Still, Makati celebrates the annual Caracol Festival anyway. Taking place at Glorietta 4 this February 23, Caracol has been nicknamed the "Mardi Gras of Makati." From that moniker, you can already guess what to expect from the event — but here's a quick primer, just in case.
The festival is only 29 years old.
Unlike most festivals in the Philippines (which date back hundreds of years), the Caracol Festival wasn't conceptualized until 1988. It was supposed to combine three of the Philippines' major ethnic festivals, but eventually evolved into a unique cultural event in its own right.
The festival isn't (exactly) like the Mardi Gras.
Although Caracol is often dubbed "the Philippines' Mardi Gras," that's a somewhat misleading comparison. Where the Mardi Gras has religious overtones, the Caracol is meant to spread awareness about the importance of protecting Mother Nature. In both festivals, the participants dress up in colorful costumes, though their reasons for doing so differ from one another.
The festival will likely involve a competition.
You won't read online articles about it (yet), but it's likely that the organizers will hold a contest of some sort. Since the festival is expected to draw a large number of participants and onlookers, a competition can only spice things up for everyone.
The stakes for the competition will be high (literally).
While we're not privy to the details of this year's competition, last year's Caracol Festival saw 1,000 participants competing under three categories: elementary, high school, and youth (replacing the "barangay" category).
In all categories, the first placers won Php75,000, the second placers Php62,500, and the third placers Php50,000. Special awards like "Best in Choreography" and "Most Original in Costume" were also given out, along with cash prizes worth Php25,000.
The festival's name was derived from a Spanish word.
In Spanish, caracol means "snail." It's hard to say whether the Caracol Festival was named because of its associations with nature, or because it cycles every year like the ridges on a snail's shell. At any rate, we think it's an awesome name for an awesome event!
Participants aren't the only ones who need to ready themselves.
Even if you're not getting into costume, or spraying yourself in body paint, you don't want to be caught unawares as a spectator. The Caracol will draw huge crowds, after all, and crowds can be stressful if you don't know how to handle them.
Before you grab a front row seat to the festival, here's a handy list of tips to keep in mind.
- Get to the venue ASAP. Otherwise, the traffic's going to make it hard to find a decent parking space/get-off point. Be at Glorietta at least a couple of hours prior to the event, or ask someone else to reserve a good spot for you.
- Bring a high-quality camera. If you have a DSLR, that would be best. But if you don't, your phone's camera should be able to capture the dancers' performances in all their colorful glory. Don't forget to use a good hashtag to let your friends in on the event live!
- Fill up your stomach beforehand. Luckily, the Ayala Center (Glorietta's home complex) is chockfull of restaurants that serve great food. Pick the ones as close to Glorietta 4 as possible, so that the moment Caracol begins, you can leave your seat and whip out your camera.
- Fill up your bottle of water too. The Philippine weather can be unpredictable. One moment, it's raining cats and dogs; the next, the sun is beating down on you. Either way, it helps to have H2O within grabbing distance when temperatures swing too wildly.
- Wear comfortable clothes. Clothes like a nice-fitting shirt, jeans, and rubber shoes would be best. You'd also want to wear a hat and sunglasses to protect against weather extremes. If you're heading to the festival right after work, you can just take off your blazer and/or change into flat-heeled shoes.
- Stay safe. Keep your valuables close at all times. Have a friend/family member accompany you to/from the event. Bring a good GPS device, or take note of the parade's route and/or your current location. Double-check your things before you leave the site.
Enjoy Caracol to the hilt.
Of course, a festival won't be a festival without laughter and fun. Take time out to chat with the participants, and ask them about the stories behind their costumes. Chances are, those stories are worthy of a dinner conversation. Don't forget to share your own stories with them too!
What are your experiences with previous Caracol Festivals? What do you expect from this year's Caracol Festival? Share your answers with us in the comments!
*UPDATE: It's come to our attention that the Makati Caracol Festival will, in fact, be held at the Globe Circuit Events Grounds in Barangay Olympia at 4 P.M., instead of Glorietta 4 as written in this post. We apologize for any misunderstanding and inconvenience this error has caused.