Philippines Travel Guide / Information

philippines festivals

Best Philipinnes Festivals

Filipinos are known for their great heritage and storied history. People of the Philippines continue to celebrate and showcase their unique culture. Here is a list and description of some of the best festivals that go on in the Philippines during the year.

Antipolo Pilgrimage – Every May people of every age make the voyage to Antipolo singing a native song of joyous picnics and refreshing mountain springs. “Tayo na sa Antioplo, at doo’y maligo tayo, sa batis na kung tawagin, ay Hi-Hi-Hinulugang Taktak, at doo’y kumain, ng mangga, kasuy at balimbing, kaya’t magmadali ka at, tayo ay sumama sa Antipolo.”

Antipolo is a quaint town that is 45 minutes away from Manila in the province of Rizal. The shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, also known as the Virgin of Antipolo is found in this beautiful town. Just outside the town is the Hinulugang Taktak, a soothing waterfall that is a popular attraction.

Ati-Atihan – The resounding cry of “Hala Bira! Hala Bira!” soars in the air as the Kaliboian (Aklan) people and visitors –all dressed in eccentric costumes– spin in the streets in a mesmerizing mass of shaking and dancing. Bongos are played, whistles blowing, clapping hands, and feet stomp play out the beat of the Ati-Atihan, the biggest fiesta in the Philippines.

This festival is celebrated on the third Sunday of January in Kalibo, Aklan in honor of the Santo Niño or Infant Jesus. The name is derived from the word Atis, which is the name of the aboriginal Negritos in the area.

Baguio Flower Festival – Also called the Panagbenga Flower Festival, it occurs once a year in February and is a delightful attraction. Similar to the Macy’s Day Parade, their floats are decorated with a dizzying array of abundant colorful flowers and travels down Session Road, all the while being cheered on by the crowds on the sides. This is a festival full of fun and good humor, if you visit Baguio in February you have to see it for yourself.

Carabao Festival – The festival is held on May 15th on the feast day of San Isidro in the farm towns of San Isidro (Nueva Ecija), Angongo (Rizal), and Pulilan (Bulacan). The three towns pay homage to the lowly carabao (domesticated water buffalo) –the beast of burden and farmer’s best friend. Early that morning every farmer brings his merrily dressed and well groomed carabao to the church yard, where the priest blesses them by sprinkling them with holy water. Once the ceremony is over, the farmer’s show off their carabao by parading them around the town. At the height of the events they are lined up and get ready to race each other across the fields. Once the signal goes, the roaring sound of hooves can be heard as they charge to the finish line. Once across the finish line, the carabao come to a halt and kneel, at this sign the priest comes to bless them a final time.

Christmas – the happiest and longest of all the festivals. In the Philippines Christmas starts on December 16 and ends on the first Sunday of January (feast of Epiphany). On the days before Christmas day, church masses (Misa de Aguinaldo or Simbang Gabi) start at 4 in the morning. Once mass is over everyone hustles over to the small stalls that sell fresh rice cakes and native delicacies with hot cups of tea. Noche Buena is when families dine together on Christmas Eve. The symbol of Christmas is the Parol or lantern for the Philippines. It is the visual expression of the imagination and creativity of the mind. Typically you see displays of these creative lanterns lighted at night.

New Year ’s Eve is celebrated by everyone making as much noise as they can by blowing horns and whistles, beating cans and pans, and setting off firecrackers until midnight. At midnight they then dine together for Media Noche.

Fagfagto – In the Mountain Province the Bontocs enact this annual ritual and is connected with the annual harvesting and planting of the camote crop (a variation of sweet potato). This is a mock battle where two groups hurl rocks and stones at each other. It is the belief that the warrior who gains sufficient wounds from this battle will reap plenty of camotes in the next harvest. The bigger the bumps, bruises, wounds on the head, the bigger their crop will be.

Hari-Kaya Puasa – Honoring the Ramadan (the Muslim fast lasing 29 days), Hari-Kaya Puasa is a thanksgiving feast that is celebrated on the first day of the ninth lunar month in the Muslim calendar (February). This festival is a fast-breaking holiday that begins with the enthusiastic beat of a drum, signaling the end of the Ramadan.

Holy Week – With the Philippines being the only Christian nation in Asia they celebrate the passion and death of Jesus in a big way. During Holy Week there are many celebrations, here is a list of the major ones:

Moriones Festival is held in Marinduque, an island at the southern end of Luzon. This festival is a distinctive Lenten display. The name Morion refers to the “visor” or “mask” that is on the top part of traditional medieval Roman armor and covers the face. Traditionally carved from dapdap wood, the masks are the central point of the celebration. Everyone roams the streets during the week dressed up and masked like ancient Roman soldiers. This ritual is a reenactment of the Legend of Longinus, Roman centurion that drove his spear into Jesus Christ. At the height of the festival is the pugutan (beheading ceremony) at noon of Easter Sunday.

Obando Fertility Rites – “Santa Clarang pinong-pino, Ang pangako ko ay ganito, Pagdating ko sa Obando, Sasayaw ako ng pandanggo” is a spirited song that is rife with meanings to the childless mother who, want to share the pleasure and fulfillment of motherhood, on their pilgrimage to Obando. Bulacan holds this small town along the banks of Angat River. This festival is held on May 17-19th in honor of its three patron saints: San Pascual Balyon (a 16th century shepherd that became a model of religious virtue and danced his prayers), Lady of Salambao (she gained her name due to the fact that the image of the Immaculate Conception was brought out by a fisherman using a salambao net), and Santa Clara (patron saint of the childless). The thing that makes this festival unique from the other festivals in the Philippines is that the dance is performed in the streets by childless women. Holding their hands up in the air, they sway and swing wildly to the Santa Clara melody.

Penafrancia Fluvial Festival – the festival begins with a nine day novena (successive prayers), and on the ninth day, typically on the third Saturday of September, a fluvial procession is set into motion. The Virgin Mary image is transported on a barge and followed by thousands of devotees in boats. Those who stand on the river banks shout “Viva la Virgen!” as the image passes them by.

Quiapo Fiesta – is the feast day of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo Church on the second
Tuesday of January. After the mass, the famed statue of the Black Nazarene (carved in Mexico in the 18th century) is secured on a golden carriage and taken in procession around the district, with thousands of devotees contributing.

Santacruzan – is the ultimate of the Maytime festivals. It is in commemoration of Saint Helena’s discovering the cross and is a novena procession. She was known as the mother of Constantine the Great. This procession does vary from the other religious processions since it does not parade the typical images of patron saints. For a change the historical and biblical characters are shown by the locals dressing up as them. Some of the more colorful characters are:

    1. Abogada –dressed in a graduation toga, representing the law
    2. Banderada –the lady in red carrying a small Philippine flag
    3. Bearded Methuselah –he rides in a cart where he is seen toasting grains of sand in a pan on a fire.
    4. Queen Sheba –who was overwhelmed by Solomon’s riches, power and wisdom upon her visit to his city.
    5. Reina Mora –garbed in a Muslim costume, this person represents Muslim Filipinos
    6. Reina Fe (faith), Reina Cardad (charity), and Reina Esperanza (hope) –these people carry symbols of their saint’s virtue
    7. Reina Sentenciada –walks with her hands bound showing that she was convicted for a crime
    8. Renia Justicia –carries the scales of justice
    9. Reina Judith –holds the heald of Holofernes
    10. Renina Esther –who upset the plot to destroy the Jews
    11. Renina Elena –walks under a awning of May flowers and cadena de amor with Principe Constantino beside her. Following her is the image of the Virgin Mary
    12. Samaritana –carries a jug on her shoulders, representing the Samaritan that Jesus spoke to at the well.
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      Sinulog Festival – is one of the largest and more colorful festivals with a rich history. It is held each year on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City. The festival honors the Santo Niño (infant Jesus) whom used to be the province of Cebu’s patron saint. This is basically a dance ritual where Filipino people remember their pagan past and their acceptance of Christianity.

Tengao – (rest day) is celebrated by the people of Ifugaos, Kalingas, and Bontocs in June or July. This festival has no specific date due to the fact that the Council of Elders proclaim Tenago. During this festival Cañaos (feasts) are held and everyone must observe the rest festival.