FEAST OF THE BLACK NAZARENE,
Thousands of devotees yelling “Viva Señor!” flock to Quiapo, Manila every 9th of January to join the huge procession led by the Black Nazarene, an antique hand-carved statue of Jesus Christ, which was brought to the Philippines from Mexico in the 17th century. Devotees believe that touching the black Nazarene brings miracle such as healing and conclusion to their personal problems.
On the 3rd Sunday of January, head to Kalibo, Aklan for the Ati-atihan Festival. Be prepared to wake-up early morning to join the procession at 4am and devotees’ mass at 5am. The celebration lasts for three days and Novena masses give way to drumbeats and the parades are filled with dancing townsfolk. There is no bystander here. Festival participants create their own Ati-look by wearing blackface “make-up” and tribal clothing to imitate the aboriginal “Ati” tribespeople and dance “to become like Aetas”. They say you have not experienced a Filipino fiesta unless you’ve been to Ati-Atihan.
On the 4th weekend of January, proceed to Iloilo for merry making during the Dinagyang Festival. An all day street dancing during Saturday is held and an Ati-Atihan Dance competition is held on Sunday. It is a colorful whirl of unique costumes, frenetic stomping of feet, and hypnotic drumbeating. A lot of festival enthusiasts believe that Dinagyang is one of the best festivals in the Philippines, and the Ati-Atihan dance productions found in Dinagyang are among the best in street dance festivals.
Also celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of January, SINULOG is a dance ritual in honor of the image of the Santo Niño. It is the largest and most attended fiesta in the country with a procession, street dancing competition, an all- day-long parade, and a frenzied party accompanied by the beating of the drums and revered chant of “Pit Senor!”. The participants’ dance step, two steps forward and one step back, resembles the movements of the river current from which the term sinulog came from.
Penagbenga, meaning “season of blossom” in the local kankana-ey term, is celebrated every last Sunday of February in Baguio. It is a month long celebration culminating with the parade of impressive floats made up of flowers. It also includes flower beauty pageants and street dancing inspired by the Bendian, an Ibaloi dance from the Cordillera region, by dancers clad in flower-inspired costumes.
Photo by: Dean Cuanso, www.watwatworld.com
Sweet, haunting sound of native music, ethnic food fest, trade fairs, and native dancing characterizes Kaamulan Festival in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. Held every first week of March, it is a celebration of the culture and tradition of the seven ethnic tribal groups namely Bukidnon, Higaonon, Talaandig, Manobo, Matigsalug, Tigwahanon and Umayamnon, that originally occupied the province.
Photo by: www.grands-inone.com
Lent is celebrated by locals in Marinduque by reenacting the life of Longinus culminating in his beheading. Longinus is the Centurion who converted when his blind eye was cured by a drop of blood from Jesus Christ. The entire towns of Boac, Morpog and Gasan are almost wholly converted into huge stages as the story unfolds, and the men and women garbed and masked as Roman soldiers and Centurions makes up the colorful street festival. The celebration begins on Holy Monday, and end on Easter Sunday.
CUTUD LENTEN RITES,
SAN PEDRO CUTUD, PAMPANGA
The Cutud Lenten Rites, also known as Cutud Cruxificions, is held every Good Friday, in San Pedro Cutud, Pampanga. It starts in the morning and the villagers engage in the act of self-flagellation, as an act of atonement for their sins. They cut their back, arms, and legs and strike themselves with burillo beads after. At 3pm, the passion and death of Jesus Christ is re-enacted, ending in the nailing of three penitents to a wooden cross. This is a 50+-year old solemn tradition and a great retreat experience to contemplate Jesus’ love for us.
A festival is offered to the Patron Saint of Farmers, San Isidro Labrador, as a thanksgiving for bountiful and abundant harvest. This is held every 15th of May, starting with a procession during early morning, followed by parades and traditional games. Every house is decorated with an explosion of colors through the kipin, a cluster of leaf- shaped wafer made of rice paste. As each household tries to out-do each other with their kipin décor, they also use farm products and other harvest such as fruits, for the visitors to taste and enjoy. Although the most popular and commercialized celebration is in Lucban, Pahiyas is also celebrated in Sariaya, Tayabas and other towns in Quezon.
OBANDO FERTILITY RITES,
Massive numbers of men and women dance in a parade towards the town church praying for a wife, husband or a child. Held from May 17 to 19 in Obando, Bulacan, the pilgrims flock to Obando and those who want a wife dance to San Pascual Baylon, those who want a husband dance to Santa Clara de Assisi, and those who want a child dance to our Lady of Salambao.
MAMBUKAL MUDPACK FESTIVAL,
MURCIA, NEGROS OCCIDENTAL
Every 24th of June, Murcia, Negros Occidental holds a festival to celebrate man’s closeness to nature. Returning to primitive time is the underlying theme of the event, and aims to boost nature awareness and encourage the conservation of mother earth. It is highlighted with merry making and dynamic street dancing parade. The participants cover their faces with mudpack and paint their bodies with Mambukal clay.
PARADA NG LECHON,
Parada ng Lechon literally translates to “Roasted Pigs Parade”. This event is held every 24th of June in Balayan, Batangas to celebrate the feast of St. John the Baptist. Luscious roasted pigs are dressed up and paraded around town. Afterwards, everybody shares in the consumption of the lechons.
Tacloban City holds the Pintados Festival every June 29. Dancing to the frantic beat of drums, townfolks parade throughout the town decorated with colorful body paint to recall their old warrior custom of tattooing to signify bravery and prestige.
BOCAUE RIVER FESTIVAL,
Bocaue River Festival is held every 1st Sunday of July in Bocaue, Bulacan, to honor the miraculous Cross of Bocaue (Krus ng Wawa). The highlight of the festival is the river procession where the Holy Cross of Wawa is paraded in a pagoda, a specially built river boat, while the devotees revel in dousing each other with water.
Sandugo Festival is a grand fiesta in Tagbilaran City every 1-2 July. It commemorates Datu Sikatuna’s blood compact and peace treaty with the Spanish king Captain General Miguel López de Legazpi on the shores of Bohol. Thousands of people from around the Philippines flocked to witness this special event whose highlights involves a street dancing competition, colorful costumes, loud drum beats, street parades, church services, fireworks,, cockfighting tournaments, sport tournaments, and beauty pageants of local beauty queens, Miss Bohol and Miss Tagbilaran.
Every 3rd week of August, Davao celebrates their harvest festival as a thanksgiving for its bountiful fruits, flowers, and farm produce. It is highlighted by the Kadayawan grand parade which is made up of colorful floats bedecked with beautiful fresh flowers and fruits, and whole day street dancing of “Indak- indak sa Kadalanan”, a dance featuring colorful costumes, traditions, and stories of the different tribes of Davao. The festival’s name originated from the Mandaya word “madayaw”, which is used to describe something beautiful, superior, valuable, or profitable. While attending the festival, it is also the best time to taste and enjoy the fruits that are in season such as pomelo, mangosteen and durian.
Feast of Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia,
NAGA CITY, BICOL
The Feast of Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia is a nine-day fiesta honoring Our Lady of Peñafrancia in Naga City, Bicol. Held every 3rd Saturday of September, it is Bicol Region’s largest celebration featuring civic-military parade, sports events, exhibits, cultural shows, and beauty pageants. On the last day of the festivities, the icon of the Lady of Peñafrancia is brought back to its shrine through the Naga River in a grand fluvial parade aglow with a sea of floating candles.
Photo by: Jay-Ar Cruz
Zamboanga City celebrates the Hermosa festival from 1-12 October. It is a 12 days of events which include street parades, cultural shows, art exhibits, trade fairs, firework displays, and flower exhibits. It is Zamboanga’s most grand celebration of the year, in honor of the miraculous image of Our Lady of the Pilar Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragosa, who is their unifying symbol. One of the highlight of the event is the fast- faced regatta of the vistas, the native sea boats with bright colorful sails.
Head to Madbadjao, Camiguin on the third week of October and join the Lanzones Festival, a week-long festivity and one of the colorful events in the country. The Lanzones, a small grape- sized fruit, with pale brown skin and sweet translucent flesh, is mostly the source of livelihood of the residents of Camiguin. During the weekend, a street dancing competition is held. The festival also features parties, cultural shows, parade, trade fair, and the coronation of Mutya sa Buahanan.
BACOLOD, NEGROS OCCIDENTAL
Bacolod City, the capital of Negros Occidental province holds The MassKara Festival every third weekend of October. It is a week-long fiesta originally celebrated to lift up the spirits of Bacolod residents after the 1980’s sugar crisis. The term Masskara incorporates the English word “mass” meaning multitude or many, and the Spanish term “kara” meaning face, joined together to mean “a mass of faces”.
Bacolod has since been called the City of Smiles, thus the Masskara festival was coined as the festival of smiles. The carnival spirit fills the air as participants wearing colorful smiling masks put on magnificent costumes during the street dancing competition and showcase their stamina and mastery of coordination while gyrating to the rhythm of Latin musical beats.
FEAST OF SAN CLEMENTE / HIGANTES FESTIVAL
Attracting tourists from all over the world, Angono celebrates the “Higantes Festival” every 22 – 23 November, coinciding with the Feast of Saint Clement, the Patron Saint of Fishermen. The higantes are ten to twelve feet high papier-mache giants which was an influence from the Mexican art form of paper-mache brought to the Philippines by the Spanish priests. During the procession, townsfolk drench each other with water guns and buckets while male devotees accompanied by the “pahadores” or devotees dressed in colorful local costumes or fishermen’s clothes, carry the icon of San Clemente.
GIANT LANTERN FESTIVAL,
SAN FERNANDO, PAMPANGA
Also called Ligligan Parul, the giant lantern festival is a competition among different barangays in San Fernando, Pampanga. Held every second Saturday of December, it showcases the creativity and hard work of Filipinos. See the biggest and most spectacular lanterns in their twinkling, blinking, flashing glory. San Fernando has been nicknamed “Christmas Capital of the Philippines” due to the popularity of the festival.