By Cynthia David
The Philippines consists of 7,641 tropical islands, with a diverse group of people. You can experience a celebration the whole year round in the many islands of the Philippines.
A festival or commonly known as a “Fiesta” is part of the Filipino culture. Each city or province has a local fiesta. Being a very religious centered country, a fiesta is commonly about the celebration of a city or province’s patron saint or of harvest. There is a fiesta going on at any time in the Philippines. A fiesta is a special time with a banquet for kin and friends. They are always colorful and unique. Like most Asian countries; the Philippines is rich in culture and tradition.
There are all sorts of activities such as games, contests, procession and a parade that serve as the highlight. It takes weeks or even months to prepare for a fiesta, surprisingly both the rich and poor make the same amount of effort in preparation; during a fiesta everyone is equal. The fiesta — always colorful, always accompanied by music, feasting, and camaraderie — is of importance on a town’s calendar.
Festivals are one of the reasons why local tourism is growing; tourists who experienced these festivals keep coming back to see more. Popular festivals attracts millions of tourists and have become a major source of income for some areas.
Notable festivals include the ATI-ATIHAN in Kalibo, AKlan during January. It commemorates the 13th century land deal between 10 migrating Bornean chieftains and the aboriginal Ati King Marikudo. It also honors the town patron, the infant Sto. Niño. The ceaseless, rhythmic pounding of drums get to you, and before you know it you are on the street, shuffling your feet, shaking your head, waving your hands – and joining thousands of soot-blacked, gaily-costumed revelers in an ancient ritual of mindless merriment.
Cebu City celebrates SINULOG in January. It is the most popular festival in the country bringing millions of tourists every year. Characterized by its peculiar two-steps-forward-and-one-step-backward shuffle, simulating the Holy Child of the shores, the Sinulog is a century-old tradition. The prayer-dance is synchronized to the beat of drums and shouts of Pit Senior! Viva Sto. Nino!
Iloilo’s DINAGYANG is also held during January. Merry mayhem breaks loose in Iloilo City during this celebration. All inhibitions are dropped: boring everyday clothes are exchanged for Ati warrior costumes and black body paint. Shields and weapons are held amidst the pounding rhythm of drums, the costumed Ilonggos put their best feet forward in celebration of….Dinagyang!
The Philippines’ flower festival, the PANAGBENGA is held in Baguio during February and March. Revel in the cool climate and the rich culture of this mountain city. Multi-hued costumes are worn, mimicking the various blooms of the highland region (or any of its 11 ethnic tribes). These are flowerbeds – disguised, of course, as the Panagbenga parade floats.
The island of Marinduque prides itself in being the Lenten Capital of the Philippines, and it is easy to understand why. Come the seven days of Holy Week, the people of the island take part in the age-old ritual of the MORIONES. Colorful warrior costumes are worn, topped with finely carved masks depicting the fierce Roman soldiers of Christ’s time. All these are done to depict the story of the conversion of Longinus, the centurion who pierced Jesus’ side – and the blood that spurted forth touched his blind eye and fully restored his sight. This miracle converted Longinus to Christianity and earned the ire of his fellow centurions. The re-enactment reaches its climax when Longinus is caught and beheaded.
Flowers come out in May, but these aren’t the only things flaunted during this merry month. Down south in the town of Lucban, Quezon, there’s also the kiping – a colorful, translucent rice tortilla that serves as an edible ornament of sorts. The houses all over the town are decorated with kiping, fruits, vegetables and flowers where everyone can eat these decorations. You will see lots of these at the PAHIYAS Festival, an annual celebration held to usher in a bountiful harvest, and have smashing good times.
The popular FLORES DE MAYO or SANTACRUZAN, parades the town’s beautiful ladies in colorful gowns. This parade depicts the search and discovery of Christ’s Cross by Queen Helena and Constantine. This is held in almost all parts of the country.
KADAYAWAN SA DABAW, Davao’s annual festival, promises another weekend of fanfare and fun – tribal style. Watch as the festivities reach a glorious climax on Saturday morning: that’s when the Kadayawan parade is held, featuring colorful, orchid-bedecked floats and more than a dozen ethnic groups dancing to the beat of wooden drums. This is a celebration of Nature.
October is the Negros Island’s MASSKARA FESTIVAL, a carnival parade in which people wear colorful and smiling masks. The carnival spirit fills the air as masked participants donning fabulous costumes dance their way around the city’s main thoroughfares. This annual event reflects Bacolenos’ love for fun and gaiety. Coinciding with the city’s character day celebration, the festival features carnivals, fairs, and madri-gras style street dancing.
How about the LANUZA SURFING FESTIVAL during November in Surigao del Norte for people who love to surf.
CUTUD LENTEN RITES in Pampanga; is a popular and extreme show of penance for participants – some people are literally nailed at the cross emulating the death of Jesus Christ.
The wickedly sinful PARADA NG LECHON; Succulent roasted pork form the highlight of the occasion, decked out in their platforms with all kinds of decor.
Tacloban PINTADOS FESTIVAL, join the town residents as they deck themselves out in body paint, mimicking the warriors of old, while dancing to the frenetic beat of drums.
The biggest fluvial parade, the PENAFRANCIA VIVA LA VIRGEN in Bicol, is a 9-day fiesta of biblical proportions. Stay until sundown for a stirring climax: the fluvial parade as it makes its way down the river, surrounded by a sea of glowing candles – a fitting end of this truly spiritual occasion.
The FEAST OF SAN CLEMENTE / HIGANTES in Riza is a fiesta of gigantic proportions. This one is highlighted by a grand procession featuring the higantes, ten-foot paper mache puppets, surrounded by a crowd of drenched, water-fighting revelers.
Festivals happen every month in the Philippines. Hopefully one day you will be lucky enough to try to celebrate one of our festivals and for sure, you will ask for more!