10 Most Popular Festivals in the Philippines

Filipinos celebrate their cultural diversity through festivals. It’s a time when they can give gratitude towards their patron saints. 

Plus, it serves as a way for them to continue these traditions while welcoming the changes brought by time.

It’s common for a Filipino fiesta to have ethnic performances, theatrical plays, various contests, and a lot of food. As such, it’s no wonder why tourists from all over the world will come to witness and experience these week-long celebrations.

Stick around to learn about the 10 most popular festivals in the Philippines.

Most Popular Festivals in the Philippines

Below are some of the most popular festivals that are celebrated throughout the year:

1. Sinulog Festival (Santo Niño Festival)

Sinulog Festival is an event that brings honor to Santo Niño (Child Jesus). Cebu City celebrates this every third Sunday of January.

They conduct the festival through a dance ritual. It tells the story of the Filipino people’s acceptance of Christianity when the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan arrived in Cebu. One of his three baptismal gifts to the island’s inhabitants was a Santo Niño.

So, the festival’s theme—from street decorations to the performers’ costumes heavily relies on the look of a Santo Niño. During the celebration, people dance in the street the “Sinulog” way. The Filipino word means “graceful dance,” which represents the moves of a “sulog” or a river’s current in Cebu.

Aside from the street performances, the festival includes art exhibits, beauty pageants, and singing contests.

When is it celebrated?

On the third Sunday in January. Over time, this festival has evolved to being celebrated for up to a month at a time.

2. Dinagyang Festival

Iloilo City celebrates Dinagyang Festival on the fourth Sunday of January. It usually follows Sinulog. This fiesta is a religious and cultural celebration of the locals’ devotion to Santo Niño. It started when the Parish of San Jose, Iloilo, received a replica of the Santo Niño in 1968.

Dinagyang has three major events: Ati Tribe Competition, Dagyang sa Calle Real, and Miss Iloilo.

First, the Ati Tribe Competition showcases the province’s rich cultural heritage through a choreographed dance performance of Ilonggo “warrior” dancers. 

On the other hand, Dagyang sa Calle Real basically means merrymaking in Calle Real. It’s a historical street in the downtown district of Iloilo. You’ll often find people dancing barefoot, drinking, and enjoying themselves.

Lastly, Miss Iloilo is a beauty pageant whose winner will become the city’s ambassadress of goodwill.

When is it celebrated?

On the fourth Sunday in January, right after the Sinulog Festival

3. Ati-Atihan Festival

The Ati-Atihan festival happens every third Sunday of January in the province of Aklan and Kalibo. The locals celebrate and bring honor to the town’s patron, Santo Niño.

Additionally, it celebrates the Bornean Datus barter with the Ati Chief for land. They followed the exchange with a banquet filled with dancing, singing, and a feast.

So, when the Ati descendants left the area, the people decided to memorialize the celebration. Since they wanted to replicate the physical appearance of the aboriginal natives, they smeared their selves with soot. In fact, this is where the festival got its name.

Ati-Atihan starts with a formal mass, followed by a procession escorted by dance parades and rhythmic drumbeats. 

The following day begins with a rosary procession, a community mass, and a dance parade. On the last day of the festival, a competition between tribes occurs where they vie for the prizes and the tourists’ attention.

When is it celebrated?

Held annually in January, and lasts for about a week.

4. Panagbenga Festival

Panagbenga Festival is a month-long flower festival celebrated every February in Baguio City. The Kankanaey term “Panagbenga” means “season of blooming.” As such, this event boasts the luscious flowers that grow in the province.

Considering that it’s a month-long celebration, the province conducts various events daily. It starts with a grand opening parade, followed by a landscaping competition and exhibition.

There are cultural shows, painting exhibitions, and kite-flying challenges. Additionally, there’s a grand float parade where they showcase the various flowers in the city.

Every Sunday, there’s a Panagbenga Showcase wherein different activities happen. Painting, musical performances, you name it, they have it!

They cap off the festival during the first Sunday of March with an awarding and closing ceremony, as well as a fireworks display.

When is it celebrated?

Annually in February, and typically lasts for an entire month.

5. MassKara Festival

Bacolod, Negros Occidental, observes MassKara Festival every fourth Sunday of October. This festival aims to uplift the spirits of the locals. 

It’s because, during the 1980s, the province faced extreme hardships. Since they heavily relied on sugar as their primary source of livelihood, the effects brought about by the sugar crisis significantly impacted them. On top of that, a maritime accident that resulted in the loss of the lives of 700 Negrenses happened.

So, the Mayor of the province decided to liven up the spirits of the people by celebrating their resilience despite the adversities they faced. As such, they started wearing masks, which oftentimes have smiles on their faces.

Mass means many, while the Spanish word “Kara” means “face.” Thus, the portmanteau “MassKara” means “face of the masses or a multitude of smiling faces.”

The festival features a parade of masked people dancing and gyrating to the rhythm of Latin musical beats. There are activities, too, such as carnivals, bugle corps competitions, beauty pageants, food festivals, and much more.

When is it celebrated?

Every 4th Sunday in October.

6. Pintados Festival

Pintados Festival happens at Tacloban, Leyte during the 29th of June, which is the Feast Day of Señor Santo Niño de Leyte. Aside from celebrating the feast, this event commemorates Filipinos’ pre-colonial tattooing tradition.

Spaniards used the term Pintados, which means “painted people.” It refers to the Filipinos with tattoo art covering their bodies. 

However, the tattoos aren’t just body decorations—they serve as their symbol of bravery. As such, the person with the most tattoos on their body is the bravest.

Multiple events take place during the festival. There’s the Festival of Festivals of Leyte, Ritual Dance Presentation of Pintados, and the Pagrayhay (celebration for the Grand Parade.)

The festival of festivals of Leyte showcases the small-scale festivals that each municipality celebrates. Moreover, the Ritual Dance Presentation of Pintados is the performance of folk dances by tattooed people.

When is it celebrated?

Every 3rd week in March.

7. Moriones Festival

Moriones is a festival that happens during the lenten season of Marinduque. It’s a vibrant festival that tells the story of the Passion of Christ.

The festival’s performers put on a morion mask, which looks like a Roman soldier. Additionally, they put on tunics that the soldiers once wore.

Along with the re-enactment of Christ’s suffering on his way to Calvary, some men inflict suffering upon themselves by whipping their backs. Some carry a wooden cross, while others crucify their bodies as an atonement for their sins.

The festival also features the recitation of Christ’s passion in verse. Plus, women exchange verses based on the Bible as they stand in the wake of the dead Christ. This activity is what they call Santo Sepulcro.

Overall, the Moriones festival significantly shows how dedicated Filipinos are to their religion and beliefs.

When is it celebrated?

During Holy Week, from Palm Sunday to Black Saturday.

8. Pahiyas Festival

Pahiyas is a celebration of a bountiful harvest. The locals of Lucban, Quezon, treat this event as a way of giving honor to Saint Isidore the Labourer. They celebrate this every 15th of May.

Pahiyas used to be a pagan festival before becoming an exuberant event. The local parish priest encouraged the farmers to bring their harvest to the church for blessing. Otherwise, they’ll experience famine, drought, and bad luck.

Eventually, the townspeople kept the ritual alive by exhibiting their harvest in front of their homes. Instead of bringing everything to the church, the parish priest would come to every house and bless their crops. 

So, the Pahiyas festival showcases the harvest of local farmers. The residents decorate their homes with vegetables, fruits, rice wafers, and other produce. After the festivity, they’ll exchange goods to ensure that none would go to waste.

Aside from colorful houses, there’s also a procession that features performers wearing colorful outfits. On top of that, there are harvest carts carried by carabaos. Of course, people serve plenty of pancit habhab, which is the province’s delicacy.

When is it celebrated?

May 15th.

9. Higantes Festival

Angono, Rizal celebrates the Higantes festival to express appreciation toward their patron saint, Pope Saint Clement I. The locals boast their giant inanimate characters made from paper mache or fiberglass that they showcase through a parade.

Back in the day, people used the Higantes as a form of agrarian protest because of the harsh treatment of hacienderos (landlords). They served as a way to mock the bad landlords during the Spanish colonial rule.  

Eventually, their craft served a different purpose–-to give honor to their patron saint.

So, you’ll often find Angono craftsmen making giant versions of notable officials, myths and legends, and even vegetables mentioned in the folk song “Bahay Kubo.”

When is it celebrated?

November 23rd.

10. Lechon Festival

The province conducts a plethora of activities like a parade where they showcase different lechon dishes. Water dousing is also common in this festival as it signifies the baptism of Jesus by Saint John the Baptist. 

Bystanders often get doused in water, although they’re free to take a piece of lechon while they’re participating in the parade. After the festivity, everyone will munch on the roasted pig, along with merrymaking on the streets.

When is it celebrated?

June 24th.

What Have We Learned?

These festivals indeed show how much religion plays a part for Filipino people. Plus, it showcases how the country creatively keeps its culture, tradition, and beliefs alive.

You’re definitely in for a treat if you’re able to attend any of these festivals. When planning your trip, be sure to carve out some space to see what they’re all about.

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