With 7,107 islands occupied by hospitable and fun-loving people, the Philippines is a country that holds hundreds of festivals all year round. On any given day, there is something going on somewhere in the archipelago, be it a feast for a patron, thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest or a commemoration of a historic milestone. What with the full calendar of festivals in different parts of the country, it is hard to decide which month is best for an adventure in the Philippines.
The most popular festivals in the Philippines are marked by vibrant colors, extravagant gaiety and exceptional food. Anywhere you go, you will be welcomed with colorful parades, huge floats, street dancing and festive moods comparable to that of Pasadena’s Rose Parade and New York’s Thanksgiving Festival Parade.
Here’s a list of some of the most popular festivals in the Philippines that might convince you to pack your suitcase and jump on a plane headed to the islands:
Known as a Queen of Festivals, the Sinulog is a grand festival celebrated on the third Sunday of January as a tribute to Cebu’s Patron, the Senyor Santo Niño. The streets of Cebu City are decked with colorful decors and loudspeakers that will very soon play the festive beats of native gongs, trumpets and drums. The grandiose procession of colorfully-costumed dancers and throng after throng of devotees stops traffic in almost all corners of Cebu City. The actual festivities last for nine days but the build-up and the aftermath of the Sinulog is something worth experiencing as well.
Made famous by the chant “Hala Bira!” repeatedly shouted by dancers as they stomp their feet to frenzied drumbeats, the Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo City is also something worth the trip. The festival is also a tribute to the Santo Niño but is held during the last weekend of January. It is a vibrant spectacle of colorful costumes, body paints and headdresses worn by dancers carrying the image of the Child Jesus as they shout “Viva Senyor Santo Niño!”
The Ati-atihan is known as the Mother of Philippine Festivals and fittingly so. It is also the wildest of all the popular festivals in the Philippines characterized by dancers and tribe members painting their bodies and faces with soot, wearing outlandish costumes and parading themselves in the streets of Kalibo, Aklan. The revelry lasts for two weeks, with its culmination held during the third weekend of January. This festival is a celebration for the Child Jesus and the Filipino people’s transition from being pagans into Christians. It also does not hurt that one of the Philippines’ prime beach destinations, Boracay is just around the corner.
Celebrated in the summer capital of the Philippines, this festival is marked by an explosion of colors due to millions of flowers that make up the floats during the spectacular parade. Baguio City, located in the Cordillera Mountains, celebrates nature for the whole month of February, with weekends being the most crowded periods. If the merrymaking is not enough to lure you to Baguio, perhaps its charming pine trees and cold temperature will.
Masked soldiers and centurions wearing colourful costumes mark this re-enactment of the story of Longinus during the time of Christ’s crucifixion. From Holy Monday to Easter Sunday, participants roam the streets of the island of Marinduque in search for Longinus, scaring children and drawing attention to themselves. The whole island becomes a stage for the tunic-clad soldiers during the season as part of its Lenten traditions.
Head down south to one of the safest and cleanest cities in the Philippines, Davao City, and experience what claims to be the King of Festivals, the Kadayawan. A celebration of good harvest, Kadayawan is a cornucopia of fruits, flowers and merrymaking that lasts for a week. It is also the season for durian which known as the king of fruits and is famous for its pungent aroma and sweet cottony meat. The celebration is participated in by the 11 tribes of Davao City who come down from their mountain lairs to showcase their cultural dances and vibrant costumes. The Kadayawan is held annually during the third week of August.
As part of Bacolod City’s celebration of its charter, it holds the ultra-colorful Masskara Festival during the weekend closest to October 19th. The festival is made famous by the attention-demanding masks of smiling faces, contributing to Bacolod’s well-deserved title as the City of Smiles. The celebrations are marked with food fests, art exhibits, trade fairs, band competitions, beauty pageants and even windsurfing contests.
There are more than a hundred reasons why people come to the Philippines and come back for more every year. The festivals, the food, the happy people and the exquisite beauty of the islands make for an exciting adventure for everyone of all ages and interests. Plan your visit during the festival months or stay for a whole year. Either way, you’re sure to have the time of your life.
Do you know of other popular festivals in the Philippines that ought to be on this list? Drop us a line in the comments box below and tell us about it!