The Filipino culture is known to celebrate many things, no matter how little or simple the happenings are. This is proven by the number of festivals that happen in the Philippines throughout the year.
Here’s a fun fact: Filipinos love celebrations.
If you look at the Philippine tourism calendar, celebrations happen almost monthly. Some of these last for weeks, or even a month—all being celebrated for different reasons.
Many people would ask why the Philippines has so many festivals, and when did all of these begin?
For context, the Philippines is a predominantly Christian country—the only one in Asia. Before the Spaniards came to the Philippines, Filipinos practice animism (worship of spirits) through performing ceremonies for malevolent spirits. And when the Spaniards took over the country, the Catholic missionaries established fiestas in order to persuade others to convert to the Catholic Faith. This is why many of the festivals in the Philippines are associated with religion and are celebrated in honor of the patron saints of the city or province.
Today, fiestas in the Philippines are a merging of the practices from the Spanish clergy and the indigenous ritual practices.
Filipinos have amazing ways of celebrating. The streets are filled with colorful banderitas, and flowers where everyone—locals and tourists, dance in grand parades and celebrate together. Locals also welcome everyone: family members, tourists, and friends into their homes and are served with so many delicious food.
The festival experience in the Philippines is so unique that we really recommend visiting the country during the most colorful and highly celebrated fiestas!
So, if you’re planning to visit the Philippines soon, you can plan your vacation that coincides with some of the best festivals in the country.
Here are some of the Philippine festivals you shouldn’t miss!
Dubbed as the mother of all celebrations in the Philippines, the Ati-Atihan Festival in Kalibo is one of the oldest celebrations in the country. For over 800 years, the Ati-Atihan Fest honors the Infant Jesus (Sto. Niño) every third Sunday of January.
This fiesta, according to belief, was a thanksgiving celebration of the Atis for their new settlers as they saved them from famine. And when the Spaniards converted the Atis into Christians, the festival became a devotion to the Sto. Niño.
At the street parade, the locals dress up like their ancestors who are dark-skinned and frizzy-haired and dance in the streets with their colorful costumes.
The great thing about the Ati-Atihan festival is that no one is a spectator. Tourists are welcome to join the street parade and dance along with the locals in costumes, making it one of the most interactive galas in the country.
The Sinulog Festival, celebrated every third Sunday of January, is one of the most popular festivals in the country. Like the Ati-Atihan festival in Kalibo, the Sinulog is also in honor of the Sto. Niño.
The Sinulog began as a simple dance ritual over 30 years ago. The dance ritual is where people wear colorful costumes and dance in the streets of Cebu while carrying a figure of the Sto. Nino, which tells the story of the Filipino pagans accepting Christianity.
Today, Sinulog is now a month-long celebration in Cebu City, and it is visited not only by Filipinos but also by tourists around the world. It has many events like singing and dancing competitions, art exhibits, concerts, street fairs, and fireworks displays, and is culminated with the Sinulog Grand Parade.
The northern regions of the Philippines also has many festivals to offer its tourists, and the best example is the Panagbenga Festival in Baguio City.
Celebrated every February, the Panagbenga is a flower fiesta in Baguio City where the locals celebrate their new beginnings following the devastating earthquake that occurred in 1990.
Panagbenga literally means “a season of blooming” in the Kankanaey language and is a month-long celebration filled with flower-themed parades, street dancing, and dance festival. It’s such a grand celebration that most of the roads in Baguio City are closed during parades.
The Moriones Festival is a little different versus the aforementioned festivals because instead of a “festive” vibe, the festival in Marinduque possesses a more solemn vibe.
Celebrated during Holy Week, the celebration reenacts scenes from the Lord’s Passion and celebrates the life of Saint Longinus—the half-blind Roman soldier who speared Jesus’ body on the cross.
Locals are dressed as Roman soldiers during the Moriones and scare children. They also make a ruckus as a reenactment on the search for Longinus. Celebrating the Moriones Festival can be added to your list of places to go during the Holy Week. You can also reflect and serve penitence with the locals in the province.
The Philippines is still an agricultural country, which is why we have festivals to celebrate a successful harvest season.
The Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon, is one of the most colorful harvest festivals in the Philippines. Celebrated every 15th of May, the fiesta is when houses in the province are decorated with agricultural products like fruits and vegetables. Cultural shows, parades, and exhibits are held for all tourists and locals who visit Lucban during the fiesta.
The Pahiyas is a way of thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest and it is in honor of St. Isidore the Laborer, the patron saint of farmers.
Of course, Filipinos love food—so, there’s definitely a celebration for one of the country’s most famous delicacies.
The Parada ng Lechon (roasted pig parade) is celebrated every June 24, coinciding with the feast day of St. John the Baptist.
The fest literally parades a huge number of roasted pigs (lechon) across town. The lechon are dressed up in very unique costumes and placed in floats. They’re wrapped in plastic, though, so no one can steal a bite from the world-famous Filipino food.
And when you’re heading to the Parada ng Lechon, make sure you’re ready to get wet. Since it is also the feast of St. John the Baptist, locals celebrate by splashing water on unsuspecting tourists and locals. So, bring a raincoat and water guns to join in the fun!
From the City of Smiles, Bacolod City in the Visayas region is the MassKara Festival that is celebrated every fourth Sunday of October.
The MassKara is dubbed the Festival of Smiles, as the purpose of this event was to eliminate the sadness and grief caused by many tragic events—including the price drop of sugar cane, Bacolod’s primary agricultural crop, due to foreign alternatives—in the 1980s.
The month-long fest’s highlight is where the locals and tourists wear bright costumes and smiling masks as they dance in the streets. There is also the MassKara Street Dance and Arena Competition, Masskara Queen Pageant, and other events like fireworks displays, concerts, and a lot more.
Being one of the most celebrated fiestas in the country, attending the MassKara festivity is a one-of-a-kind experience.
The list above is just the tip of the iceberg of what the Philippine Festivals have to offer!
Remember that many tourists and locals visit during the fiestas. In fact, in 2018, there were 7.1 million international tourists that visited the Philippines. So, it would be best to plan smart and as early as possible to make the most of your vacation. See you at the next fiesta!