The Philippines is a bunch of blissful islands that celebrate almost everything in a flamboyant manner. Festival celebrations are fantastic in the Philippines and this is why It’s More Fun to explore each and every island. The festivals are more than just mere celebrations – vivid costumes, parades, music, food and processions depict historic traditions, Mexican and Spanish influences are very well displayed in the celebrations. The Filipinos experience great delight and exuberance in celebrating the festivals that depict their culture, season or numerous events that are reasons for joy and merrymaking. There are numerous festivals, almost one for every province, celebrated with great pomp and show. The top festivals and fair in the Philippines are listed below for your guidance. Hope you experience more than one during your trip to the Philippines.
1. Traslacion of the Black Nazarene (January 9)
January sees the festival of the Black Nazarene. It is the occasion when a life-sized image of a dark-skinned, kneeling Jesus Christ carries the Cross on Good Friday. It is actually the celebration while transferring the Black Nazarene statue from Intramuros to Quiapo. The Traslacion is actually a colourful, messy and a joyful affair that one should not miss during their visit to the Philippines. No doubt, it is one of the most enlivening festivals that not only climaxes the customs and history but showcases the religious side of the eastern kingdom as well.
- The routes of Translacion have changed over the years because of the structural incompetence and growing accidents on the old traditional route.
- The festival came from Mexico to the Philippines in 1606.
- The statue is carried on the carriage which has two large ropes that are pulled by the devotees.
2. Ati-Atihan Festival (January 15-21)
Ati-Atihan Festival is no doubt the most famous of all Philippine festivals. Iloilo’s Dinagyang Festival and Cebu’s Sinulog were inspired by the Kalibo celebration. The Ati-Atihan Festival is held each year on every third Sunday of January to honour Santo Nino (Infant Jesus). The celebration is differentiated by savouring and relishing Filipino delicacies, followed by lively music and traditional dance. Both religious and non-religious groups flock to the spot where the celebrations happen. Whether you are new to the region or returning to explore more, Kalibo Ati-Atihan is an enlivening place to enjoy the city and its fests. Do not miss it!
- Being a pagan festival, the Ati-Atihan Festival was meant to celebrate the Anito than Santo Nino, which is celebrated now.
- In 2019, the celebration will feature never-ending snake dance at the Magsaysay Park.
- The translation of Ati-Atihan means ‘to be like the Atis’.
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3. Sinulog Festival (January 21-28)
This is the country’s significant festivals held in Cebu, which is marked by a long parade by different participating groups in beautiful and colourful costumes, dancing to honour Santo Nino or Baby Jesus. Approximately 1 million people swarm into the region to witness cultural events, performances and drown in revelry. Apart from the religious rituals and traditions, the festival is recognized for its road parties, food, cultural events and a lot of historical elements. A picture of Jesus is said to offer blessings to everyone who becomes a part of the moment.
- The word Sinulog literally means, “like the water current” and is actually the name of a dance step.
- Apart from street dancing, the Sinulog Festival also includes a fluvial parade, a beauty pageant and a choral competition.
- Participants in the street dance competition come from all over the country.
4. Dinagyang Festival (January 26-28)
The Dinagyang Festival is among the most celebrated fest in the region and in 2019 it will be the 50th anniversary of the festival. This festival is also celebrated like few others to honour the Santo Nino. It’s also an award-winning festival and is considered as the best tourism event of the country. It displays the country’s rich heritage, vivid history, passionate enthusiasm and a high-spirited fervour of the Ilonggo people. The festival traces its past as an honouring gaiety towards Senyor Santo Nino – the Child Jesus. The acmes included a procession along the Iloilo River followed by a colourful parade accompanied by heart-pounding drumming and competition. The tribes perform streetdance covering the entire main street with spectators witnessing the grand events.
- The Dinagyang festival has been recognized by the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines.
- This festival has an official mascot known as Dagoy, a welcoming Aeta kid-mascot who stands 6ft 9in tall.
5. Philippine Hot Air Balloon Festival (February 8-11)
What was a mere adventure for both locals and visitors, became a national pride and got listed as one of the best festivals of Philippines. The Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Clark, Pampanga is generally held on a weekend displaying attractions like the hot air balloons, skydiving and some military aircraft drills. In 1994, the festival began with 10 balloons piloted by the professionals. From 1996 to 1998, the hot air balloon saw an immense escalation with mass participants and other adventures such as – skydiving, paragliding, kite flying, hang gliding and more. From 2004 to date, the festival lures more than 50,000 people from all over. Depending on the wind, the balloons take off from 5:30 AM and chased by children on the ground. You can enjoy the ride with tickets that are available.
- Many aerobatic and off-road driving exhibitions would be there.
- The Fly Market Fiesta within the premises has a variety of shops, food and beverages for the visitors. One can also buy souvenirs in there.
- The chief attraction of the festival is the Hot Air Balloon show that takes place during the sunrise and sunset.
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6. Panagbenga Festival (February 1 – March 10)
Famed as The Fest of Blooming Flowers, this celebration is for flower lovers. From February until the first Sunday of March, the month-long festival feature includes gorgeous boats made from various blooming flowers in different colours. Besides this, the festival also features bazaars, trade fairs and street dancing. The celebrations incorporate moving displays by artists in flower outfits with music in the background. The entire festival includes open parades, markets, trade fairs and a float parade. The festival first began in the 90s to encourage and inspire the people who were affected by an earthquake. It became highly successful and went on year after year without any hindrances.
- Panagbenga is a kankaney term that means a season of blooming which is a time of flowering.
- In 2017, the Panagbenga parade drew 2 million people to Bagauio.
- The Bagauio festival started in 90s to recover from the destruction of 1990 Luzon earthquake.
7. Bamboo Organ Festival (February 11)
The Bamboo Organ festival is quite different from regular festivals as it involves the celebration of the oldest bamboo pipe organ in the world. Known to be among the list of popular festivities, this festival is held annually in the St. Joseph Parish Church in Las Pinas. The festival gathers all the music lovers from the four corners of the world to enjoy a ravishing musical performance by expert organists. If this is not stimulating, nothing else can churn the interest of music lovers. This festival began as a tribute to the fading organ history that brought back love and passion for organ players and the instrument itself. Since inception, there was no turning back for this festival instead, it grew to greater importance and it is held for 10 days.
- More than 50 organists from around the world have participated in the festival in 2018. The festival includes renowned artists like Jennifer Pascual, Austria’s Martin Haselbock.
- The Las Pinas Boys’ Choir perform during event series.
8. Moriones Festival (March 25-31)
Those who wish to indulge in a truly memorable holy experience may head over to Marinduque for the Moriones Festival. The festival goers wear M masks can be found loitering on the streets during the Holy Week. Morion masks are wooden creations that are meant to look like Roman soldiers. The festival is usually a tribute of the half-blind soldier Longinus who pierced Jesus on the ribs. It is believed that when he used the spear, some blood drops fell into his eyes restoring his sight. Due to this experience, the soldier accepted Christianity. The festival sees people dressed as soldiers and the crucifixion is enacted which is witnessed by all. With such posh and pomp, this festival is considered as among the top 10 festivals in Philippines.
- Apart from morions, Holy Week celebrations in Marinduque also include flagellants like the ones in Pampanga.
- Pugutan is also a highlight of celebrations. It is a play that exhibits the life of Longinus, whose blind eye was healed when blood dropped on it from the Christ’s side.
9. Bangus Festival (April 6-30)
The Dagupan Bangus festival is known to be among the top three festivals in Philippines that is celebrated with vigour, enthusiasm and high-spirt. This festival is celebrated annually in the country to rejoice the milkfish-bangus so it has a festival of its own. Each year it is celebrated in April in the Dagupan city as it is the chief hub for bangus fish. The festivals begin by grilling thousands of bangus, which also became a world record. Other activities are street parades and several cooks displaying various ways to cook the fish. You can also admire the folk dance and taste the fish as well. This festival is so popular that it extends up to two weeks to promote the bangus industry and elevate sales and promotion.
- The festival started in 2002 and has evolved since then to become a two week socio economic series of events focusing on Bangus.
- The city won recognition from Guinness Book of world records for the organization of longest barbecue in 2003.
- As an interesting part of the celebration participants wear a bangus costume and cheer the crowd.
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10. Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival (June 29)
Celebrated as two separate festivals in earlier times, the Pintados and kasadyaan festivals have joined together to become important events in the Philippines. The Spanish people called the original people of Cebuano as Pintados as their bodies remained heavily tattooed. Kasadyaan is the Visayan word for merriment. Just like few others the Pintados-Kasadyaan festival also celebrates the Santo Nino. The festival sees a huge influx of local and international visitors to just come to marvel at the jovial event and admire the tattoos.
- Being the major festival of the town it has also brought together various festivals of the towns of Leyte. These festivals are the Buyogan Festival of Abuyog, Lingganay Festival of Alang-alang etc
11. Pahiyas Festival (May 15)
The Filipinos are known for their high-spirit, fun-loving nature and stunning creativity. Among the many festivals, the Pahiyas Festival is held in Lucban in admiration of San Isidro Labrador. The festival is celebrated with full zest and enthusiasm. The houses are decorated with vegetables, colourful fruits, handicrafts and kiping which is a decoration made with rice flour. The reason for this festival became famous when farmers offered their harvest at the base of Mt. Banahaw to honour their Lord. The priest would bless the farmers and in return, the farmers presented their offerings. Down the years, the festival grew to such importance that instead of keeping the harvest at the doorposts, people chose to decorate their home with the most amazing design.
- The chief attraction of the festival is the procession that is carried. Every house tries to beat their competitors in terms of decoration and design.
- Higantes are also part of the procession that makes it way from the town.
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12. T’nalak Festival (July 1)
There is no end to the most popular fairs and festivals in Philippines. Tnalak Festival commemorates the foundation ceremony of South Cotabato. The name Tnalak or Tinalak comes from the popular piece of woven clothing worn by T’Boli women. The cloth is woven in black and red with patches of leaf green. It is believed to be a motif as it signifies unity and strength. Spectators attending this festival are greeted with a rich and pulsating tradition through artefacts, dances and ethnic adorning. Other high-points include thrilling street parades, sports activities and competitions. You can also be a part of the Trade fair that will surely add to your holiday.
- The festival starts with float and cheer dance parade that entertains a lot. The dancers from different tribal groups of Mindanao are clad in their traditional clothing
- To support local industry the fairs and festivals are also a part of the festival.
13. Kadayawan Festival (August 13-19)
The festival that doesn’t take clues from Catholic belief is Davao’s Kadayawan Festival. The Kadayawan Festival initially offered thanksgiving to the Gods Manama and Bulan but nowadays it is celebrated as the Davao’s bountiful harvest. This worldwide famous fest is a weeklong event that showcases a variety of orchids and fruits and explains the meaning of ‘Kadayawan’ that means – everything is valuable. Signified as one of the lively festivals, enjoy the street performances, food stalls, dance competitions and floral displays.
- The parade of colourful boats must be surely visited.
- Sayaw Mindanaw is a dance competition that showcases different tribes from Davao City.
- There is also Miss Kadayawan beauty contest that provides visitors a glance of lovely and talented Davaoenas.
14. Tuna Festival (September 5)
If there is anything that you immediately link with General Santos City is its fresh fish, tuna and others. Many might not know that the Tuna Capital abides in the Philippines due to abundant tuna fish rearing and export. General Santos is illustrious as the ‘Tuna Capital’ and hence, they have a Tuna festival to celebrate. If you plan to explore the Santos City, be prepared to relish some amazing tuna preparations. The festival is the best time to enjoy the tunas as well as interact with the locals.
The Tuna Carnival, Tuna Culinary competition, Tuna Fiesta and Miss GenSan pageant are the part of the festival activities that make it stand out among the most popular festivals in Philippines.
- ‘Parada sa Dagat’, street dance and float parade are the highlights of the festival.
- Apart from this – dragon boat race, free runs and skim boarding is part of the festivities.
15. MassKara Festival (October 1-28)
From all over people fly to witness the MassKara fest and since Bacolod City projects itself as the City of Smiles, no wonder this city celebrates the MassKara festival. The city is full of tourists, locals and parade participants that are seen wearing masks with happy faces during the month of October. The word MassKara joins two words – many people and mask forming into the word – a multitude of faces. As already stated, being the City of Smiles, you can witness people wearing smiley masks and moving around in the city. This festival commemorates the city’s birthday and it is one of the most jovial festivals of all. The high-points are a street dance with colourful costumes, competitions, choreography and parade with a MassKaran Queen. People enjoy endless activities, music that will make anyone dance and food. Do not forget to carry your camera and be ready to click smiles.
- Street Dancing is the major limelight of the Masskara Festival.
- The Masakara Queen Beauty Pageant, food festival, musical concerts and sports events are some of the attractions of the festival that should not be missed.
16. Higantes Festival (November 22-23)
Legendary as one of the most interesting festivals of all, this fest is celebrated to commemorate San Clemente, the supporter saint of fishermen of the community. The name of the festival was derived from giant effigies which were made in paper mache and are the topmost attraction of the parade. During the mega-parade, the supporters also carry the statues and images of San Clemente. The giants depict people’s idea or character. This practice began when the locals made a dummy to display a stubborn landlord who was infamous due to his bad attitude and manners. Since then, the locals create paper mache to keep the trend alive.
- There are around 40 varities of higantes from each barangay that are displayed to lure the people who come to be a part of the festival. The tallest 12 foot high paper-mache giants are the major attraction of the fest.
- The Grand Parade of the Higantes Festival is held every third Saturday of November where people gather to watch the performance of participants from different schools and barangays.
17. Giant Lantern Festival (December 18 – January 1)
This is a unique festival in Philippines celebrates Parol, which is a symbol for Christmas and hence, there is altogether a different festival in its honour. The Giant Lantern festival entices people to come and visit Philippines during the time of this attractive fiesta that is ongoing since 1931 to date. The lanterns are totally spellbinding with vibrant colours and materials. This celebration is so popular, that San Fernando City is popular only as the ‘Christmas Capital’. Initially, the lanterns were made out of bamboo. However, as it rose to fame the lanterns became large and with several designs (more than 15 feet in diameter). Today it showcases electrical engineering and art. The lanterns are usually lit up at dusk and flown with the icy white moon in the background – well, it’s a sight to behold.
- A massive lantern is created in beautiful, vibrant colours by each barangay and is displayed in the Grand Lantern Festival. The prize is bagged by the most beautiful parol.