Filipinos are in no doubt happy people, and so it is no surprise that our calendars are packed with huge festivities. While most of these celebrations are concentrated in certain regions and provinces, fiestas in the Philippines are always open for anyone who just wants to have a good time. Besides promoting tourism, these festivals also remind us of the rich and diverse culture that our country has to offer.
If you're up for the festivities this 2020, check out below our rundown of some of the most popular festivals here in the Philippines that you wouldn't want to miss out on!
Feast of The Black Nazarene / Traslación
Perhaps the most popular religious tradition in the country, the feast of the Black Nazarene brings together devotees from all over the metropolis (and beyond) to participate in the annual reenactment of the icon’s solemn transfer to Quiapo Church. The dark-skinned, kneeling image of Jesus Christ is met by millions of devotees on the streets, all trying to touch it and receive its blessing and healing.
The feast honoring the Sto. Niño in Aklan is known for having participants who color their skin black, while wearing tribal gear as their costumes. "Ati-Atihan" translates to “be like the Aetas”, and the festival is said to be inspired by the pact between the local Negritos and the Maraynons from Borneo, who would put soot on their faces to show that they want to live in harmony with the locals. Meanwhile, legend tells the story of a fisherman who caught a piece of wood on his net and after using it as woodfire, found a charred carving of the infant Jesus Christ out of its ashen remains. The icon was said to be miraculous and its story has since tied the festival to the Sto. Niño.
January 19 (Grand Parade)
The Sinulog Festival is known for its colorful celebration with the image of Sto. Niño at its center. Besides the religious meaning of the festivities, some of the much-anticipated events of the Sinulog are the street parties and the grand parade, which is packed with beautiful parade floats and Cebuanos clad in costumes that pay homage to the Sto. Niño. Beauty pageants and other competitions also give life to the celebration.
Like Aklan, Iloilo is also part of the Panay Island. Here's where the Dinagyang Festival is being celebrated. Dinagyang is Iloilo’s version of the Ati-Atihan Festival, with participants also dressed in tribal costume to commemorate the early inhabitants of the island. The word dinagyang is extrapolated from the Hiligaynon word dagyang which means “merrymaking”, something that is highly reflected in the celebration of the festival.
February 1 (Grand Opening Day Parade)
Panagbenga Festival is very well-known for its parade of floats filled with blooming flowers similar to those featured in Pasadena’s Rose Parade. It is a month-long celebration that reflects the history, traditions, and values of Baguio and the Cordilleras. “Panagbenga” is a Kankanaey term from South Cordillera which means “season of blooming”. Besides the floats are street dancers dressed in flower-themed costumes and other festive events.
This week-long celebration features penitents in masks and costumes depicting biblical Roman soldiers. It is derived from the term “morion”, a helmet used by the soldiers at the time.The penitents in colorful costumes would march in the streets during the lenten season and on Good Friday, they reenact the story of St. Longinus, the centurion who was blind in one eye and was healed by Jesus' blood, leading to the man’s conversion to the faith.
Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta
March 6 to 8
Carmona, Cavite (originally held at Clark, Pampanga)
The Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, which is held annually in Clark Pampanga, is set to happen at the San Lazaro Leisure Park in Carmona Cavite this year. The celebration showcases colorful hot air balloons with over a hundred pilots from all over the world. There are also awe-inspiring performances up in the sky that include skydiving, rocketry demonstrations, plane exhibitions, and more. The Lubao International Balloon and Music Festival is a similar celebration to be held at Lubao, Pampanga this year from April 3 to 5.
Flores de Mayo
The widely-celebrated Flores de Mayo is a much-awaited event in many local communities to honor the Holy Cross. The Santacruzan, held on the last day of the festival, features a parade of young ladies and their escorts under bamboo arches. They are to represent different historical and religious figures, with the most popular figure being Reyna Elena who is based on Queen Helena, the mother of Constantine The Great and the founder of the True Cross.
Lucban and Sariaya, Quezon
The Pahiyas Festival is to give thanks to San Isidro Labrador, the Catholic patron saint of farmers, for the bountiful harvest. The festival is known for its colorful, mostly edible decorations that include fruits, vegetables, root crops, flowers, and the very popular kiping, which is a rice wafer that comes in different bright colors.
May 17 to 19
The festival in Obando is a known celebration made to honor Santa Clara, San Pascual de Baylon, and Nuestra Señora de Salambao. The festival’s Fertility Dance is mostly joined by couples as an offering to Santa Clara, the patron saint of the childless. Others dance in search of a partner, farmers and fishermen dance to give thanks to the bountiful catch and harvest, while others join the dance just to take part in the festival’s merriment.
Parada ng mga Lechon Festival
The lechon is often the highlight of a Filipino food spread, so a whole parade of this favorite is a must-see spectacle. Being a delicacy of Batangas, the lechon is now being used to celebrate San Juan’s feast day. The roasted pigs are paraded with different decorations and even costumes that are sure to delight spectators. Cebu, which is hailed the 'Lechon Capital of the Philippines', holds a similar celebration every August.
Wattah Wattah Festival
San Juan City, Metro Manila
A celebration that’s all about making everyone soaking wet, the Wattah Wattah Festival is to honor the city’s patron saint, St. John the Baptist, who is known for baptizing Jesus Christ himself. During the festival, locals would soak anyone in sight using buckets of water, water hoses, and water guns. The local government also does its part by deploying fire trucks to douse citizens and travelers with water.
July 4 to 7
This river festival in Bocaue features a giant pagoda on top of a barge that sails over the Bocaue River. This is to honor the Mahal na Poon ng Krus sa Wawa, said to have been found at the middle of the river back in 1850. A replica of the said cross is also placed at the top of the pagoda. Devotees can then ride on the barge or sail alongside it in small boats.
Kadayawan sa Dabaw
Third week of August
Davao’s colorful festivity comes in the form of the Kadayawan Festival annually celebrated every third week of August, except last year when the Kadayawan became a month-long celebration. This festive event, then named Apo Duwaling Festival, started by gathering the different tribes from Davao and having them showcase their thanksgiving rituals. Today, the colorful celebration is more lively with grand floral floats and street parties.
The Gigantes Festival is famous for its giant papier mache figures of husband and wife. Measuring about 14 feet tall, the giants are to be carried on the shoulders of the participants who have made an oath to pay back a favor. A similar festival called Higantes is also being celebrated in Angono, Rizal every November 22 and 23. It is to honor their patron saint San Clemente I.
Third Sunday of September
Naga City, Bicol
This celebration is to honor the highly-revered patroness of Bicol, Our Lady of Peñafrancia. During its celebration, the image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is paraded in the main street of Naga City before it sails over the Bicol River for a fluvial procession. From its humble beginnings in the 1700s, the devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia has grown, having extended even to non-Bicolanos.
October; highlights on October 25
Bacolod City, Negros Island
As the name implies, what makes MassKara Festival different from the other local festivities are the masks worn by its participants. Having hailed as the City of Smiles, it is only fitting to see Bacolod’s annual fiesta be flooded by the lively people in colorful costumes and smiling masks. Like other local festivals, MassKara is filled with activities like dance competitions and parties.
Giant Lantern Festival
San Fernando, Pampanga
The town of San Fernando in Pampanga is known for their specialty in making decorative star lanterns, also known locally as the parol. Come December, the town holds the Giant Lantern Festival, which includes a competition for the best giant parol. Because of its popularity, San Fernando has been hailed the 'Christmas Capital of the Philippines' and the 'Home of the Giant Lanterns'.
Which of these festivals have you already been part of in the past?
(Note: This guide is not the complete list of all the 2020 festivals, and is created based on the official list of events and holidays of the Philippines. Others have been added and tweaked based on recent announcements from the dedicated website or social media page of a specific event.)