festival

Every 28th day of August, the remote town of Cuyo in Palawan celebrates its town fiesta in honor of their Patron Saint Agustin.

Kids performers in aeta-aetehan (ati-atihan)

Cuyo, a town in the group of islands of the same name sits in the open water of Sulu Sea is blessed with rich history and culture, unexploited islands and islets decorated with white sand beaches and built by waves and strong winds.

Cuyo Church's interior

The town’s century old church is uniquely inside the fort that was built by Augustinian Recollects in 1680. The church was founded in 1622 as the Parish of St. Augustine, the oldest parish in the Apostolic Vicariate of Taytay composing of the towns and islands in Northern Mainland Palawan, Calamianes Group and Cuyo Group.

Cuyo Church and Fort

During town fiesta, locals attend mass where they put blue dye locally called anyel on their faces after the celebration. In the afternoon, one of the highlights of the town fiesta happens – the Pagdayao Festival that features street dancing and cultural shows from various schools in town, showcasing their versions of performances that tell the rich history, heritage and culture of Cuyo.

Locals (and even guests) put blue dye on their faces after the mass

Some paint their bodies and faces with anyel and wear costumes made of coconut leaves and headgear made of coconut fiber decorated with colorful chicken feathers, portraying Aetas and performing Aeta’s moves, thus aeta-aetahan or ati-atihan. Other participants perform the traditional Cuyunon dance characterized by sways, hops and jumps while chanting “Viva San Agustin!” Here ladies usually dress in patadyong are partnered with the gentlemen in camisa de chino.

Another ati-atihan in Pagdayao Festival

Attires, movements, concepts and props vary per presentation, but  dancing clowns called as “alakayo” are common to all and considered as necessary part of every performance. Alakayo is a lively clown with the whole body painted by anyel and a tall mask made of coconut fiber, he usually circles around chasing the ladies and guests, and stops when coins are thrown to him where he is expected to pick it up from the ground using his mouth.

An alakayo picking up the coins from the ground with his mouth

The Pagdayao Festival of Cuyo is a unique way of seeing Cuyo’s rich heritage, history and culture, and a great way of showcasing it to the new generation in order to keep it alive.  Maambeng nga capistan canindong tanan nga Cuyunon!


  1. ibe

    i miss my hometown,especially the PURUNGITAN FESTIVAL every 28TH of AUGUST ,,it is very memorable experience since i was there,,,

  2. crispie.palay

    actually, this festival is called PURONGITAN FESTIVAL

  3. al francis

    it’s “PURONGITAN FESTIVAL” po, and not pagdayao…

    1. When did they change it? It used to be Pagdayao Festival.

      1. jD

        may nag sabi rin sa akin Purongitan daw, Pagdayao daw is from Masbate??

        1. Perhaps they just changed it recently lang. I was there four years ago and I am quite sure that they call their festival “Pagdayao” when I was there.

          1. jD

            aah,, 2004 daw accdg. to my friend ^^

  4. Lheajane

    thank you for featuring our hometown in your blog. Nakakatuwa na maraming local tourists na pumupunta sa lugar namin. And I really miss our town fiesta, especially ati-atihan since I used to be one of the performers way back elementary to high school 🙂

  5. I miss my home town…. esp. this ati-atihan…..Last 2002 kasama ako nagperform sa pagdayao ki san agustine…VIVA SAn Agustine!!!!!!! MabUhaY…CUyo

    1. I miss Cuyo too! Wow, you’ve been an ati-atihan! That was great 🙂

  6. I miss my home town…

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