Thursday, September 13, 2012

Caracoles Festival of Samal

Caracoles Festival is one of, if not, the most grandiose and colorful celebrations in the Island Garden City of Samal celebrated every 28th and 29th of April. Caracoles, which means "seashells," is Samal's summer festival of shells and a thanksgiving celebration of its rich trove of marine resources. It was first staged in Babak District in 2005, after Sonia Garcia, then Director of the Department of Tourism (DOT) of Region 11, along with members of IGaCoS Tourism Council and the local government of Samal wanted to come up with an event similar to a Mardi Gras to highlight Dive the Gulf, a week-long diving event that showcases Davao Gulf as one of the top diving destinations in the Philippines.

The festival is highlighted with various activities and events of the day from dusk until dawn such as the Regatta - an amazing parade of colorful boats; the Baile del Año - a lively and vividly colorful dance demonstration where groups of participants numbering at least 30 are dressed as marine creatures; the Estrella del Mar - a costume competition where participants feature their skillfully designed costumes depicting sea creatures, as they mimic its different gestures and movements; the Baile Del Mar - a show of local talents performing dances and circus acts along the white sand shoreline of the island; a fashion show on custom-made island wear magnificently crafted by avant-garde dress designers of Mindanao called the Gloria Maris; the Recordida - a motorcade around the city; the Kumbera - tasting of local cuisines and beverages; the Dive Congress - an underwater photography workshops and contest; the Scubasurero - an event of cleaning the coastal areas; the Search for Miss Caracoles - a beauty pageant featuring the young and stunningly beautiful ladies of the island compete for the prestigious title; and a full array of other fun-filled activities of nightly street parties, cultural performances, fire-breathing exhibition, trade exhibits of Island products and tourist destinations, sporting events, bartending and culinary competition, and concerts of guest bands in the Musicaracoles.

The Regatta -  an amazing parade of colorful boats

Caracoles Festival is among the Philippines' best events most visited by tourists. Yearly, the festival has drawn more than sixty thousand tourists from around the world, and has brought much revenues for the island city: beach resorts and inns were all fully-booked; cocktail bars and roadside restaurants were filled with diners; and barbecue grillers and itinerant vendors tripled their income. Even drivers of "habal-habal" took home a week's earnings with just a day's work of ferrying tourist and locals from far-flung barangays to the event site. Truly, Caracoles Festival is not only a showcase of Samal Island's rich and abundant marine resources and its unique cultural heritage, but a celebration of life for all Samaleños.

How to get to Samal Island

The Island Garden City of Samal is a small island off the coast of Davao City and is easily accessible via ferry boat from either the Sta. Ana Wharf near Magsaysay Park, or the Sasa Km. 11 Wharf along J. P. laurel Avenue that services directly to Kaputian Beach Wharf and Babak Wharf, respectively. There are also non-aircon buses in Magsaysay Park called "Island City Express" that go to IGaCoS Ferry Terminal where same will board a barge that ferries towards Kinawitnon Wharf in Samal Island. Most resorts in Samal have facilities for private boat transfers which may be pre-arranged for a fee.

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