Sandugo Festival is a yearly historical event that takes place every year on the month of March, in the island of Bohol. This festival honors the celebration of a local Philippine leader Datu Sikatuna’s blood compact and association or treaty of friendship with the Spanish king conquistador, Captain General Miguel López de Legazpi in March 16, 1565.
It began with the arrival of Miguel López de Legazpi in the shores of Tagbilaran, Bohol in 1565 and the swearing of commitment of Datu Sikatuna to the Spanish crown. The two people were believed to have made a cut on their left arms with a dagger and sprinkled their blood into a cup filled with wine, which both drunk in honor of their friendship and brotherhood. The treaty was signed on the SW coast of Bohol Island in March of 1565. This was 44 years after Ferdinand Magellan was killed attacking a Philippine village on Mactan Island about 50 miles north of here.
The Sandugo treaty is called a blood compact because the participants each drink a small amount of the other’s blood. (“Dugo” means blood in the Visayan language.) This was a traditional way to formalize treaties of friendship in the Philippines. Magellan himself took part in several of these ceremonies before attacking Mactan Island.
The Blood Compact preserved the ties of friendship between two people once different in religion, nationality, culture and civilization. The Tagbilaran native chieftain who swore by his ancestral Anito and Bathala, and the Spanish courageous explorer and colonizer, who sought New World with the sword and the cross, drank to the common cause – friendship. It was the first international treaty of friendship and comity between the Filipinos and Spaniards.
The annual celebration of the Sandugo Festivities begins in the month of March. However the street dancing competitions have been changed to July to coincide with the annual TBTK (Tigum Bol-anon Tibuok Kalibutan) translated into English, literally or otherwise – a gathering of Boholanos (the people of Bohol) from around the world. Tagbilaran City not only rejoices its Charter Day on the month of July but also the Province of Bohol which became a separate politico-military province on July 22, 1854, thereby creating a festive mood for the whole month.
Hundreds and thousands of People from around the Philippines and the world gather for this special event which involves colorful costumes and loud drum beats, street parades, church services, fireworks, beauty pageants, cockfighting tournaments and sport tournaments.
Today, the highlight of the Sandugo Festival is a street dancing competition held in Tagbilaran City. Each local high school develops its own dance custom with special costumes and choreography. A small marching band follows each group of dancers to provide the music. The bands consist only of xylophones, drums, and trumpets. Some of the dancing was very good, and the costumes were very colorful. The parade also integrated the customary entourage of local officials, police department, local businesses and associations – and, of course, the local beauty queens, Miss Bohol and Miss Tagbilaran.
A big surprise to us was the last parade entry, which was a large flat bed truck carrying 9 or 10 very flamboyant and attractive transvestites. There were no banners on the truck, just a few white ballons attached to the cab and printed, “Miss Gay 2001”. This entry was a real crowd pleaser and received more of a reaction than any other parade event. They were met with howls and hollers and cheers all along the parade route. We were told that the transvestites traditionally work as beauticians in the local beauty parlors, and are readily accepted in the community.