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The fiesta is part and parcel of Filipino culture. Through good times and bad times, the Filipino fiesta must go on. Each city and barrio has at least one local festival of its own, usually on the feast of its patron saint, so that there is always a fiesta going on somewhere in the country. But the biggest and most elaborate festival of all is Christmas, a season celebrated with all the pomp and pageantry the fun-loving Filipino can manage. The Philippine fiesta is a lot more that it seem on the service. It is the tie that binds Filipinos from a region or an area together, a time to reunite with your extended family and you kababayans (countrymen/women.) No mater where you are, your are expected to attend. It is a time to rejoice in friendship, spend all you have, forget the expense, just be happy you can afford to entertain and feed others, if you can.
Below are the major Philippine Fiestas / Festivals
FEAST OF THE BLACK NAZARENE
A grand Fiesta, this festivalcenters on the image of the Black Nazarene which was transported by galleon from Mexico to Manila in the 17th century. The festival is marked by an afternoon procession by thousands of devotees.
The Ati-Atihan Festival commemorates the 13th century land deal between 10 migrating Bornean chieftains and the aboriginal Ati King Marikudo. It also honors the town patron, the infant Sto. Nino.
The ceaseless, rhythmic pounding of drums get to you, and before you know it you are on the street, shuffling your feet, shaking your head, waving your hands – and joining thousands of soot-blacked, gaily-costumed revelers in an ancient ritual of mindless merriment. A familiar battle cry reaches your ears, and amidst all this confusion you remember where you are: Kalibo, Aklan. “Viva, Sto. Nino!”
The Ati-Atihan celebration is echoed in many parts of the country.
San Joaquin, Iloilo
Every 2nd Saturday of January
A festival of bulls on the hillsides of San Joaquin. Prized bulls from the town and neighboring areas fight amidst wild cheering from spectators.
Every third weekend of January
Cebu City’s fiesta of fiestas. Characterized by its peculiar two-steps-forward-and-one-step-backward shuffle, thus simulating the Holy Child of the shores, the Sinulog is a century-old tradition observed in the part of Visayas region. The prayer-dance is synchronized to the beat of drums and shouts of “Pit Senior! Viva Sto. Nino!” Feel free to dance with the best of them, grooving all the way to the grand final presentation at the Cebu City Sports Center.
Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur
Every third Sunday of January
The founding of Pagadian City showcases the Subanon tribe’s rich cultural heritage by way of songs, dances and exhibits of musical instruments.
Every fourth weekend of January
Merry mayhem breaks loose in Iloilo City during this weekend, when Ilonggos leave everything behind to join in the fiesta of the year. All inhibitions are dropped: boring everyday clothes are exchanged for “Ati” warrior costumes and black body paint. Shields and “weapons” are held amidst the pounding rhythm of drums, the costumed Ilonggos put their best feet forward in celebration of…..Dinagyang!
FEAST OF OUR LADY OF CANDLES
Jara, Iloilo City
The biggest and most opulent religiuos pageanty in Western Visayas. The blessing of candles and the yearly procession of the patroness, the Nuestra Senora de Candelaria is followed by the fiesta queen and her court which highlights the celebration.
PANAGBENGA- Baguio Flower Festival
23 February – 3 March
It’s flower season in the city of Pines – perfect timing for an all-out fiesta in the streets. The Baguio folk take a break on these days to revel in the cool climate and the unique culture of the city. Multi-hued costumes are worn, mimicking the various blooms of the highland region (or any of its 11 ethnic tribes). These are flowerbeds – disguised, of course, as the Panagbenga parade floats.
28 February – 1 March
Expect the Bukidnon to go tribal from the first to the second week of March, when the streets of Malaybalay take on that familiar fiesta theme. Banners, banderitas, and beer will be norm, as well as the sweet, haunting sound of native music. An early morning pamuhat ritual kicks off the festivities, to be followed by an ethnic food fest, trade fairs, and a lot of native dancing. The fiesta is part and parcel of Filipino culture. Through good times and bad times, the fiesta must go on. Each city and barrio has at least one local festival of its own, usually on the feast of its patron saint, so that there is always a fiesta going on somewhere in the country. But the biggest and most elaborate festival of all is Christmas, a season celebrated with all the pomp and pageantry the fun-loving Filipino can manage.
First Sunday of March
An exciting race among native outriggers in the strait between Guimaras Island and Iloilo City. This is an activity every summer hedged with rules, umpires and kibitzers.
A worldwide Muslim festival celebrating the end of the month-long fasting period of the Holy Month of Ramadam by the Muslims.
A lenten activity where devotees from Cebu City and its neighboring cities and towns do their penitential procession through cities the Station of the Cross built on 12 hectares of rolling hills. the life-size statues of the 14 Stations of the Cross have been patterned after the Way of the Cross in Lourdes, France.
An anuual feast of the Manobo tribal community of Magpet in celebration of a bountiful harvest.
One of the most famous of Philippine festivals. Colorfully garbed and masked as Roman soldiers and centurions, locals reenact the life of Longinus culminating in his beheading. The entire towns of Boac, Morpog and Gasan are virtually converted into huge stages as the story as Longinus unfolds.
CUTUD LENTEN RITES
San Fernando, Pampanga
Prayer of a different meaning during the Lenten season, when villagers of San Pedro, Cutud, engage in the act of self-flagellation. This ancient ritual is performed in the morning of Good Friday during the Holy Week. Backs, arms, and legs are cut and then struck with burillo whips. The climax to this occasion happens at midday, when penitents are literally nailed to their waiting crosses.
A procession of the centuries-old image of the Virgin Mary through the streets, procession, singing and dancing to the Turumba.
ANG PAGTALTAL SA GUIMARAS
Lenten presentation on the hillside of Jordan with locals as actors. This ala-Oberrammergou event has been attracting hundreds of foreign and domestic tourists: Local devotees’ visit usually culminates in the trek to “Balaan Bukid” or Holy Mountain where a huge cross is planted by the chapel overlooking Guimaras Strait and Iloilo City.
2nd or 3rd Week of April
A yearly festival coinciding with the founding of Lamitan Municipality; showcases the traditional Yakan customs and traditions, music and dances, and traditional crafts.
2nd Week of April
Annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag. Known to local pilgrims / tourists as miraculous, the Virgin’s image has become one of Manaoag’s main attractions. Pilgrims’ vehicles are blessed every Saturday.
A day of thanksgiving for bountiful harvests and abundant fishing observed all over Pangasinan traditional with mass offering on beautiful beaches and fluvial parade.
May 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
The Santacruzan is a procession commemmorating St. Helena’s finding the “True Cross”; preceded bya nine-day Novena in honor of the Holy Cross. On the ninth day, usually on a weekend, the Santacruzan is held. The Reina Elena, accompanied by a little boy representing King Constantine, and the other sagalas representing biblical characters and the attributes of the Blessed Virgin, walk under gaily decorated arches.
Farmers pay tribute to their patron saints; a procession of carabao carts bearing a myriad local produce is held; prizes are awarded to the strongest and most beautifully decorated carabaos.
Hundreds of festively adorned carabaos are paraded by theis farmer-owners on the street leading to the church; there they are made to kneel down homage to San Isidro de Labrado, the patron saint of farmers.
Flowers come out in May, but these aren’t the only things flaunted during this merry month. Down south in the town of Lucban, Quezon, there’s also the kiping – a colorful, translucent rice tortilla that serves as an edible ornament of sorts. You will see lots of these at the Pahiyas Festival, an annual celebration held to usher in a bountiful harvest, and smashing good times.
It’s a free-for-all, grab-all-you-can affair with suman-sweet, sticky native rice cakes-as the center of contention. It is also the grand prize, so feel free to join the fray. Rest assured, whether you get handfuls or just a mere mouthful, the Mayohan sa Tayabas will leave you wanting for more – suman, of course!
Sariaya’s own version of the San Isidro festival showcases the creativity and ingenuity of the townsfolk in their craft and culinary tradition.
OBANDO FERTILITY RITES
May 17 to 19
A three day fiesta celebration in honor of San Pascual, Baylon, Sta. Clara and Nuestra Senora de Salambao. Childless couples, thankful parents, grateful farmers and fishermen dance along the streets together with colorfully customed women to pray for children and a good harvest.
TAPUSAN SA KAWIT
A procession of gaily decorated floats decked with flowers of Maytime honors the Blessed Virgin. The participation of the town’s most beautiful young ladies symbolizes the purity and innocence of the Blessed Mother.
A month-long celebration that brings devotees and pilgrims to venerate the Lady of Peace and Good Voyage enshrined in Antipolo Church and afterwards, picnic to nearby Hinulugang Taktak.
FLORES DE MAYO / SANTACRUZAN
A parade of the town’s loveliest ladies, depicting the search and discovery of Christ’s Cross by Queen Helena and Constantine.
Independence Day Celebration, marked by a flag raising ceremony on the balcony of the Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine, where the first Philippine flag was unfurled.
PINYAHAN SA DAET
Daet, Camarines Norte
Sweet, succulent pineapple is the fruit of choice for the people of Daet, Camarines Norte. In fact, they loved it so much that they made a festival in its honor. Join the locals as they celebrate the Pineapple Festival featuring a colorful street presentation complemented by art exhibits, trade fair, cultural dances, and sport events. Feel rich when you go for a visit at Paracale Gold Mines, and be acquainted with some Bicol heroes like Vinzon and Panganiban and Lucban.
Murcia, Negros Occidental
Oneness with nature is the underlying theme behind Murcia’s annual mud-moving spectacle. Check on its murky highlight – a lively street dancing parade with the participant wearing nothing but mudpacks (well, almost…). It’s a surefire way to mix our ecological concerns with good, clean, cloddy fun – just be sure to shower afterwards!
PARADA NG LECHON
A different sight and flavor are introduced in June with a festival in Balayan, Batangas, popularly known as the “Parada Ng Lechon”. These succulent roasted pork form the highlight of the occasion, decked out in their platforms with all kinds of decor. Since the festival coincides with the feast of St. John the Baptist, be prepared to get wet as people observe the feast by repeating the ritual of baptism – pouring water.
Back during pre-Hispanic years, tattoos signified courage among the natives of Tacloban. These days they symbolize a cultural revival, and a wild, wacky fiesta called the Pintados. Join the town residents as they deck themselves out in body paint, mimicking the warriors of old while dancing to the frenetic beat of drums.
The Spanish colonization of the Philippines began with a blood-sealed peace treaty on the shores of Bohol. This historic event is remembered today with an all-out fiesta at the island’s capital city. Check out the Sandugo street dancing parade featuring ten colorfully-dressed groups dancing to the beat of drums. There’s also a traditional Filipino carnival, a martial arts festival, and Miss Bohol Sandugo Beauty Pageant, among the dozen of other exciting activities.
BOCAUE RIVER FESTIVAL
First Sunday of July
A famous river festival held in honor of the miraculous Cross of Bocaue (Krus ng Wawa). During the fluvial procession, devotees ride in the “pagoda” and douse each other with water.
PAAWAY SA KABAYO (Horsefight)
Tanjay, Negros Orriental
July 25 and December 25
An exciting, thrilling and oftentimes bloody fight among studs for supremacy over a female horse. More than 100 horses have been trained solely for this twice a year event.
An exotic and colorful pageant re-enacting the Spanish-Moorish wars, particularly the Battle of Covadonga where the Spanish forces under General Pelagio took their last stand against Saracan. They were able to reverse the tide through the miraculous apparition of St. James. The addition of local color and innovation has made this annual revelry a popular attraction which brings thousands of visitors to the city.
RAJAH BAGUINDA FESTIVAL
2nd Week of August
A three-day cultural show and festivites commemorating the arrival of Rajah Baguinda who was responsible for the spread of Islam and reinforcing the Sultanate Government in the Sulu Archipelago.
KADAYAWAN SA DABAW
Davao’s annual festival, Kadayawan Sa Dadaw promises another weekend of fanfare and fun – tribal style. Watch as the festivities reach a glorious climax on Saturday morning: that’s when the Kadayawan parade is held, featuring colorful, orchid-bedecked floats and more than a dozen “ethnic” groups dancing to the beat of wooden drums.
BONOK-BONOK FESTIVAL & SILOP CAVE ADVENTURE
Behind Surigao’s multi-faceted culture is its original tribal background. The Surigaonons go back to their roots this month as they celebrate their heritage with a loud, rowdy street dancing parade.
LEMLUNAY (T’BOLI TRIBAL FESTIVAL)
Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
An annual authentic T’boli tribal festival staged at Lake Sebu. Features tribal rituals that start at early down amidst sounds of gongs and native music, culminating at the town plaza where cultural dances and ethic sports like horsefight are held.
FEAST OF NUESTRA SEÑORA DE PEÑAFRANCIA
Naga City, Camarines Sur
3rd Saturday of September
A religious festival held in hornor of the Feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia. Bicol’s most revered patrones highlighted by the fluvial procession of the Lady’s image down the Bicol river. The week-long-celebration includes civic-military parade, sportsfests, exhibits, cultural shows, beauty pageants and colorful competitions.
ZAMBOANGA HERMOSA FESTIVAL
All roads in Mindanao lead to Zamboanga, as the “City of Flowers” celebrates its grand, annual Hermosa Festival. The vintas, those colorful native sea boats, once again make their appearance in a fast-paced, race-till-you-drop regatta. There’s also a wealth of cultural and flower shows, art exhibits, and trade fairs. It’s an all-out celebration of life – Chavacano style!
LA NAVAL DE MANILA
Sto. Domingo, Quezon City
2nd Sunday of October
A festival revolving around the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary of La Naval carved in 1533 and given as a gift to the Dominican Fathers. Borne on an elaborately decorated and well-lit carriage in the form of a ship, the venerated image is brought out of the church preceded by a dozen or so images of Dominican saints. The procession goes around the main streets of Sto. Domingo parish and then returns to the church amidst applause until it reaches the altar pedestal.
The carnival spirit fills the air as masked participants donning fabulous costumes dance there way around the city’s main thoroughfares. This annual event reflects Bacolenos’ love for fun and gaiety. Coinciding with the city’s character day celebration, the festival features carnivals, fairs, and madri-gras style street dancing.
A celebration depicting Bicol’s early beginnings as portrayed in the “Ibalong” epic that tells of super heroes Handiong, Batlog and Oryol and villains and wild animals that roamed in the ancient times. In music and dances, revelers parade on the main streets wearing masks of these heroes and villains. Festival activities include tours, trade fairs, exhibits and beauty pageants.
Camiguin Island’s favorite fruit becomes the object of adoration in this superb street dancing extravaganza. Watch the streets of Mambajao become colorful, lively stages as the Camiguinons strut their stuff; dressed in the costumes of the Mindanao tribes, and carrying bunches of sweet, sumptuous lanzones. Everyone is welcome to join the fun – it is a come-as-you-are, eat-all-you-can, and dance-till-you-can affair.
PINTA FLORES FESTIVAL
San Carlos City
This city in the sugar-producing island of Negros Occidental honors its patron saint, San Carlos Borromeo, with a pageant where participants with floral painted bodies dance in rhythmic beat as they wind through the major streets. The festival is inspired by the tattooed Negrenses of pre-colonial times.
FEAST OF SAN CLEMENTE / HIGANTES FESTIVAL
Angono’s joyous fiesta in honor of San Clemente whose image, resplendent in papal vestment, is borne by male devotees during a procession accompanied by “pahadores (devotees dressed in colorful local costumes, wooden shoes and carrying boat paddles) and higantes” (giant paper mache effigies) The street event culminates in a fluvial procession in Laguna de Bay amidst revelry that continues until the image is brought back to its sanctuary.
GRAND CORDILLERA FESTIVAL
One of the region’s major events held annualy featuring the gathering of tribes in a week-long event to “celebrate life” marked by tribal dancing and performances of thanksgiving rituals.
GIANT LANTERN FESTIVAL
San Fernando, Pampanga
San Fernando makes the biggest, most spectacular lanterns, at around 40 feet in diameter and bearing thousands of light bulbs a piece. Watch them all in their twinkling, blinking, flashing glory in this grand Christmas exhibit.
A revival of religious tradition with more than 60 images of the Blessed Virgin Mary from various parishes and provinces paraded.
Puerto Princessa, Palawan
A thanks giving celebration by the Tagbanua natives of Palawan in ritual dances and food offerings to their deities and souls of departed kin
FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPCION
An Eucharistic celebrabration of the Feast Day of the La Immaculada, patroness of Intramuros, capped by a grand procession of more than 50 Marian images from all over the country and participated in by thousands of devotees.
SHARIFF KABUNSUAN FESTIVAL
Cotabato City’s Muslim population celebrates the arrival of Islam to the region with a series of fun-filled activities. No need to go native to enjoy these – there’s a fluvial parade, an outrigger boat race, as well as various musical and athletics events.
Legazpi City, Albay
A unique Christmas celebration believed to have originated in the province where “pastores” – young men and women dressed in colorful shepherd costumes – joyfully dance and sing “Pastores a Belen” through the city streets.
SAN FERNANDO GIANT LANTERN FESTIVAL
A fiesta in honor of one of the oldest Marian images in the country (it was found by Legazpi’s soldiers amidst the foliage of a pandan shrub on the shores of Ermita in 1571) – the La Nuestra Señora de Guia, patroness of seafarers and also known as Our Lady of Expectations. The main event of the fiesta is the Bota de Flores, a reenactment of a select group of young ladies and their escorts in sailor costumes of the procession returning the La Nuestra Señora de Guia to its reconstructed shrine in 1918.
San Jose, Antique
A festive commemoration of an episode in the history of the Filipino race through colorful pageants acted on the beaches of Maybato in San Jose and Malandog in Hamtik. Particularly interesting is the drama of the first Malay settlement at malandog which runs for several days and nights. Binirayan is also an occasion of reunion with families, relatives and friends of homecoming Antiqueno expatriates.
Note: Dates can be moved a few days before or after.