February may be the shortest month of the year but it hardly comes short of festivals, events and exciting activities. As the malls, streets and public areas in the country transition from the twinkling lights and Christmas trees to cut-out cupids and bright red hearts, several towns and cities gear up for their own grand fiestas that aim to attract more visitors.
If you’re planning to spend February in the Philippines, you’re in for a huge treat! Filipinos are known for being one of the most loving (and most generous) people in the world and what better time to meet them than in the season for hearts and flowers? Just like anywhere else in the world, Filipinos become a little sweeter in February and since it’s the season for special dates, expect restaurants to serve the best dishes and hotels to offer big discounts.
Here are some noteworthy events you might find interesting:
Suroy sa Surigao
If you want to take the road less traveled, set your doubts aside and head to Mindanao where you have lesser chances into bumping into other tourists and getting stuck in traffic. The entire month of February is a great time to explore the natural wonders of Surigao City and the neighboring towns in the province of Surigao del Norte. Island hopping, spelunking, waterfalls chasing, beach bumming and surfing are just some of the activities you can enjoy in this beautiful province! While you’re in Surigao, don’t forget to try riding the waves of Siargao Island’s Cloud 9 and sampling their delectable seafood treats!
Feast of Our Lady of Candles
Jaro, Iloilo City
This religious festival lures in thousands of devotees from all over the country. Centered on the wooden image of the town’s patron, the Nuestra Señora de la Purificacion y Candelaria (Our Lady of the Candles), it is considered one of the biggest festivals in the Western Visayas region. If the grand parade and multi-million cock derby are not enough to interest you, perhaps the image’s legend will. History has it that the image was found by a fisherman along the banks of the Iloilo River. The statue was too heavy that no one was able to carry it until the townsfolk decided to bring it to the Jaro Church. Considered miraculous, they say the statue has grown from a foot to 6 feet since it was found and locals claim that it is still growing!
Paoay, Ilocos Norte
The quiet town of Paoay in Ilocos Norte comes alive as the locals celebrate the Guling-Guling Festival, a celebration centered on street dancing and merrymaking. The Ilocanos (locals) don their traditional costumes and take to the streets to entertain spectators through folk dances. The festival is also a great time to taste local delicacies such as binugbog and duldol which are both made from rice flour. Basi, the local wine, is also a popular beverage that must be tried. While you’re in town, don’t miss the chance to have your photos taken with the famous Paoay Church in the background.
The word Tsinoy is coined from two words: Chinese and Pinoy (Filipino). It is the local term referring to Filipino-Chinese residents of the Philippines and Fiesta Tsinoy is centered on these members of society. A large number of Filipinos have Chinese origins and the City of Legaspi in Albay celebrate their rich culture and traditions as a prelude to the Chinese New Year. Just like most Chinese festivals, Fiesta Tsinoy will be highlighted by a dragon/lion dance, parades and fireworks. There will also be interactions with feng shui experts and lucky charms for the Year of the Water Snake will be available. Whether or not you have Chinese blood, this festival will truly be a great alternative to attending the Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila.
Hot Air Balloon Fiesta
Angeles City, Pampanga
Fans of ballooning will surely take delight in the 18th Hot Air Balloon Fiesta to be staged in the Omni Aviation Complex in Clark. Aside from the hot air balloons that will dominate the hopefully clear skies, paragliders, skydivers and kites will also be part of this exciting event. The festival is a great time to take photos of the giant balloons and have clean good fun with family and friends. If you’re traveling with kids in tow, this event will certainly be something they will enjoy.
Filipinos are one with the rest of the world in the celebration of love during Valentine’s Day. Aside from the individual celebrations by couples, friends and families, some towns and cities hold larger events like the Festival of Hearts in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, Serenata in Pasay City and Blooming Hearts Day in Baguio City. Mass weddings, music and couples’ gatherings mark these joyous celebrations.
Aurora Day and Suman Festival
The picturesque town of Baler, Aurora celebrates the birth of the late First Lady Aurora Quezon in time for another grand event, the Suman Festival. Suman is a native delicacy made from glutinous rice wrapped in leaves. During the week-long fest, homes are bedecked with decorations made from suman and other native materials. The suman is shared between locals as an act of sharing their prosperity with others. There will be a float parade, pageants, food fairs and dancing.
Paraw Regatta Festival
Iloilo City, Iloilo
The beautiful city of Iloilo comes into the spotlight as colorful paraw (small outrigger boats) dot the sea during the regatta. Known as the largest sailing event in the country, this year’s festival will feature races, sports events, fireworks competitions, sport fishing competitions and pageants among others. Paraw Regatta Festival is Asia’s oldest traditional craft event. While you’re in Iloilo, don’t miss the chance to try out the spectacular dishes prepared by the soft-spoken locals!
Chinese New Year
Also known as the Spring Festival, Chinese immigrants and Filipino-Chinese residents in the Philippines pull out all stops to welcome the Year of the Water Snake. The entire country, especially towns with sizable Chinese and Tsinoy populations will be celebrating. Binondo, Manila will be alive with merrymaking as well as with stores selling all sorts of trinkets and amulets that bring good luck. Tikoy, a Chinese sticky cake, will be shared with family and angpaos (small red envelopes containing money) will be given away to attract more wealth. Fireworks and dances will also be staged during the festivities.
Bago City, Negros Occidental
Babaylan is the local name for a spiritual leader, seer, healer and shaman who derive their powers from unseen forces. They are mostly women who are esteemed in their own communities. The Babaylan Festival is centered on old rituals on harvest, healing, childbirth, baptism, marriage and other aspects in the community which they practiced even before the arrival of the Spaniards. The festival aims for preserve this unique facet of Filipino heritage.
International Bamboo Organ Festival
The bamboo organ in Las Piñas is considered a National Cultural Treasure and every year, the people of the city celebrate the presence of such one-of-a-kind musical instrument. Now on its 38th annual run, the International Bamboo Festival features local choirs as well as foreign musical artists. Due to wear and tear, the bamboo organ is no longer functional but its cultural and historical importance endures. If you’re a fan of music, this festival may just be your cup of tea.
If you are fond of oysters, you will not regret making the trip to Zamboanga Sibugay just in time for the Sibug-Sibug Festival. Centered on the rituals of healing, marriage and good harvests, the festival features ethnic dancers in vibrant costumes. Zamboanga Sibugay is known to be the country’s number one producer of juicy and meaty oysters and there will be cook fests and record-making long grills with the shellfish as the main item. Aside from the merrymaking and seafood overload, you can also enjoy the many wonderful attractions and beaches in the area.
Mindanao Dive Congress/Fiesta
Davao City, Island Garden City of Samal
Mindanao is teeming with excellent dive spots with thriving corals and rainbow-colored marine creatures. If you’re interested in underwater explorations, the Mindanao Dive Congress will give you valuable information on the best dive spots and let you experience for yourself the many and varied pursuits on and under the water available in Davao City and neighboring Samal Island. Scubasura, a clean-up drive will also be held to raise awareness. Dive lessons, aqua sports competitions and exhibitions will also be staged in this two-day affair.
People Power Anniversary
This is a National Holiday that commemorates the day the Philippines got worldwide attention as the people revolted against the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. People Power symbolizes the strength of the Filipino as they faced the threat of tanks and armed soldiers to oust Martial Law and restore democracy lead by Mrs. Corazon Aquino, the late mother of the current president Benigno “PNoy” Aquino. Celebrations of the anniversary include solemn rites in national monuments, state dinners and in urban areas, protests by activists in the streets.
A great excuse to escape to the colder weather of Baguio City is its annual flower extravaganza which is officially known as the Panagbenga Festival. Now on its 18th year, the festival draws in thousands of local and foreign tourists who come not just to witness the grand parade of floats and dancers but also to see the entire city bloom with so many flowers. This year’s theme will be “A Blooming Oddysey” which will fit every visitor’s intention to journey to the highlands. Don’t forget to sample and bring home their sweet strawberries and peanut brittle!