10 Fun Philippine Festivals You Won’t Want To Miss

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It’s a known fact that Filipinos everywhere in the world love to celebrate and get together. Just take a look at this long list of festivals in the Philippines. With that being just a partial list, we wouldn’t be surprised if there’s at least one fiesta or festival in a town somewhere in the country on any given day of the year.

Lasting anywhere between a day to an entire month, Philippine festivals are huge cultural celebrations that attract both local and foreign tourists due to its colorful and festive nature.

Because of Spain’s Catholic influence dating back to the mid-1500s, most of these festivals are usually religious in nature while others are meant to commemorate important events in history. Either way, attending a Philippine festival is definitely something you have to experience at least once.

Since there’s usually a festival going on each month, timing isn’t going to be a problem. If you’re looking for Philippine festivals to attend, here’s a chronological list of 10 popular ones to give you an idea of which ones to visit.

Ati-Atihan Festival
3rd weekend of January | Kalibo, Aklan

This Sto. Niño festival started it all. One of the oldest religious celebrations in the country, Ati-Atihan is characterized by a parade filled with face-painted celebrants, indigenous costumes and weapons, tribal dances, and loud drumbeats.

Philippine Festival: Ati-Atihan, Kalibo, Aklan, Philippines

Photo by RDexter on Flickr

Tourists who flock to Kalibo for the festivities are free to cover themselves in black soot and dance on the streets with the drum beats. Known as the “The Filipino Mardi Gras,” it is truly an experience not to be missed.

Sinulog Festival
3rd weekend of January | Cebu City

Cebu also has its own version of the festival in honor of the Sto. Niño. If you find yourself attending the Sinulog Festival, “Pit Señor!” is a phrase you will hear a lot. It means “Panangpit sa Señor,” a Cebuano phrase that means to plead to the Señor Santo Niño.

Philippine Festival: Sinulog Festival, Cebu City, Philippines

It is one of the most attended festivals in the Philippines, attracting millions of locals and tourists from all over the world. In 2013, it was reported that the number of participants reached a whopping four million.

Sinulog not only sets the stage for Cebuano talents but also for other regional acts as contingents from neighboring provinces are showcased through street dancing, pageantry, and sports. It is also known for hosting the country’s biggest raves, drawing a growing number of party-goers from all over the country year after year.

Dinagyang Festival
4th weekend of January | Iloilo City

If you happen to know someone from Iloilo, try and ask them about this Philippine festival. You’ll see how their pride for their city’s festival is nothing short of astounding.

Once a year, Iloilo City transforms into one big street party — streets closed, bands in all corners, overflowing food and drinks, and towering boom boxes. To cap it all off, tribes representing different barangays and high schools perform in one very competitive street dancing contest.

Philippine Festival: Dinagyang Festival, Iloilo City, Philippines

It’s no wonder how this city’s once simple celebration in honor of the child Jesus (Sto. Niño) ended up bagging several awards including the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines’ (ATOP) title holder for Best Tourism Event of the Philippines.

According to Iloilo City Tourism Officer Ben Jimena, the winning tribes are now going international and will be promoting Philippine tourism to countries like the United States, Canada, and Singapore.

Panagbenga Festival
February | Baguio City

The word “Panagbenga” comes from the Kankanaey term that means “season of blooming.” With the numerous parades of floral floats and children dressed as flora and fauna, it definitely lives up to its name, making Baguio the perfect destination for those who still have a hangover from the huge festivals in January.

Philippine Festival: Panagbenga Festival, Baguio City, Philippines

Adding to the usual Baguio tourist sites to visit, the whole length of the Session Road during Panagbenga becomes a feast for the eyes. Called “Session Road in Bloom,” Baguio’s famous street is closed to vehicular traffic to make way for flower carts, street dancing, and outdoor cafes.

Now that it’s a huge event bringing in thousands of tourists each year, it’s important to plan ahead (make early restaurant reservations, bring a map, etc.) if you are attending this Philippine festival.

Moriones Festival
Holy Week | Boac, Gasan, and Mogpog, Marinduque

This week-long celebration of the life of St. Longinus is what makes Marinduque one of the top destinations during Holy Week in the Philippines. Morion is the helmet worn by the centurions while Moriones refers to the costumed penitents reenacting the search for St. Longinus, hunted by his fellow centurions for converting to Christianity.

Philippine Festival: Moriones Festival, Marinduque, Philippines

Photo by Bar Fabella

During the festival you will see Marinduqueños dressed up as centurions (Moriones) looking for Longinus. One person acts as Longinus, hiding from them while the townspeople play along and allow him to hide in their houses. Via Crucis or the reenactment of the Passion of Christ also happens during this Philippine festival.

Aliwan Fiesta
Last weekend of April | Pasay City, Manila

Aliwan Fiesta is more of a competition than it is a festival. However, it has undeniably added great value to the growing interest in Philippine festivals. Although it just started in the early 2000s, it has already gained a strong fan-base nationwide with more than 5,000 young men and women from all over the country joining the competition.

Philippine Festival: Aliwan Fiesta, Pasay City, Manila

For a lot of people who are in Manila, heading to the CCP Complex is the cheapest way to see quality performances from tribes representing festivals in their respective provinces. Plus, it’s always great to see tribes from Dinagyang and Sinulog give their A-performances to grab the million-peso grand prize.

Pahiyas Festival
15th of May | Lucban, Quezon

One of the Philippines’ most colorful harvest festival, May 15th marks that time of the year when people in Lucban decorate their houses with different-colored produces in an almost competitive manner.

It’s not uncommon to see singakamas (turnip), talong (eggplant), sigarilyas (winged bean) and all the other vegetables and fruits mentioned in the Bahay Kubo song hanging on the exteriors of their homes. You can actually bring a basket and pick the produce from the walls for free.

Pintados Festival
29th of June | Tacloban City

Pintados is another festival in honor of the Sto. Niño (yes, this is the 4th of its kind in the list). It just goes to show how Filipinos want to be reminded to be childlike in their ways and to place hope in their children.

Philippine Festival: Pintados Festival, Tacloban City, Philippines

Photo from jelynnc on Flickr

This festival has been growing in popularity because of the contingents they send to the Aliwan Fiesta every year. They don’t fail to amaze. Leyte is also the home base of other festivals like Alikaraw, Pasaka, and the 2009 Aliwan Fiesta champions, Buyogan.

Kadayawan Festival
3rd week of August | Davao City

Kadayawan comes from the Dabawenyo word “madayaw,” a friendly greeting which means good or beautiful. Probably the biggest festival in Mindanao, Kadayawan has everything all other festivals have: street dancing, beauty pageants, fireworks displays, floral floats.

It is a celebration of Davao‘s as well as the rest of Mindanao’s abundance; showcasing flowers, fruits, and other produces that abound the country’s second largest island. Just two years ago, they even introduced a week-long street food fiesta in Freedom Park, Roxas Avenue called Kaan sa Da’n.

MassKara Festival
19th of October | Bacolod City

Colorful masks, street dancing, electrical displays and best of all… the sweet smiles of Bacoleñas! What more could you ask for?

Philippine Festival: MassKara Festival, Bacolod City, Philippines

Photo from oleyography on Flickr

MassKara is a combination of the words “mass” which means “crowd” and “kara” which means “face.” You will see participants wearing smiling masks signifying a multitude of smiling faces, solidifying Bacolod’s title as the “City of Smiles.”

Like Sinulog, it is also swarmed by the younger party crowd as it is conveniently scheduled during the semester break.

There are still a lot of Philippine festivals not mentioned in this list. The next time you book a flight, you might want to consider scheduling it during that destination’s festival dates.

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About Author

Richie Yu

Richie dreams of a better Philippines. He fuels this dream by traveling to get a wider perspective and to gather inspiration from places, people and events around the world.

  • Kenneth Brent David

    Hala bira, Iloilo!! Dinagyang the best! 🙂

  • Aramco Bi

    Love Kalibo, Aklan’s Ati-Atihan. Very interactive and participatory as spectators can actually join the participating “ati tribes” as they dance on the streets.

  • Eloy

    parang di sa Marinduque ung mga Morion na yan para sa Mindoro ung mga ganyang mukha 😀

  • Philippines is an island full of local festivities. Come by Iloilo City during Dinagyang week and you’ll certainly feel electric.

  • playamoth

    If you need to see any of these, go to Kalibo for History and authenticity as it all happens in a natural flow, chaos to symmetry. Nothing is staged. It is a festival of friendship between the Malay settlers and the Atis until the Church subverted its meaning. Only in their skewered minds would a friendly get together be seen as pagan.

  • Jeremy Velasco

    The Buyogan Festival? 🙂 it’s really awesome.. check it out guys 🙂

  • Anrey C

    Includes the lantern festival in Pampanga during christmas season

  • It is indeed more fun in the Philippines! Festivals is a staple in every single province and visitors should be prepared to have fun and feel surreal. Kalibo-Boracay’s Ati-Atihan is certainly one of the most engaging and emotionally satisfying. Everyone should try go there once in their life! 🙂

  • Jaz Papas

    Thank you for including Kadayawan Festival but to inform everyone, as written above, Davao City banned fireworks display or any related activities. Madayaw sa tanan…

  • Thank you so much for this great article. I just wrote a post myself on festivals in the Philippines..
    http://www.travelho.com/…/18/festivals-in-the-philippines/
    I didn’t even know about a few on your list. I especially want to go to Ati-Atihan Festival as I’ve been told it’s a big celebration for the indigenous people?