All across the Philippines, fun-loving Filipinos celebrate a host of festivals for various reasons. The following are some of the most famous celebrations.
Ati-Atihan Festival – ends on the third Sunday of January; Kalibo, Aklan
The Ati-Atihan Festival is among the most famous festivals celebrated in honor of the Santo Niño. In fact, this celebration is so famous that it sparked the creation of other similar festivals, notably including the Dinagyang of Iloilo and the Sinulog Festival of Cebu. “Ati-atihan” literally means “to be like Aetas”, the natives of the area.
Primarily held in Kalibo, Aklan, the festival originated from the town of Datu Kalantiaw Batan, Aklan. There are also similar celebrations in Capiz, Antique, and other villages in Aklan. The festival is characterized by drum beats plus tribal music and dance by participants wearing colorful indigenous costumes while bearing “weapons” they use as props.
Sinulog Festival – third Sunday of January; Cebu
The Sinulog Festival is an adaptation of the Ati-atihan Festival. It is held in Cebu in honor of the Santo Niño whose feast is celebrated on the third Sunday of January. This colorful event is characterized by the use of drums, native gongs, and other percussion instruments to produce a distinctive rhythm. Dancers decked in bright-colored costumes dance to the beat. The festival had pagan origins but is now a recognized religious event.
Dinagyang Festival – fourth Sunday of January; Iloilo City
The Dinagyang Festival is also an adaptation of the Ati-atihan Festival and is held Iloilo City in honor of the Santo Niño. However, unlike the Ati-atihan and Sinulog Festivals, it is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of January. The festival is known for being the first one to ever have its own mascot, Dagoy. It also features the creative “dinagyang pipes” made from PVC. Mobile risers are also prominent in the Dinagyang choreography.
Feast of the Black Nazarene – January 9; Quiapo, Manila
The Black Nazarene is a wooden statue from Mexico believed to be originally created with fair complexion but got its dark color after surviving a fire enroute to the Philippines. This original statue is one of 2 statues but is the only surviving to this day. The Black Nazarene is believed to be miraculous, thus, drawing millions of devotees across the country who travel to Quiapo each year as part of their “panata”.
The Feast of the Black Nazarene is among the largest events in Philippine culture, drawing millions of devotees who flock the designated route of the procession. Often, the devotees do penance such as walking barefoot and try to get closer to the statue in hopes of wiping or touching even a part of the carriage for “miraculous powers” and good luck. The event is, sadly, also notorious for its many casualties every year.
Itik-Itik Festival – February 27; Pasig City
The Itik-Itik Festival literally translates to “duck”. This is often celebrated on the feast of the beloved patroness, St. Martha. This fun-filled festival is characterized by sumptuous food and colorful activities. The festival is held in Brgy. Kalawaan, Pasig City but is enjoyed by many residents of the city.
Panagbenga Festival - February 1 to March 1; Baguio City
Baguio City’s Panagbenga Festival is one of the longest celebrations in the country, officially starting on February 1 and ending on March 1 every year. This festival literally means “season of blooming” and is celebrated to showcase the flowers and agricultural products of the city. The festival’s main highlight is an amazing parade of floats decked in flowers, an event that is often likened to the famous Rose Parade of Pasadena.
Kaamulan Festival – Feb 15 March 10; Bukidnon
Kaamulan Festival comes from the Bukidnon word “amul” meaning to gather. It is an ethnic festival celebrating and showcasing the rich culture and tradition of the seven tribal groups of the province- Bukidnon, Higaonon, Talaandig, Umayamnon, Manobo, Matigsalug, and Tigwahanon. These seven ethnic tribal groups are the early/original inhabitants of Bukidnon.
One of the highlights of the celebration is the street-dancing competition held at the main street of Malaybalay City.
Rodeo Masbateño – March 1 to April 2; Masbate City
Rodeo Masbateño is unlike most of the festivals held in the country. In fact, this brawny celebration holds the distinction of being the only rodeo show held in Asia, earning the city the nickname of “Rodeo Capital of the Philippines”. The festival’s main event is the “figure of eight” competition but showcases a total of 10 competitive rodeo events, with women also allowed to join.
Parade of Festivals – March 1; Muntinlupa City
The Parade of Festivals is notable for showcasing a number of festivals. It is celebrated in Muntinlupa City to showcase the individual festivals of its barangays. The actual festivals featured in this event could vary, depending on the barangays that are participating. It may include the “Banyahan Festival” of Cupang and Buli, “Tumana Festival” of Tunasan, “Biyaya sa Bukid at Daga Festival” of Sucat, “Sambayanihan Festival” of Putatan, “Tulyahan Festival” of Poblacion, “Bulaklakan Festival” of Bayanan, “Kasaganaan sa Kinabukasan Festival” of Ayala-Alabang, and “Samahang Batya Festival” of Barangay Alabang.
Panagtagbo Festival – March 7, Tagum City
Panagtagbo Festival literally translates to the “meeting” or “gathering” of Tagumeños from all walks of life in a celebration that coincides with the annual fiesta. The event is characterized by various competitions, a beauty pageant, sportsfest, and parade.
Moriones Festival – Holy Week; Marinduque Province-wide
Moriones Festival is an annual religious festival held during Holy Week (starting Palm Sunday up to Easter Sunday) in my home province- Marinduque. During the Holy Week, the streets of Marinduque come alive with scary-looking masked people who are decked in a replica of the garb of biblical Roman soldiers. The festival re-enacts the seven-day search for Longinus. Men and women wearing mask and costumes replicating the looks of a Roman Centurion are called Moriones/Morions. They usually roams in the streets searching for Longinus, and also serve as their way of "Panata"(devotion) or "Pagpapahirap sa Sarili"(penitence). Moriones came from the Spanish root-word morion which means mask.
The highlight and final event of the festival is the Pugutan- a theater presentation featuring the story of Longinus - Roman centurion who was blind in one eye, was one of the soldiers present at Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. When Longinus plunged his lance into the side of Christ to check if He was dead, a drop of Christ's blood splashed onto his blind eye and its sight was restored. Later, according to some versions of the legend, Longinus was also one of the guards at Christ's tomb, and was a witness to the Resurrection. These miracles impelled him to convert to Christianity, earning the ire of the authorities and leading to his arrest and execution.
Binatbatan Festival of the Arts - First week of May; Vigan City
Vigan City is a World Heritage City known for its ancestral homes and delicious food. The Binatbatan Festival of the Arts showcases the talent of dancers in colorful woven cloth (“abel”) costumes as they sway to original “panagbatbat” dances along the beautiful streets of Vigan. “Batbat” is the term used for the beating process that is used to create “abel”. The “panagbatbat” dances are creative interpretations of how the locals are beating the cotton pods with bamboo sticks as part of the process to create the cloth.
Pahiyas Festival - May 15; Lucban, Quezon
The Pahiyas Festival is an ancient celebration and one of the best known harvest festivals in the Philippines. “Pahiyas” literally translates to “precious offering”, something that the locals give back to San Isidro Labrador. Houses and establishments across Lucban are decked with local agricultural harvests, including flowers, rice stalks, rice grains, and various fruits and vegetables. A statue of San Isidro Labrador is paraded along the streets.
Balangay Festival- whole month of May ; Butuan City, Agusan del Norte
Balangay or Balanghai Festival is a month-long celebration in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte (May 01- 31) to commemorate the coming of the early migrants that settled the Philippines, on board the Balangay boats. Balangay is a wooden boat used for cargo and looting purposes during early times. When the first Spaniards arrived in the 16th century, they found the Filipinos living in well-organized independent villages called barangays. The name barangay originated from balangay the Austronesian word for "sailboat”.
The highlight of the celebration is the grand parade and float display on the third Sunday of the month.
Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival – June 29; Leyte
The Pintados Festival celebrates the body-painting traditions of the ancient tattooed “pintados” warriors. In recent years, the celebration was merged with the Kasadyaan Festival to create a livelier, more colorful Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival.
Kadayawan Festival – whole month of August; Davao City
The Kadayawan Festival is among the most colorful festivals in the country, featuring a wide range of cultural presentations and backgrounds especially because of its ethnic origins. This is also a harvest festival, with trade fairs and ethnic shows featured throughout the month. Although fairs often last for the entire month, many of the events begin only after the “Panagtagbo” or the Opening Ceremony which marks its official start.
Highlights of this wonderful festival include the Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan which is often scheduled on the third Saturday and Pamulak Kadayawan which is immediately follows on the third Sunday. Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan features dancers in colorful costumes dancing to the music while Pamulak Kadayawan features floral floats such as those found in Baguio City’s Panagbenga Festival.
Bonok-bonok “Maradjaw, Karadjaw Festival” – September 09; Surigao City, Surigao del Norte
Bonok-Bonok Festival is an annual fiesta in Surigao City in honor of Saint Nicholas de Tolentino. Local "Mardi Gras" - street dancing and contingents' final presentations at the Grandstand of the City are the highlights of the celebration.
“Bonok-Bonok Maradjaw Karadjaw” means “Rain Showers, All the very best!” The Festival is reflection of Surigaonons rich cultural heritage and strong faith in God thru the intercession of Saint Nicholas de Tolentino- the city’s patron saint.
Bonok-Bonok dance traces its origin from Mamanwas- the natives of Surigao. During ancient times and until now the dance steps are performed by this tribal group during their wedding ceremonies, thanksgiving, worship, and celebrations. Similar to Negritoes in physical looks, Mamanwas living in Surigao del Norte are one of the oldest and still existing tribes in the Philippines.
Masskara Festival - October 19 to 22; Bacolod City
The Masskara Festival is a colorful celebration characterized by smiling masks worn by dancers and participants. Although the festival centers on the masks, “masskara” does not directly translate to “masks” as what is widely known or assumed by the people. The actual meaning of “masskara” is actually the fusion of “mass” which means a multitude of people” and “cara” which means “face”. This unique word was coined by the late artist Ely Santiago.
The festival features street dancing competitions participated by dancers decked in colorful costumes and smiling masks. They dance to the rhythm of Latin musical beats. The masks have changed from showcasing influences by native Filipinos to those that feature motifs from the Carnival of Venice and the world famous Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro.
Higantes Festival - November 5 to 23; Angono, Rizal
The Higantes Festival literally translates to “giants”, with Angono known as “The home of the higantes”. The actual figures of the higantes are made of bamboo; thus, creating the giant effect. These higantes are decked in colorful cloth and have faces made from paper mache. The original higantes were those that represent oppressive landlords in Spanish haciendas that the locals were protesting against.
In the early years of the festival, the higantes featured a family of 3: a father, mother, and child. Later on, the celebration included other higantes who are representatives of a barangay, the brainchild of the late Angono artist Perdigon Vocalan. Today, this colorful festival showcases several higantes paraded across the streets. The parade also includes an image of San Clemente resplendent in papal investment.
Follow TRAVELING MORION's Journeys and Travels