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If you’ve decided to travel to Central America I bet you’re in the process of downloading Google translate. What you might not know is that you don’t need it if you’re traveling to Belize. While the vast majority of Central America is Spanish speaking Belize is a former British colony making its official language – you guessed it, English! This doesn’t mean you won’t hear some interesting phrases during your stay. Belize’s geographic location is unique to say the least. As a part of both Central America and the Caribbean you’re likely to hear Spanish, and the famed Belizean Kriol during your everyday activities.

In order to truly immerse yourself in the authentic culture of Belize you have to know the words and expressions of the country which is why we’ve brought you a crash course on KRIOL!

 Mawnin – Also known as “Good Morning” is the perfect way to start your day!

 Bwai — Much like “boiz” bwai is an endearing and friendly way of referring to any male. “Bwai, thank you!”.

 Gyal — Is used in the same context, but for females. “How are you, gyal?”.

 Gwen — No, not the name. We mean where are you going? Or can be used to say I’m going. “I gwen tomorrow”.

 Coh — If you’re going then you must be coming back at some point. Coh is also commonly used to say  “come here”.  “Coh over tonight”.

 Lee — Lee is the perfect word to describe something that is small or short. “Pass me the lee cup”. 

 Puppy Foot — Someone who loves to travel! “Kayla puppy foot!”.

 Rich — Ever had a meal that was too good for words to describe? Well let me tell you that food was rich!

 Bashment — Ever heard of a wild party? Well, welcome to the basement! 

 Set it up!This term is key for anyone looking to party often used to describe setting up a meeting or hangout.

 Nice Up — Chances are at the party you might get a little tipsy or as Belizeans like to say nice up! 

 Goma — After a long night of drinking chances are you’ll have a hangover or goma.

 Yuh Di Stin — If you have the perfect outfit on chances are yuh di stin! “Stin” is also used to describe “sting or stung”. 

 Weh di goan?When talking to a friend you might want to ask “What’s going on?” “What’s up?” “What’s the plan?”. 

 Cho!Sometimes the perfect word does not exist to describe your disbelief and shock, but the perfect sound does!

 Lick Road — Let’s hit the road. “Mek we lick road to Sleeping Giant!”. 


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In 1973 British Honduras officially became known as Belize. The origin story or stories of the name “Belize” remain obscure; but today we’ll explore some of the interesting theories historians and locals have made.

The popular consensus is that Belize is derived from the Mayan language. For those of you new to Belizean history the Mayas are the indigenous group of Belize. So, theory one! In Maya the word “Balix” translates to “muddy waters” which one can assume refers to the Belize River. Perhaps with some Spanish influence Balix was transformed to Belize. Likely? I would like to think so, especially when you consider the Mayan pronunciation of the letter “x”. The “X” carries a soft “sh” sound like in “slush”. “Balix” would then sound like “Balish”. The second theory involves the Mayan word “Belikin”. Yes, Belikin like the beer of Belize! Belikin simply means “the land facing the see”. Once again from one pronunciation to the other the Spanish Conquerors could have easily transformed Belikin into Belize – a bit of a stretch? I agree!

If it isn’t complicated enough there is one last theory. In 1638 a buccaneer by the name of Peter Wallace is believed to have created a community at the mouth of the Belize River. It is believed that Wallace named the area after himself. However, the Spaniards could not pronounce the “W” in Wallace and replaced it with a “V”. Thus becoming “Vallis” and eventually becoming “Balise”.  This theory has some historical context that is believed to validate the claim.

Plot Twist! Records recently published by the Belize Archives & Records Service show that Belize was derived from a combination of the poorly translated Mayan word “Balis” and the last name “Walis”.

It doesn’t matter where the name “Belize” came from because today Belize is The Jewel of the Caribbean. The Jewel is a melting pot of culture, a home for wanderers, and an un-Belizeable experience. If you’re lucky enough to land on its shores you’re sure to fall in love with its crystal clear waters, never ending jungle, and the one of a kind people.

 Belize just became one of the lucky few countries that have managed to get a handle on the new coronavirus. 

On Tuesday, May 5th, Belize officially joined a list of only eleven countries to report zero active cases of COVID-19 after battling the deadly virus.

So how did Belize, one of the last counties in the region to import a COVID-19 case, become among the first in the world to rid itself of it?

Some of Belize’s inherent characteristics are being regarded as contributing factors in stopping the spread of the virus that brought the entire world to a halt. 

If you have ever been lucky enough to travel to this beautiful tropical destination, a few things may have stood out to you:

 

Belize is Young.

A recent study by The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that age may play a significant role in not only the severity of infections but also people’s susceptibility of contracting the new coronavirus. The average age of the Belizean population is just 22.4 years old! Because the average Belizean is barely older enough to buy themself a cocktail at your neighborhood watering-hole its citizenry seems to have been far less affected than countries with older populations like Italy where the average age is more than double at 45.1 years of age.

Belize is HOT!

This makes Belize the perfect place for beachcombers, drinks in hand, to hang out for hours. However preliminary research indicates that this hot climate may be less than ideal for pesky viruses to hang out. The less time a virus is able to cling to a shared surface, the less likely it will be able to find another host to latch on to. 

Belize is Secluded.

Those who have spent time traversing Belize by car will be familiar with long stretches of road surrounded by pristine rainforests, savannas, and mountains with very few inhabitants in sight.
While this often makes for awe-inspiring commutes, it is also a major factor in impeding viruses that rely on human to human contact in order to spread. The population density of Belize is 37 people per square mile. That means on average you would find fewer people in a square mile of Belize, than you would at your local Walmart. Compared to places like New York City where 27,000 people inhabit every square mile it is easy to imagine why transmission rates would be far less in Belize.

 

Belize however has not come out of this crisis completely unscathed, its economy has been hit especially hard due to its reliance on international tourism, despite this fact though, the overall sentiment on the ground is thankfulness. 

Belize is thankful, now more than ever, for wide-open spaces, for warm weather, for all the young Belizeans who will remember this pandemic only as a speed bump on the road to a brighter future. 

Thankful because we know that all the natural beauty that has made Belize one of the world’s best destinations isn’t going anywhere, it will still be here, waiting for you.

 

Countries without coronavirus 
Countries with no COVID-19 Cases
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Now more than ever, many of us long to be far away from the complications that come with living in a congested, urban environment. We dream of a place where our alarm clock is the sound of tropical birds chirping and our morning commute is to the backyard to pick fresh oranges.

When we talk about owning a slice of paradise in the tropical rainforest of Belize, most people think that it must be something reserved for the ultra wealthy or folks in the know. However Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge is making this fantasy a reality for anyone interested in avoiding crowds and snatching up their own piece of  Belize’s beautiful and pristine Maya Mountains.

Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge sits on 600 Acres of prime, fertile land in the Sibun River Valley, surrounded by the Sibun Forest Reserve that is well over 81,000 acres of untouched and protected rainforest that will never be developed.

The Lodge is Belize’s top rainforest resort and masterfully combines upscale comforts with rugged outdoor immersion.

The real estate arm of the resort, Sleeping Giant Rainforest Estates, was born to give guests of the resort an opportunity to own a piece of the magic they discovered on vacation. 

The Sleeping Giant Rainforest Estates are only a 20-minute drive from the country’s capital, Belmopan, yet backs up to 81,000 acre nature reserve. This gives homeowners  the peace, tranquility and solitude they desire as well as easy access to the modern conveniences of Belize’s capital. 

Sleeping Giant Rainforest Estates also sits adjacent to the renowned Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge, giving all homeowners access to it’s award winning restaurants, bar, pool, spa and other amenities. This makes for the perfect blend of off grid relaxation and top class dining and activities.

If owning a piece of Belize sounds good to you please CONTACT US for more information.

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Many would argue that the perfect bite doesn’t exist, it’s almost certain that many have not had the unique culinary experience that is a Belizean fry jack. Fry jacks are pieces of dough, deep-fried to crisp golden perfection, commonly featured in Belizean cuisine. These warm, fluffy morsels are most frequently paired with other breakfast items such as eggs, jam, refried beans, and cheese. If you’d like to make these tasty treats at home, fry jacks are made using four simple ingredients found in pantries everywhere: flour, water, shortening, and baking powder. Combine them with a pinch of salt and deep-fry in shallow oil; like many of your Instagram posts, you’re gonna have to wait until golden to truly capture the essence of the Belizean fry jack.

This breakfast staple is found across the country, and if you have an appetite for adventure you might make your way to the Grove House Restaurant at the Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge. The Grove House is loved and renowned for its farm to table experience. Simply meaning that all ingredients are organic and locally-sourced to provide you with the highest quality Belizean cuisine. (It’s no wonder The Grove House boasts the title of “Restaurant of the Year” for both 2018 and 2019!)  The Grove House offers you a one of a kind culinary delight with their traditional “Village Breakfast”. 

The Village Breakfast includes farm-fresh eggs with tomatoes, onions, and cilantro served with a side of “faya haat” beans, stewed chicken and of course their signature fry jacks! If you’re unsure of what “faya haat” means let me tell you, you are about to consume a Belizean delicacy! The term “faya haat” is used to describe food that is painstakingly prepared in the hearth of an open wood fire. This style of cooking is a part of Belizean culinary tradition, and it provides the perfect amount of smoky flavor to any dish. As you patiently wait for your order of the Belizean favorite take in the breathtaking sights of the Maya Mountains, and indulge yourself in a freshly squeezed orange juice straight from the neighbouring orchard. 

While a fry jack can be enjoyed anywhere why not make breakfast an adventure in Belize.

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Some travelers desire more than just relaxation for their getaway, instead opting for the less travelled path of adventure and sport tourism. While Belize offers opportunities for competitive cycling and fishing nothing compares to Belize’s La Ruta Maya River Challenge. Held once a year La Ruta Maya is the only adventure sport weekend of its kind and caliber in Central America. This race dates back to March 9th, 1998 when San Ignacio resident and businessman Richard Harrison conceptualized and executed the first ever river challenge. Fun Fact: Harrison’s inspiration for the event was a marketing one! The intention of La Ruta Maya was to promote natural Belizean made products while creating environmental awareness.

This canoe race takes place over the course of four days, and spans 175 miles of Belize’s major river system. This adventure sport weekend appeals to both professional and amateure paddelers. There are six major divisions one can compete in:

    1. Male — An all male team.
    2. Female — An all female team.
    3. Mixed — A team comprised of both male and female genders.
    4. Masters — All team members must be over forty years of age.
    5. Intramural — All members must be active students under twenty five years old currently enrolled in a recognized Belizean institution.
    6. Family — All participants must be closely related (next of kin). 

La Ruta Maya is rooted in community tradition which is why on the eve of the first race locals and tourists alike gather in the twin town of San Ignacio.  Belikin Beer, the title sponsor of the race, holds an opening celebration in the Welcome Center where competitors and fans can share a drink, a laugh, and a moment. In recent years a local performance art theater by the name of Wildfire Artzmophere has taken to reciting the Popol Vuh (Ancient Mayan Text) as a way of honoring the heritage and history of the races title and route. 

As the sun begins to rise you will find throngs of people gathered on both sides of the river bank near the Hawksworth Bridge. Bystanders wait patiently for the sound that signals the  beginning of the race. Suddenly the race begins, and hundreds of canoes fight to be the first to cross San Ignacio’s quaint swing bridge in order to receive the first of the race’s glory. Fun Fact: 15 minutes into the race paddlers will meet a confluence where the Macal and Mopan river meet to create the Belize River. From that marker forward competitors will face rapids, currents, and portages. The first day will come to an end at a village near Belmopan where competitors are welcomed by residents and fans with music, food, and dance.

The second day proves to be equally grueling as paddlers make their way to the village of Double Head Cabbage; and from there head to Burrel Boom on the third day. During these days service teams and fans alike camp along the river side in order to keep the paddlers company and enjoy the merriment planned by the Ruta Maya organizers. On the other hand, some locals choose to only stop at strategic points to observe the race. A hot spot for this is Burrel Boom, where a fair and market are held to provide viewers with entertainment and local cuisine. These types of  celebrations commemorate the economic history of the race’s route. During the colonial period the Belize river was used to transport goods from the mainland to the Caribbean Sea, which is why trade is so important during La Ruta Maya. On the final day competitors will make their way to the heart of Belize City where the winner will cross the Belchina Bridge. 

The four day event is brought to a close on National Heroes and Benefactors Day, which allows for everyone to get some much needed rest!

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Rum Popo is a delicious traditional rum crème made in Belize that is somewhat similar to Eggnog. This festive blend is served during the Christmas season as a celebratory drink shared with family and friends to celebrate the Christmas season and to welcome them into our homes. A glass of festive rum popo is a very important part of the traditional Belizean Christmas and is sure to warm up the heart.

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It is very common in Belize for homemade bottles of Rum Popo to be given as Christmas gifts to friends, neighbors, and coworkers. We hope you enjoy one of our favorite recipes for this Christmas must have.


RUM POPO RECIPE

(Makes approx. four 750 ml. bottles)

TOOLS
large mixing bowl
hand mixer
liquid measuring cup
ladle
a funnel
4 – 750ml bottles, a punch bowl or a pitcher

INGREDIENTS
9 eggs
5 cans evaporated milk
3 cans sweetened condensed milk
1 pint white rum (Belize’s Caribbean Rum, is the best to use but a good substitute is Wray & Nephew. NO Bacardi)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon powder
1 tablespoon ground fresh nutmeg

DIRECTIONS
– Blend eggs in mixing bowl 15-20 minutes
– Add evaporated milk. Blend for approximately three minutes.
– Pour in condensed milk, rum and vanilla extract. Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg evenly over the mixture.
– Blend rum popo mixture approximately two minutes or until all parts are evenly dispersed.
– Use measuring cup to pour mixtures into bottles with a funnel or ladle to pour into punch bowl or pitcher.
– Keep chilled and stir before serving
– Serve with ice and garnish with cinnamon powder or a cinnamon stick


Known for having the largest living Barrier Reef in the world and ancient Maya Ruins that hold secrets deep within, discovering Belize has never been more exciting!

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Enjoy the best of both worlds - Beach and Jungle - experience the diverse destination that is Belize. Explore untamed nature as you zipline through the lush jungle canopy and gain a bird’s eye view of the rainforest below. Dive alongside Whale Sharks anGazebo_Hike-20.jpgd witness a myriad of marine life and untouched corals! With a wide array of activities, Belize is a top family vacation destination.

Offering over 20 years experience in the tourism industry, ViVABELiZE Hotel Group & Adventure Company prides itself in providing affordable all-inclusive family packages. Stay at any of our five award-winning full-service resorts or combine multiple properties for added exposure to our country’s attractions.

Collect lifelong memories on your family adventure holiday in Belize! Call (888) 822-2448 or email us at [email protected] to plan your getaway today!

Visiting Mayan descendants in an actual Mayan village

As I told you on my last posts, I love to discover and explore all Maya ruins that Belize has to offer. It is amazing to get involved in such ancient rich world and to experience and touch the unique pieces from such an antique culture. Belize brings you closer to the daily lives and household of the remaining descendants of the Mayas in a truly authentic Mayan village, to learn directly from them their wisdom and knowledge about the rainforest, nature and traditional way of life. I must say that it was one of the most charming, interesting and funniest experiences from my entire stay in this country.

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You can find Maya communities almost all over the country specially in the southern area, the Toledo District. While driving through the Southern Highway you can see plenty of traditional small Maya villages with their usual houses made of mud, wood and palm trees.

Maya Women Cooking
Maya women cooking the corn dough, kneading the dough, toasting chilies and cacao and cooking tortillas.

During the tour of Maya Ancient and Modern I was intrigue with these Mayan Villages. When we arrived to the village, the entire large Maya family was waiting for us with a huge smile and some fresh coconuts ready to drink. While we were relaxing and re-energizing with our refreshing coconut water, the women introduced us to the rest of the family. The village was rustic with some simple houses and barns, built the same way the ancient Maya people would have built them thousands of years ago. Children were all over, running around and being merry. They were so curious looking at you through the windows! When they invited us to go into the main building where the kitchen and the dining room were located, we saw the women preparing all the ingredients and gear we would need to enjoy a unique experience in their community!

Maya Village
Drinking our coconuts at our arrival to the Maya village

The kitchen was basically a big fireplace in the middle, some rustics counters and shelves with basic cookware utensils. They were cooking some delicious veggies grown and cultivated by them and drying some chillies and sweet peppers.

Maya women at the kitchen
Maya women at the kitchen

They then taught us about the importance of the cacao in their culture and the most important thing, they showed us how to make chocolate from the fruit of the cacao tree! You can’t imagine how easily they do it… After a natural process of drying they extract the seeds of the cacao fruit, then they use a special rock to press the seeds to make the chocolate paste! The wonderful smell of raw chocolate was Simply delicious! The women made us a delightful drink made of cacao and corn, it was so tasty!

Maya Grinding Cacao
A Maya woman pressing the cacao seeds together to get the chocolate paste

We also learnt how to make the typical and delicious corn tortillas! They had the fresh corn dough ready for us to start our masterclass of “How to make traditional Mayan corn tortillas”! We sat around a little round table, and five minutes later I was making tortillas like a pro. The secret is in the way they move their hands to shape the tortilla.

Maya Making Tortillas
Me making corn tortilla with the friendly maya women!

Then they put the tortillas on a large woodburning stove, and within minutes they were ready to eat with the veggies they were cooking for us: UHH Yeah! spinach and calabash.

Tasting Maya Food
We ate a really good and tasty Maya typical food

We spent an amazing time eating the food we all cooked with our new Maya friends! They shared with us a lot of fascinating details of their way of life! We never felt like tourists, we felt and were treated like family. I strongly recommend this experience, if you are in Belize, don’t miss the opportunity to meet the friendly descendants of the Mayas!

Maya Women in Belize
Farewell from our new Maya friends

One of the best ways to truly experience Belize is by getting to know the culture and interacting with our friendly people. Having a population of approximately 347,369, the Garinagu also referred to as Garifuna (mixture of African & Caribbean Indian heritage), the Mestizos (mixture of Spanish and Mayas), the Creoles or Kriols (mixture of African and European) and the Mayas make up the majority of the population of Belize. East Indians, Chinese, Mennonites, Lebanese, Europeans, North and Latin Americans also contribute to Belize’s rich diverse culture.

From left to right:a Garinagu wearing the brightly traditional costume, a Mestizo wearing the traditional ‘Huipil’, a Creole wearing a white blouse called Chemise Décolleté and lastly, a Maya wearing her traditional clothing decorated with embroidery

From left to right: a Garinagu wearing the brightly traditional costume, a Mestizo wearing the traditional ‘Huipil’, a Creole wearing a white blouse called Chemise Décolleté and lastly, a Maya wearing her traditional clothing decorated with embroidery.

One of the many numerous charms of Belize is that such a diversity of cultures and races can live respectively in relative peace; while, practicing their own religions, connecting with their own conventional societies and talking distinctive dialects.

From district to district, you can experience the extraordinary mix that the different groups contribute to Belize’s melting pot of cultures. Going to the southern part of the country, along the south coast of Belize, you will find various towns and villages inhabited by the Garinagu.

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The Garifuna Culture in Belize

Declared as one of the masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity by the United Nations, the Garinagu first arrived in Belize, known as British Honduras at the time, on November 19, 1802. Even though they are commonly known as “Garifuna”, the proper term to refer to this group of people is “Garinagu”; whereby, the culture along with the language are properly called “Garifuna”.

Garinagu portraying their first time arrival to Belize.
Garinagu portraying their first time arrival to Belize.

The Belize National Garifuna Council estimates that there are 500,000 Garinagu Worldwide of which 15,000 are located in Belize namely Dangriga, Hopkins, Seine Bight, Punta Gorda and Barranco.

Garifuna food is mostly based on rich and hearty meals. Their traditional foods include fish, chicken, cassava, bananas and plantains.

From left to right: fried fish, stew chicken, cassava, and plantains.
From left to right: fried fish, stew chicken, cassava, and plantains.

Cassava is a very important item as part of their diet. From cassava they can make bread, drinks, pudding and even wine for them to enjoy.

From left to right: garinagu making cassava bread, cassava pudding, cassava juice with lemon recipe, cassava wine known as Ugburu.
From left to right: garinagu making cassava bread, cassava pudding, cassava juice with lemon recipe, cassava wine known as Ugburu.

One of their common traditional meals is ‘Hudut’ or also locally known as ‘sere’. Hudut is made from cooked fish in a coconut broth and served with mashed plantains or yams. Other cultures serve and enjoy this meal either with corn tortillas or white rice.

Hudut served with mashed yams and cassava bread.
Hudut served with mashed yams and cassava bread.

Music and Dance closely identifies the Garifuna Culture as suggested by UNESCO’s recognition. Garifuna music is mostly based on ‘primero’ known as tenor and ‘segunda’ known as bass drums. These drums are made from hollowed-out hardwoods mostly mahogany or mayflower which are native to Belize.

Almond Beach Resortand Spa Guests enjoying the rhythms from local Artist Clayton Williams (on the left) who is playing Garifuna music.
Almond Beach Resortand Spa Guests enjoying the rhythms from local Artist Clayton Williams (on the left) who is playing Garifuna music.

If you are looking for an opportunity for self-expression, musical creativity and lots of fun as how the Garifuna do; then, delve into the captivating rhythm of the Garinagu with Clayton Williams. Clayton is one of Belize’s Top Garifuna Drummers and three time winner of The Battle of the Drums. You can have the ultimate Garifuna Drumming Experience by being part of these unique drumming classes with Clayton Williams. Drumming lessons are available on request at Almond Beach Resortand Spa

Clayton Williams (on the left) giving drumming lessons to guests at Almond Beach Beach Resort and Spa.
Clayton Williams (on the left) giving drumming lessons to guests at Almond Beach Beach Resort and Spa.

To further indulge into this dynamic culture, the The Lodge at Jaguar Reef& Spa offers extra-ordinary performances by the Dangriga Garifuna Dance Academy. Garifuna Night is every Friday night between 7:00 – 7:30 pm. The Garinagu enlighten us with their songs, dances and music taking us back in time to experience more of their beliefs and philosophy that categorizes them as a unique and exceptional culture.

Garifuna Night on a friday at The Lodge at Jaguar Reefand Spa.
Garifuna Night on a friday at The Lodge at Jaguar Reefand Spa.
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carnival-picture

2015 marks our 217th Anniversary of the Battle of St. George’s Caye as well as our 34th Anniversary of Belize’s Independence. As proud Belizeans we look forward to the festivities associated with honoring our freedom. Of those festivities the main one we look forward to is carnival which usually occurs around the tenth of September.

The true meaning of carnival is the celebration of life. Carnival is a time of revelry, where there’s an explosive display of color, music, and creativity! The King and Queen Competition is an essential part of celebrating carnival in Belize. It’s an opportunity for mass groups to demonstrate the hard work and creativity they’ve placed into making their costumes that usually display what our country means. These costumes vary from a display of our national symbols, what transpired during the Battle of St. George’s Caye, the story of our Independence and so much more!

During the late 1700s, our country was under Spanish rule. At the time, Spain allowed British settlers into the area to cut logwood. The British wanted more, but Spain refused, so it led to a battle on the 10th of September, on St. George’s Caye. The British won which principally led to their rule of the country. The British held control over the country until it was granted self-governance in 1964. Thereafter, it was renamed Belize from British Honduras in 1973. It was on September 21st 1981 when Belize gained its independence.

Independence means your right to freedom! If the British didn’t fight during the Battle of St. George’s Caye and won, we wouldn’t have had the chance to gain our independence. That is why those who participate in carnival try to integrate as much of our history into the event as a tribute and respect to our forefathers who helped us get to where we are today. In this regard, we celebrate our nationality by being patriotic as we parade waving our flags through the streets draped in the colors that we have given meaning to; the red showcasing our hardiness, bravery, strength and valor, the blue showcasing vigilance, truth and loyalty, perseverance and justice.

For visitors, it is the best time to see our national cultures on display!

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