The month of May is one of the merriest in the Philippines. Almost every weekend (if not every day), there is a festival or town fiesta held somewhere in the country. May is also the month of flowers all over the islands; Flores de Mayo, a popular religious activity involves the offering of flowers to the Virgin Mary for the entire month.
Flores de Mayo culminates in the Santacruzan, a pageant of lovely hand-picked maidens of the town dressed in grandiose garb reminiscent of the queens of old. Santacruzan is held in honor of Helena (known as Reyna Elena to Filipinos) and her son Constantine who together, found the cross where Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. Different grand Santacruzan parades are held all over the country throughout the month of May but those in Bicol and Batangas are some of the most visited.
No matter where you go in the Philippines in May, you’re sure to find an interesting event to witness, be it a cultural, religious or culinary celebration. You might even be invited to celebrate a fiesta by a complete stranger! Don’t worry, this is customary for Filipinos; gatecrashers who bear no ill will are often welcomed like old friends.
So here are some events and festivals to watch out for in May. Keep in mind that schedules may change and you are advised to check with local tourism offices for updates.
Pista’y Dayat is a festival of the sea centered on the Lingayen Gulf and its many blessings to the locals. Activities include concerts, pageants, a tourism exposition, races and other competitions. The culminating activity on May 1 will feature the Banca Parada which may include a dragon boat.
This is a national non-working holiday dedicated to laborers in the country, particularly those with blue-collar jobs. Expect the streets of Manila to be filled with people engaged in rallies and protests asking the government and their employers for wage increase.
Viva Vigan Festival of Arts
First week of May
Vigan, Ilocos Sur
Explore the historic city of Vigan in Ilocos Sur and experience what it is like to walk on cobblestone streets or ride horse-drawn carriages just like in the olden days. This week-long festival has several activities including street dancing, fashion shows, carabao parades, cook offs, stage dramas and Santacruzan.
Pulilan Carabao Festival
Water buffalos (carabaos) enter the spotlight in during this popular provincial event. In celebration of the Feast of San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of farmers, hundreds of dressed-up carabaos parade along the streets of Pulilan until they reach the town’s church. The highlight of the parade is the moment when the animals genuflect before the church.
The Pahiyas Festival is one of the most colorful events in the country, a celebration abundant harvest and a tribute to San Isidro Labrador. Participating houses are adorned with colorful kiping (thin rice wafers), handicrafts, vegetables and fruits. Parades of carabaos, dancers, bands and floats, and a fireworks display are also highlights of the festival. While in Lucban, don’t forget to have your share of pancit habhab!
Obando Fertility Rites
This yearly affair is important mostly for couples who are in desperate want of a child. Participants sensually gyrate to music made from bamboo instruments, carrying images of the Our Lady of Salambao, St. Paschal and St. Claire as a supplication for new life. The parade ends in the celebration of the Holy Mass.
National Flag Day
Filipinos pay homage to the Philippine Flag, the symbol of their freedom not just from foreign rule but also freedom to do what is right for the country. The first Philippine Flag was hoisted and unfurled on May 28, 1898, two weeks before the declaration of Independence by President Emilio Aguinaldo on June 12th in his home in Kawit, Cavite.
May is indeed a fun-filled month for Filipinos. Yes, we’re a naturally merry race but we go all-out during our fiestas. Are you coming to any of these events? Let us know in the comments below.