The month of March brings the promise of longer summer days to enjoy the sun, sand and surf in the many beach destinations in the Philippine Islands. Local students get anxious to end the school year, ready for their two-month break from schoolwork and daily routines. Everyone in the Philippines gets a little super-charged with the excitement summer brings.
March is high travel season in the islands. If you’re spending March in the Philippines, be prepared to wait longer in airports, bus/boat terminals and just about anywhere a line is present. A huge bulk of local tourists will come in droves to the beaches of Boracay, Puerto Princesa, Puerto Galera and Camiguin among others during Holy Week.
Just like other months of the year, March is packed with festivals and events to keep everyone entertained. If you’re thinking of coming to the Philippines during this time of the year, you might want to plan your visit around any of the following events.
DISCLAIMER: Some, if not most, of the festival and event dates are not yet finalized. They are just approximations based on the previous year’s celebrations. To get the exact dates, you may check each event’s websites.
Adam Lambert Live in Manila
SM Sky Dome
The Philippines is fast becoming a favorite of international superstars because of the welcoming crowds, wonderful food and natural beauty. American Idol has taken the world by storm and fanatic Filipinos have come to adore finalists of the competition. Fans of Adam Lambert (AI Season 8 runner-up) will be happy to know that he is coming to Manila to serenade and electrify the adoring crowd at the SM Sky Dome.
Araw ng Island Garden City of Samal
Island Garden City of Samal
What better way to spend summer but in a nice beach somewhere right? Well, that ‘somewhere’ might as well be the biggest resort island in the Philippines, Samal Island! This week-long celebration showcases the beauty and offerings of the island through cultural shows, tours and competitions. There will be several competitions in and out if the clear blue waters surrounding the islands. While in Samal, don’t forget to explore its many coral gardens and see the Monfort Bat Sanctuary where you can see at least two million bats. This bat sanctuary is a Guiness World Record holder.
Malasimbo Arts and Music Festival
Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro
Music and adventure make a heady combination; add a beautiful venue and you’ve got the perfect reason to head south of Manila to the popular beach town of Puerto Galera. The Malasimbo Arts and Music Festival is just on its third year but has gained quite a reputation not only in the country but also in the Asia Pacific region. The festival will be held at the foothills of Mt. Malasimbo, in the stunning terraced amphitheater overlooking the Puerto Galera bay. While you’re in Puerto Galera, make it a point to explore the underwater wonders of the area. Whether you just snorkel or dive, this will be a great experience for you.
If you have been to Boracay:, you will know what a paraw is. For those who are yet to visit the island, a paraw is a small outrigger sailboat that navigates the waters of Boracay or other islands in the Visayas. The province of Iloilo in Panay Island is home to the largest sailing event in a country, the Paraw Regatta. Now on its 39th year, the festival has since drawn tourists from all over the world who come not just to witness the boat race but to also imbibe in the local festive atmosphere. Events for this year’s festivities include a beauty pageant, the Samba de Regatta Music and Mardi Gras Competition and the Pinta Tawo body painting contest. The best activity in Iloilo is eating so go on a culinary adventure while you’re there. Don’t forget the famous La Paz Batchoy!
Kaamulan in Bukidnon
Malaybalay City, Bukidnon
Bukidnon is known as the Summer Capital of Mindanao, gaining much popularity because of its mild climate similar to that of Tagaytay in Luzon. Its capital, Malaybalay City comes alive with excitement as they celebrate the annual Kaamulan Festival in honor of the hill tribes of the province. Fun-filled activities are planned for this year’s festival: Tribal Olympics, Rodeo Night, Search for the Tribal Princess, Motocross competitions and the Kaamulan Ethnic Street Dancing Competition among others.
La Trinidad, Benguet
La Trinidad is famous for its strawberry picking farms and a visit to nearby Baguio City is not quite complete without checking them out. If you’re a huge fan of strawberries, now’s the best time to head to the cool Cordilleras! The Strawberry Capital of the Philippines might try to bake another humongous strawberry cake or prepare a giant bowl of strawberry salad. A trade fair will showcase different products made of the fruit including soaps, pastries and beverages among other things.
Sandugo Festival (Blood Compact Commemoration)
Tagbilaran City, Bohol
A long time ago, an unexpected friendship developed between Sikatuna the local chieftain of Bohol (then Bool) and Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, a Spanish conquistador. As a sign of their friendship, they performed the Sandugo or blood compact, a tribal ritual where each drank the other’s blood mixed with another liquid. No blood is involved in the present day commemorations so it’s a great reason to visit Bohol and perhaps spend a couple of days in the famous Panglao Island or see the cute tarsiers.
Araw ng Dabaw
Araw ng Dabaw is the perfect excuse to head down south to Davao City and experience the varied sights, sounds and flavors of the beautiful city. The city celebrates its charter anniversary with elaborate floral float parades, merry street dances and of course, tons of durian, mangosteen, pomelo and other fruits Davao is known for. It’s also the season for admiring and buying the Waling-Waling, known to the world as the Queen of Orchids. The entire first half of March will be spent in preparations for the event and there will be pageants, trade fairs, nightly food stalls and live entertainment.
Journey Live in Manila
SM MOA Arena
Famous American rock band Journey will be entertaining Manila fans in the sprawling MOA Arena. The band’s current lead vocalist, Arnel Pineda, is a Filipino hired after he was viewed doing amazing covers of their songs in YouTube. Locals will surely flock to the venue if only to admire Pineda and his amazing voice. If you’re a fan of Journey, this concert will be something you will not soon forget.
Lala, Lanao del Norte
Semana Santa (Holy Week)
As you might already know, majority of Filipinos are devout Catholics and Semana Santa/Mahal na Araw/Holy Week is a time for them to take a break from work to pray and celebrate their faith. As it happens, this period is also the busiest in most attractions and destinations in the country. Local families go on holiday and foreign tourists fly in because of Spring Break.
If you’d like to experience the religious side of this period, there are a number of places where you can immerse in the deep faith of the locals. The Calvary Hills of Iguig in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan Valley is a popular destination for devotees, with a massive concrete Stations of the Cross. In Cebu City, devotees partake in the suffering of Christ by trekking the Via Crusis (Way of the Cross) across 12 hectares of rolling hills. The Senakulo, a re-enactment of the passion of Christ before his death, is also something to see in most cities and towns.
As an annual tradition since time immemorial, Catholics celebrate the reunion of the Risen Christ and His mother on Easter Sunday. Highlights of this important Holy Week celebration is the “salubong” (translation: meeting) where devotees carry statues of Christ and the Virgin from opposite sides to the middle of the church as they reunite to the songs of children playing angels.
The little island of Camiguin in northern Mindanao is not just known for its pristine beaches, interesting underwater landscapes and hot springs. During Holy Week, thousands of pilgrims travel to the island to make the annual penitential trek through 64 kilometers going through towns and municipalities and uphill to Mt. Vulcan where the Stations of the Cross are situated. While in the island, take advantage of the relaxing hot springs and the beautiful beaches although it is inevitable to have a lot of people to share the places with. Don’t forget to buy boxes of the famous Vjandep Pastel!
The Manobo Tribe, considered the river people of Magpet, Cotabato give thanks for a bountiful harvest through a festival that showcases the local culture. The festival is held during Holy Week and is highlighted by several activities. Expect to see parades of natives in their traditional garb, tribal dances and cultural shows. This is an opportune time to see what this part of the Philippines has to offer. Just be sure to make the necessary arrangements to make your trip as safe and enjoyable as possible.
Still in conjunction with the Lenten festivities and observances, the province of Marinduque holds its annual re-enactment of Christ’s crucifixion and death. It is centered on the character of Longinus who according to the Bible stabbed Jesus and was later converted and beheaded. Moriones is highlighted with revelers dressed as Roman soldiers, wearing masks and going about town chasing everyone around. The towns of Gasan, Mogpog and Boac are converted into one large stage where the story of the centurions and Longinus unfolds. If you’d like a fun way to spend Holy Week without straying from religion too much, this festival is for you.