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5 Famous Festivals in the Philippines You Can’t Miss This Year
Celebrated cultural events to watch out for and attend as you plan out your year of travel
The Philippines’ cultural calendar is never without its festivals. It’s here where locals and tourists alike can revisit parts of the country’s long and storied history; what’s in store includes traditional dances, customs, food from centuries ago, and so much more, all reflecting the Philippines’ vibrant culture.
Whether you’re interested in soaking up the local culture, experiencing long-held Filipino traditions, or simply want to have a good time on vacation, these festivals are the ticket. Here, you have plenty of opportunities to pay witness to, what is at their core, events that are truly Pinoy. Take a look ahead to check out the festivals in the Philippines you shouldn’t miss this year.
5 Famous Festivals in the Philippines to Catch in 2023
While nearly every province in the country boasts its own slew of festivals, there are major commemorative events you can keep in mind and start out with. From the colorful Ati-Atihan in Aklan to the grand MassKara festival in Bacolod, there’s something for everyone to enjoy at the following key events.
#1: Sinulog Festival
Cebu City, Cebu – January 6 to 15
Full of street parties, historical plays, and parades, the Sinulog Festival offers an array of visually stunning forms of entertainment for anyone who attends. The important thing to know about Sinulog, however, is that the Santo Niño is its central image. And these traditional processions and dances are linked to religious devotees’ hopes of being blessed by the Santo Niño.
Some speculate that the festival commemorates the Santo Niño statue left behind by Ferdinand Magellan, too. Others claim, however, that it’s a celebration of the recovery of Baladhay, an advisor of Cebu’s Raja Humabon, who danced to the religious image and then whose illness was alleviated. Either way, the dance survives today, still captivating all who attend the Sinulog festival.
The entire festival leads up to the Sinulog Grand Parade, ending with the various dance groups’ final performance at the Cebu City Sports Complex. (Organizers televise the event, so there’s no need to worry about missing out.)
#2: Ati-Atihan Festival
Kalibo, Aklan – January 7 to 15
A list of Philippine festivals would be incomplete without the mention of the Ati-Atihan Festival. The week-long, city-wide fiesta boasts dance parades, floats, and masses and is a must-see for locals and anyone visiting the Philippines.
The festival (previously called the Fiesta de Santo Niño) is a native celebration that the Catholic Church injected with Christian significance in the 17th century through the use of the image of Jesus as a child. The current festival, named after the Ati people whose dark skin inspired the tradition of black body paint, commemorates when they offered aid to Malay immigrants.
When you attend the Ati-Atihan, don’t expect to be just an observer. The festival is highly interactive, inviting all visitors to join in the frenzy and the various events that involve prizes. The festival culminates on a Sunday with a massive parade of people and floats with depictions of Santo Niño.
#3: Pahiyas Festival
Lucban, Quezon – May 15
The Pahiyas Festival highlights local products and artwork from the province of Quezon. In the days leading up to the fiesta, people decorate their homes with gorgeous displays of produce and handicrafts to show their appreciation for the bountiful harvest granted to them as they also offer dishes made with local ingredients.
The main event tends to highlight artwork featuring a carabao pulling along carts and floats along the main street accompanied by a large procession commemorating the patron saint of farmers, San Isidro de Labrador.
The festival’s origin story involves Spanish priests building a church in Lucban in the 15th century and having the local farmers bring their crops there to have them blessed. As the town and its people’s productivity grew, the church became too small to accommodate everyone’s crops for blessing. Farmers then began leaving their harvests in front of their homes for the priests to bless as they passed by. The tradition grew to what it is today: a grand celebration of the creativity and productivity of the locals.
#4: Kadayawan Festival
Davao City, Davao – August 14 to 20 (tentative)
There’s nothing that celebrates the country’s diversity quite like Kadayawan. At this highly-anticipated event, different tribes in Mindanao showcase their traditional dances, outfits, and products to celebrate their culture with everyone else.
Kadayawan originated from a practice of local tribes where they give thanks for a bountiful harvest. Much like today, people would display their crops while singing and dancing. This tradition continued, and the local government continues to encourage it to promote cooperation and peace.
Here, visitors get to enjoy performances and beauty contests while sampling Davao’s best food. Something to watch out for, in particular? The festival’s highlight: the Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan. This is a massive dance parade where each participant tries to outperform the other in an explosion of color, sound, and movement.
#5: MassKara Festival
Bacolod, Negros Occidental – October 22
The most eye-catching and unforgettable feature of the MassKara Festival is the extravagant and colorful masks everyone wears. Throughout the day, you can expect to attend beauty pageants, concerts, and trade fairs, all showcasing the unique talents of the locals. The event peaks in a dance competition where participants show off their skills and the designs of their costumes.
Considering this bright and energetic event, you might be surprised to learn about the festival’s sad origins. In response to a ship collision and the region’s primary export depreciating, the local government founded the MassKara Festival to raise the locals’ spirits. The event, in essence, originally set out to highlight the resilience of Filipinos and their ability to smile despite tragic circumstances.
Experience Philippine Culture
With thousands of islands and over a hundred ethnic groups, there are a ton more festivals featuring unique histories and traditions in the Philippines that are worth highlighting.
If you want to experience the different festivals in the Philippines for yourself, make sure to stay connected while traveling. Take advantage of Globe’s prepaid and roaming promos so you never lose connection when on the go.