Fancy dancing in the streets in a festival in the Philippines with painted faces on? Ever imagined riding a tuna parade float?
These are only some of the many ingenious ways that the people of the Philippines do to have fun and take pride in what they have. Festivals in the country are too much to count for a person to attend it all, but there are a lot of celebrations that have garnered a crowd following over the years.
Major characters that are present in the colourful and famous festivals in the Philippines are religion, food specialties and skills expertise, all of which show the ever-so-popular sunny disposition of the Filipinos.
The Filipino people are a spiritual bunch. When the Spaniards set foot in the Philippines hundreds of years ago, they brought with them the Christian religion. In a town, city or province wherein Roman Catholicism dominates the community, more or less it has a patron saint being celebrated in the place.
A lot of spiritually-inclined festivals are dated on the birthday of that particular saint. Some days have been unanimously agreed upon regardless of specific date significance. The grandiosity of the celebration ranges from a simple barangay get-together to a nationally-acclaimed street party that becomes a tourist activity on its own.
One example of the latter is Aklan’s Ati-atihan Festival which is celebrated in honor of Sto. Nino or the Infant Jesus.
Aside from religion, festivals also highlight a destination’s food specialty. Take for example the Tuna Festival in General Santos City where they have an abundance of this protein-packed fish. Lastly, festivities that put the exceptional skills of the people in spotlight are also numerous to mention.
Let me characterize the colorful and famous festivals in the Philippines:
- Cultural – These festivals celebrate harvest, arts, culture and food.
- Religious – These festivals commemorate Biblical figures and saints.
- Modern – These festivals are relatively new and showcase advancements in all aspects.
Month by month, let’s look at the different characteristics of the festivals in the Philippines, and let’s attempt to answer when, where and why these celebrations are being held.
List of festivals in the Philippines according to months:
Festivals in January
SINULOG FESTIVAL – Third Sunday of January
The Sinulog Festival is a cultural and religious festival held in Cebu City in honor of the Sto. Nino or the Child Jesus. It is characterized by its colourful dance rituals that depict the reception of the Filipinos towards Christianity.
Traditional costumes are displayed in action in street performances, with the highlight being a St. Nino figure being danced around. At night, all roads lead to lively concerts and parties.
PROCESSION OF THE BLACK NAZARENE – January 9
One of the largest religious festivals in the Philippines is the Procession of the Black Nazarene happening every year in Quiapo, Manila.
This is done in honor of a black Jesus Christ statue that is over 200 years of age. During this festival, the pilgrims walk barefoot while parading the religious figure in the streets and back to the church.
ATI-ATIHAN FESTIVAL – Third Sunday of January
Another religious festival dedicated to Sto. Niño is the Ati-atihan Festival in Kalibo, Aklan.
People go to the streets to parade their faces and bodies painted black. Crafted weapons are swayed to the beat of drums, provoking the watching crowd to dance with the performers on the streets. Before you go, practice the famous chant of the dancers and shout: ‘hala bira!’
Another popular fiesta dedicated to Sto. Niño is the Fiesta ng Tondo and Pandacan in Manila. So whether you are in Aklan or in the capital, these fiestas are definitely not to miss!
DINAGYANG FESTIVAL – Fourth Weekend of January
In Iloilo City, people celebrate the Dinagyang Festival, a religious festival honoring Jesus. A mascot called Dagoy makes rounds and puts the people in celebratory mood.
Two of the events you should not miss are the Miss Dinagyang beauty pageant and the street dancing competition.
Festivals in February
PANAGBENGA FESTIVAL – Whole Month of February
A cultural festival in celebration of flowers in bloom are held every February in Baguio City.
Panagbenga is a Kankanaey term which means ‘season of blooming.’ The Panagbenga or Flower Festival is widely known for its elaborate flower parades competing against each other. In a deeper sense, the festival is being held to remind everyone how Baguio City rose up after the tragic 1990 earthquake that crippled the place.
Nowadays, a lot of the flower floats get celebrities from show business to serve as eye catchers and vote charmers. You can enjoy this Panagbenga Tour and enjoy the flower power of the North.
HOT AIR BALLOON FESTIVAL – Third Week of February
The Hot Air Balloon Festival is a modern festival that happens in Clark, Pampanga showcasing different hot air balloons.
Be amazed as you see massive balloons of different designs float in the Philippine sky. This is one of the unique festivals in Luzon that attract thousands of tourists every year. You can join this Hot Air Balloon festival tour from Manila to see this colorful attraction firsthand!
Festivals in March
MALASIMBO MUSIC ARTS AND FESTIVAL – Two days in March
Malasimbo is a modern festival showcasing culture and art of the Mangyans in Mindoro in the most festive way possible. It is one of the festivals in the Philippines which promotes environmental conservation through education and charitable actions.
There is music and art, food and culture – all dosed with a party vibe.
Festivals in April
MORIONES FESTIVAL – During Holy Week
In Marinduque, a religious festival called the Moriones is being held as a way of dramatizing the life of a Roman soldier. Partakers of this event are said to be doing self-cleansing by way of wearing the Moriones costume while making mischievous acts anonymously throughout the neighborhood.
A character called Longinus plays a vital role in this dramatization which lasts for one week. Longinus was the Roman soldier who pierced the side of Jesus during the crucifixion.
Festivals in May
PAHIYAS FESTIVAL – May 15
Lucban, Quezon celebrates a cultural Pahiyas festival every May in honor of San Isidro Labrador.
He is the patron saint of farmers, therefore houses are clad with artistic installations using fruits and vegetables. A colorful rice paper called ‘kiping’ must also be utilized in the beautification of the facades. The best designed homes are given awards and prizes during this festival.
People who come and visit can eat all the food and desserts prepared by the hosts in every corner of the province. You can join this Pahiyas Festival tour to see this colourful fiesta!
OBANDO FERTILITY RITES – May 17 to 19
Held in Obando, Bulacan is a unique religious festival in the Philippines that has a particular mission – to bring children to childless couples. Devotees would dance on the streets to ask favor from three saints: San Pascua, Nuestra Senora de Salambao and Santa Clara.
Once their prayers are answered, many believers come back and dance for another time to give thanks to the saints. People can also come and join the dances even in the absence of shared motives.
FLORES DE MAYO – Whole month of May
The month of May is dedicated to Mary the mother of Jesus, and a religious festival is celebrated to show this. Flores de Mayo features a ritual called Santacruzan where chosen ladies parade in evening gowns representing different queens.
Whoever is Reyna Elena is regarded as the most important of all. This festival is not unique to just one city but is celebrated everywhere in the Philippines.
Festivals in June
PARADA NG LECHON – June 24
Lechon in Filipino is ‘roasted pig’, therefore this cultural festival is a celebration of Balayan, Batangas’ and the whole country’s love for lechon. During this festival, the pork is displayed and designed for onlookers to judge and taste.
This celebration coincides with the feast of St. John the Baptist, a festival where people get soaked in the streets in honor of John’s baptism ritual.
PINTADOS FESTIVAL – June 29
Another religious and famous festival in the Philippines is the Pintados-Kasadayan in Tacloban City. The participants paint their bodies in shades of blue and green, colors that are a reperesentation of their ancestors.
Body art take over the stage, signifying the brave warriors that once fought for the city. Pintados, too, honors Sto. Nino in its Spanish-inspired dances.
Festivals in July
SANDUGO FESTIVAL – July 1
The Sandugo is a cultural festival in Bohol commemorating the first treaty between Spain and the Philippines. ‘Dugo’, which means blood, is the main highlight of this treaty, because Datu Sikatuna and Captain Miguel Lopez de Legaspi did a blood compact to seal their peace treaty.
Like many festivals in the Philippines, Sandugo holds competitions in street dancing, songwriting and beauty titling.
Festivals in August
KADAYAWAN FESTIVAL – Second Week of August
A cultural festival that celebrates the harvest season in the Philippines, the Kadayawan takes place in the city of Davao.
Students wearing traditional ethnic clothes walk the streets and dance to the tune of traditional rhythms. Trade fairs and exhibits showcasing the rich produce of the country also takes place.
Festivals in September
TUNA FESTIVAL – September 3
The Tuna Festival in General Santos City is a cultural festival highlighting the main produce of the city – tuna.
There is a “Parada sa Dagat” or Parade of the Ocean where people engage in street dancing and float making. Other activities that make this fiesta one of the vibrant festivals in the Philippines are the tuna culinary competition and the search for Miss GenSan.
Festivals in October
MASSKARA FESTIVAL – Fourth Sunday of October
Masskara Festival is a giant cultural fiesta happens in Bacolod City every October where, despite trying times, everyone is encouraged to wear a smile – as in a painted mask.
Complete with colorful carnivals, food gardens and beauty competition, this celebration is one of the most famous festivals in the Philippines. The Masskara Festival’s main highlights are the masked street performers bringing life to the streets with their upbeat dances. Travellers wanting to take colorful photographs of the life in the country must not miss this fiesta.
Festivals in November
HIGANTES FESTIVAL – November 22 – 23
Higantes is one of the bizaare festivals in the Philippines. It is a religious and cultural festival celebrated in Angono, Rizal in lieu of the patron saint of fishermen, San Clemente.
During this season, giant people that are up to 12 feet tall and are made out of papier mache are paraded in the streets. Homeowners open their humble abodes to visitors for a day of eating and sharing stories.
Festivals in December
GIANT LANTERN FESTIVAL – Second Saturday of December
Ligligan Parul or the Giant Lantern Festival is a cultural festival celebrating big Christmas decorations that light up San Fernando, Pampanga.
These lanterns showcase the creativity of Filipinos on a whole other level, with many of them using ingenious materials that speak of the race’s sense of inventiveness. This is undeniably one of the most colorful festivals in the Philippines.
Found anything that teased your brain?
It’s high time you experience the festivities firsthand!
Have you been to any of these festivals?
Share your travel experience in the comment box below.
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Everything ZanyTravel Blog
Everything Zany Travel Blog exploring the UK and beyond. Sharing travel guides, tips, history and culture. Our travel media brand is founded by travel and hotel industry expert – Ryazan Tristram, a Dual Citizen (British – Filipina) based in Birmingham, UK. Everything Zany is a reputable and award-winning travel blog. Our work and contributions have been featured in Huffington Post, CNBC, Discovery Channel, GMA, Readers Digest, and Lonely Planet. Our missions are to build a great travel community and resource of travel tips, visas and travel guides for travellers. Join us as we travel around the UK and beyond with a mission to share the best of the world.