THE 20th Bailes de Luces Festival dance competition, a major tourism event of La Castellana town, wowed thousands of Negrenses and tourists.

Mayor Rhumyla Nicor-Manguilimutan, at the sidelines of the Festival Arena Dance Competition at the town's auditorium on Saturday night, January 5, said the number of spectators has tripled to at least 10,000 this year.

Nicor-Manguilimutan said this means that the annual festivity, especially the highly-anticipated arena dance competition, continues to attract both local and foreign tourists.

“Indeed, our world-class Bailes de Luces Festival continues to amaze thousands of spectators every year,” she said, adding that “the success of this year's festivity is a result of our strong commitment to serve the people and in promoting the municipality's tourism industry.”

The festival is known as the “Festival of Lights,” Bailes de Luces is a celebration of thanksgiving. It has been compared to the Rio De Janeiro Carnival of Brazil.

From its humble beginning in 2000, Bailes de Luces, Spanish for Dances of Lights, is now one of the most known festivals in the country.

In 2012, it has conquered the national stage when it competed for the inter-town finals of ABS-CBN's “It's Showtime.”

For the people of La Castellana, the dances and transitions of lights also symbolize hope for them and a guide for the town in its aspiration for a better future.

Also, the dances trace back the history of the festival, which was first popularized by using “sulo’ or fire torch as the main source of lights.

For this year, 10 barangays merged into five competing groups vied for barangay category, while two elementary schools competed for school category.

Barangays Mansalanao and Sag-ang bagged the championship title receiving P100,000 in cash prize.

Barangays Biak-na-bato and Masulog was the first runner-up, while Barangays Lalagsan and Nato advanced as second runner-up.

The two groups received P75,000 and P50,000 in cash prizes, respectively.

For the school category, Cabacungan Elementary School under La Castellana I is this year's champion. It also received P100,000 in cash prize.

Manghanoy Elementary School under La Castellana II bagged the first runner-up award, receiving P75,000.

Non-winning groups received P10,000 each in consolation prizes.

Nicor-Manguilimutan, earlier, said the Municipal Government extended P100,000 in financial assistance for every competing group in the barangay category, and P60,000 each for the school.

“We will work for better and grander Bailes de Luces Festival in the coming years,” she said, adding that “our lights will continue to shine brighter.”

Meanwhile, former Philippine National Police chief retired General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa was guest of honor during the activity.

Other guests included former Fourth District representative Jeffrey Ferrer, Isabela Mayor Joselito Malabor, and congressional aspirant Col. Cezar Mancao of May Pag-asa Party-list, among others.