« Around 30 boats representing the different islands of Tawi-Tawi participated in the Lepa Festival on Sunday. After parading through the water, the boats joined a light spectacle and a dancing performance at a local harbour.
The Lepa Festival is a vibrant celebration of the indigenous seafaring culture of the Badjao. Held annually, it features a colourful flotilla of traditional boats adorned with intricate designs and vibrant decorations, showcasing the rich maritime heritage of this southern Philippine province – Tawi-Tawi.
« Badjao are called sea gypsies because they don’t live on land, instead they are comfortable living in this traditional boat called Lepa. All their belongings are here, they sleep here, cook here and even dry their fish like this », explained Amidulla Amilbasad, one of the participants.
While the fluvial parade is sailing, the Badjao and Sama tribe showcase their traditional dances for the visitors, and the public could also enjoy ancient rituals like Sama’s traditional milling of rice.
« This boat is considered an ancient house where we store fruits, and vegetable, we have our sleeping mats, cooking wears and cook inside the boat », told Nassal Mahabassal, another Festival participant.
At night, the colorful, illuminated boats moored in the harbor were the attraction of the festival, which stood out in the city’s nocturnal landscape.
The Lepa are the indigenous ships of the Sama-Bajau people in the Philippines and Malaysia, traditionally used as houseboats. »