12 Festivals in The Philippines That You Shouldn’t Miss
The Philippines is a country known for its rich cultural heritage and vibrant celebrations. Throughout the year, various festivals take place across the archipelago, showcasing the country’s diverse traditions, history, and religious fervor. These festivals are an integral part of Filipino culture, drawing locals and tourists alike with their colorful parades, traditional performances, mouthwatering delicacies, and lively atmosphere.
In this article, we will take you on a journey to explore 12 of the most captivating festivals in The Philippines that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Get ready to immerse yourself in the cultural tapestry of this beautiful nation!
I know most are itching to go out and explore but with the pandemic still raging, travel plans are largely on hold for the foreseeable future. But for future reference, here are the top 12 festivals in the Philippines that you shouldn’t miss!
1. Sinulog Festival in Cebu City, Cebu
When: 3rd Sunday of January
Kicking off our list is the Sinulog Festival, held in Cebu City every January. This grand celebration honors the Santo Niño (Child Jesus) and commemorates the Filipino people’s conversion to Christianity. The highlight of the festival is the vibrant street parade, where participants don traditional costumes and perform choreographed dances to the beat of drums and lively music. The streets come alive with a sea of color as devotees and revelers join in the joyful procession. The magnificence of the festival made Filipinos, as well as fellow Asians, refer to it as the “Mother of all Festivals”.
2. Ati-Atihan Festival in Kalibo, Aklan
When: January (3rd Sunday)
What is it: The Ati-Atihan Festival in Kalibo, Aklan is one of the most vibrant and iconic festivals in The Philippines. This week-long celebration is a colorful display of music, dance, and traditional costumes. The festival, which takes place in January, draws thousands of locals and tourists alike who gather to witness the reenactment of the historic meeting between the Ati indigenous people and the Malay settlers. Participants, with their faces painted black and adorned in vibrant tribal attire, dance joyously to the beat of drums and traditional music, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.
The Ati-Atihan Festival is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of The Philippines and a must-see for anyone seeking an immersive experience of the diverse festivals in the country.
3. Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City, Iloilo
When: January (4th Sunday)
What is it: It is a mixture of culture and religion. Among the common themes of the performances during Dinagyang are the pagan rituals of the Ati tribe and the introduction of Catholicism, represented by relics of Señor Sto Niño in all forms and sizes. In its early years, Dinagyang was a parish celebration where natives covered in ash danced in the streets, adopting the Ati-Atihan of Aklan. Now, the celebration has evolved to feature joyous performers in colorful costumes, dancing to the beat of the drums while chanting “Hala Bira” with the crowd.
4. Panagbenga Festival in Baguio City
When: February (4th week)
The Panagbenga Festival in Baguio City is a spectacular display of colors and blooms that adds a vibrant touch to the festivals in The Philippines. The festival was named “Panagbenga”, a Kankanaey (native language in the province of Benguet and Mountain Province) term which means “season of blooming.” Held annually from February to March, this month-long festival celebrates the city’s cool climate and the blooming of its flowers.
The highlight of the festival is the grand floral parade, where floats adorned with intricate flower arrangements and street dancers dressed as vibrant flora and fauna gracefully move through the streets. The festival also features various activities such as street dancing competitions, landscape exhibits, and a vibrant market showcasing local handicrafts and delicacies.
The Panagbenga Festival is a feast for the senses, captivating visitors with its mesmerizing floral displays and joyful atmosphere. It is a must-see event for those seeking to immerse themselves in the beauty and festivities of The Philippines’ diverse cultural celebrations.
5. Moriones Festival in Marinduque
When: Holy Week, March or April (Holy Week – Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday)
The Moriones Festival in Marinduque is a fascinating cultural event that adds a unique touch to the festivals in The Philippines. Held during Holy Week, this religious festival attracts visitors from far and wide. Participants don colorful costumes and intricately carved masks depicting the Roman soldiers known as “Moriones.” The festival reenacts the story of Longinus, a Roman centurion who became a convert to Christianity. The vibrant processions and dramatic portrayals of biblical scenes create a mesmerizing atmosphere.
The Moriones Festival not only serves as a religious commemoration but also offers a glimpse into the history, artistry, and devotion that define the festival culture of The Philippines.
6. Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon
When: 14 May to 15 May
The Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon is a vibrant and visually stunning celebration that showcases the creativity and agricultural abundance of The Philippines. Taking place every May, this festival is a dazzling display of colorful rice decorations adorning houses, called “kiping.” The kiping, intricately cut and shaped into various designs, are displayed along with other agricultural products like fruits, vegetables, and handicrafts. The festival also features street parades, traditional music, dances, and a grand procession.
The Pahiyas Festival is not only a time of thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest and in honor of the patron saint of farmers, San Isidro de Labrador but also a showcase of the artistic talents of the local community. It is a must-visit event for those seeking to witness the beauty, creativity, and cultural richness of the festivals in The Philippines.
7. Parada ng Lechon in Balayan, Batangas
When: 24 June
The Parada ng Lechon in Balayan, Batangas is a mouthwatering spectacle that adds a delicious twist to the festivals in The Philippines. Celebrated every June, this unique festival showcases a colorful parade of roasted pigs, locally known as lechon. Each lechon is beautifully decorated and displayed on intricately designed floats, parading through the streets to the delight of locals and visitors. As the tantalizing aroma of the succulent lechon fills the air, participants also engage in traditional dances and music, creating a festive atmosphere.
The Parada ng Lechon not only celebrates the culinary heritage of Batangas but also offers a delightful and gastronomic experience for all who attend. It is a true feast for the senses and a must-visit event for food lovers exploring the festivals in The Philippines.
8. Pintados Festival in Tacloban City
When: 29 June
The Pintados Festival in Tacloban City is an enchanting celebration that showcases the rich cultural heritage of The Philippines. Held annually, this festival pays homage to the region’s history and the tattooed warriors known as “Pintados.” Participants don vibrant body paint, representing intricate designs, and engage in vibrant street dancing, parades, and beauty pageants. The festival not only captivates visitors with its mesmerizing displays of artistry and movement but also provides a unique opportunity to delve into the traditions and stories that have shaped the region.
The Pintados Festival stands as a testament to the resilience, creativity, and cultural diversity found throughout The Philippines’ festival scene.
9. Kadayawan Festival in Davao City
When: August (3rd week)
The Kadayawan Festival in Davao City is a vibrant and colorful celebration that showcases the bountiful harvest and cultural diversity of The Philippines. “Kadayawan” is derived from the Dabawenyo word “madayaw” which means good, valuable, or beautiful. Held every August, this week-long festival is a grand showcase of indigenous cultures, traditions, and the rich natural resources of the region. The streets come alive with street dancing, floral floats, and a dazzling parade of different ethnic tribes adorned in their traditional attire. The festival also features agricultural exhibits, trade fairs, and various competitions highlighting the region’s abundant produce and local delicacies.
The Kadayawan Festival is a joyful celebration of thanksgiving and a testament to the harmonious coexistence of different cultures in The Philippines. It is an experience that immerses visitors in the vibrant spirit and cultural heritage of Davao City and a must-visit event for those seeking to explore the diverse festivals in The Philippines.
10. MassKara Festival in Bacolod City
When: October (Highlights on 4th Sunday)
Bacolod City, known as the “City of Smiles”, hosts the MassKara Festival in October since 1980. The festival originated as a response to a period of economic and political crisis, aiming to uplift the spirits of the Bacolodnons. Participants wear smiling masks adorned with colorful costumes and dance in the streets to the rhythm of lively music. The festival is a symbol of the Bacolodnons’ resilience, optimism, and love for art and culture.
11. Higantes Festival in Angono, Rizal
When: 22-23 November
The Higantes Festival in Angono, Rizal is a captivating cultural celebration that adds a larger-than-life element to the festivals in The Philippines. Taking place every November, this festival pays homage to the town’s artistic heritage and showcases the enormous papier-mâché figures known as “higantes.” Towering up to 12 feet tall, these vibrant and intricately crafted giants parade through the streets, accompanied by lively music and energetic street dancing.
The Higantes Festival is a true spectacle, drawing locals and tourists alike who marvel at the creativity and craftsmanship displayed in each larger-than-life higante. It is a celebration that embodies the artistic spirit and cultural pride of Angono, making it a must-see event for those exploring the diverse festivals in The Philippines.
12. Giant Lantern Festival in San Fernando, Pampanga
When: 14 Dec to 20 Dec, or (month long)
Also known as “Ligligan Parul” is an annual event that takes place during the month of December, which is the Christmas season in the Philippines. The Giant Lantern Festival Competition that takes place in mid-December is the main highlight of the festival. This is a competition between the creators of giant lanterns. The annual festival, which earned for Pampanga the title “Home of Giant Lanterns” and the distinction as the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.”
The Philippines is a country that knows how to celebrate, and these 12 festivals offer a glimpse into the rich tapestry of its culture and traditions. From the lively street parades and colorful costumes to the mouthwatering delicacies and warm hospitality, each festival provides a unique and unforgettable experience. Whether you’re a local or a traveler visiting The Philippines, these festivals should be on your must-see list. So, pack your bags, immerse yourself in the vibrant celebrations, and create memories that will last a lifetime in the colorful tapestry of The Philippines’ festival scene.
These are all on my bucket list, and seeing each of them in person feels incredible. After learning (and enjoying) a lot, you realize how little you know. It’s almost as if you’re getting to know a friend better. And with that… #BucketList ticked!
Have you ever been to a festival? How did you find the experience? Would you be interested in seeing one here in the Philippines? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.