By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
As the Christmas season envelops La Castellana, the town elevates the joy of the holidays by blending the festive spirit of yuletide with the commemoration of its Charter Day, giving rise to the annual spectacle known as “Bailes de Luces.”
Bailes de Luces doesn’t just illuminate the town with lights — it becomes a unique fusion of lights, dances and community joy, not only for the people of La Castellana but for all Negrenses.
Coined as “dances of lights,” Bailes de Luces originated through the collaborative efforts of former town Mayor Enrico Roa Elumba, Ali Sarrosa Guanzon and Apol Oebanda Embang.
Launched in January 2000, the festival draws inspiration from the jubilant gatherings of farmers celebrating their harvests around campfires.
Centered around the theme of light, symbolizing hope and gratitude for year-round blessings, Bailes de Luces also marks the Charter Day of La Castellana, established as a town on January 1, 1918, through Executive Order 101 during the American occupation of the Philippines.
Parade participants, adorned in radiant costumes and illuminated accessories, march alongside floats embellished with LED lights, creating a mesmerizing spectacle that captures the essence of the festival.
Beyond its borders, Bailes de Luces quickly gained international acclaim, being recognized as the most unique festival by the Tourism Council of the Philippines in 2006.
Its popularity soared further when it became a finalist on national TV in 2011, and had its festival dancers participate in “Pilipinas Got Talent” in 2016.
The festival expanded its reach globally, earning the best foreign performer award at the Wonju Dynamic Dancing Carnival in South Korea in 2019, and the Chungjang World Festival of Recollection in Gwangyu City, South Korea in 2022.
Invitations to prestigious events like the Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival in 2020 and the All Dance Intercontinental in Rome, Italy, further solidified its international presence.
Despite facing setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, causing a hiatus from 2020 to early 2022, Bailes de Luces made a triumphant return this year.
The festivities commence weeks before the Christmas holidays, featuring a lively street party, entertainment, and the enchanting lighting of Christmas venues.
One of the distinctive features of Bailes de Luces is its street dance and parade, usually held on December 30.
Introduced in 2002, the float competition adds a creative touch to the parade, showcasing brilliantly illuminated floats.
As participants don lighted costumes and props, the town transforms into a dazzling nightscape, offering a visual spectacle that encapsulates the magic of Bailes de Luces.
Accompanying the radiant festivities are various activities, including job fairs, contests and variety shows, all contributing to the joy, gratitude and community spirit that define the essence of Bailes de Luces./DGB, WDJ