IF YOU are a traveler and you want to see the beauty of the place, you may want to cover all bases. One of that is to find out how the locals celebrate and have fun through their festivals.

Sure, this is the time when everyone puts their best foot forward – attractive decors, a showcase of talents, lots of sumptuous food, and never-ending merrymaking. But going to festivals is also a way to learn the story behind the place, blend with the locals, and be a recipient of their warm hospitality.

Panaad sa Negros Festival is dubbed as the mother of all festivals in the province of Negros Occidental. The opening night of the 25th Panaad sa Negros Festival last Saturday brought together 22 festivals through the Festival Dances Competition. The Panaad Park and Stadium was filled with spectators and performers that showed the colorful fiestas around the province.

Sinigayan Festival, Sagay City

This year’s champion is Sagay City, performing their Sinigayan Festival dance that featured the rich marine biodiversity of the city. True enough, Sagay, which came from the local term for a shell, called “sigay,” has a magnificent underwater resource.

Plus, they take protecting the environment very seriously. Held every March 19, Sinigayan also honors the feast of the city’s patron, St. Joseph.

Bailes de Luces, La Castellana

The festival dance has gained attention when it competed on a TV show. The sparkling colorful lights seem to have a certain charm to it. While most festivals parade their dances during the day, La Castellana takes advantage of the dark to bring everyone’s focus on the lights. It landed at the 1st runner-up in this year’s competition.It would be better to witness the actual festival firsthand that culminates every 5th of January.

Minuluan Festival, Talisay City

Held every September 8 to 10, honoring St. San Nicolas de Tolentino, its patron saint, the Minuluan Festival is derived from the old name of the city.Talisay’s performance highlighted the fight scene of the local hero KapitanSabi and his troops against the Moro bandits. The local legend is kept alive by retelling it through the festival dance. As such, Talisay City was the 2nd runner-up of the 25th Panaad sa Negros Festival Dances Competition.

Other festivals that participated in the competition were:

- Ilog’s Kisi-Kisi Festival

- Kabankalan’s Udyakan Festival

- Victorias’ Kadalag-an Festival

- Silay’s Hugyaw Kansilay

- Isabela’s Kalag-Kalag Festival

- San Enrique’s Bulang-Bulang Festival

- Manapla’s Manangpula Festival

- Moises Padilla’s Magayon Festival

- Cauayan’s Lubay-Lubay Festival

- Candoni’s Dinagyaw sa Tablas

- Pontevedra’s Handurayo Festival

- Hinoba-an’s Pagbanaag Festival

- Valladolid’s Pasundayag Festival

- Escalante’s Manlambos Festival

- Cadiz’s Dinagsa Festival

- Bago’s Babaylan Festival

- Don Salvador Benedicto’s Kali-Kalihan Festival

- Sipalay’s Pasaway Festival

- Pulupandan’s Salapan Festival

Bacolod City’s MassKara Festival opened the competition as a guest performer. Murcia’s Tinabu-ay Festival was sorely missed after it won the championship three years in a row for the last three years.

Next time you want to visit Negros Occidental, be sure to check out the festival calendar.

I admit I haven’t been to all of them. Well, it’s probably a good way to start something like a bucket list of Negrense festivals that I should experience and enjoy.

All photos are by this author. Claire Marie Algarme blogs at http://firsttimetravels.com. Follow her as @firsttimetravel on Twitter and Instagram and like her Facebook page First-time Travels blog.