Going to a festival in the Philippines is a great way to gain a quick insight into a fascinating culture.
If the beach bum life on one of the Philippines’ beautiful islands starts to wear, there are loads of festivals that the Asian country hosts each year. Granted a lot of them are religion-based but that doesn’t mean they lack the fun factor.
Just keep an eye on the Philippines festivals calendar and you’ll see it’s packed with parades, pageants and parties across the country celebrating a whole variety of things from fruits to fertility.
Attending one of these means you get to see somewhere new and a different side to the Philippines.
Here are just a few of the favourites:
1. Pahiyas Festival in the Philippines
The word ‘payas’ means to decorate, and boy do the locals of Lucban, Quezon, take that seriously. In the run up to May 15th, they go all out covering their houses not in paint but in fruits, veggies and kiping – a type of colourful wafer.
The reason behind it?
Back in the 15th century locals offered up their harvest to St. Isidore the Laborer, the patron saint of farmers, labourers and peasants. But the church would end up so full of food that it was decided it would be far easier for a priest to walk around the community and bless the harvest in people’s homes instead.
Still going strong, the festival offers a prize for the best dressed house so expect some amazing homes as well as parades, cultural shows and processions.
2. Sinulog Festival in the Philippines
January blues are not a thing in Cebu City because everyone is too geared up for Sinulog. This is a festival that celebrates a baby Jesus statue that Ferdinand Magellan, an explorer, gave to the Rajah Humabon of Cebu in 1521. This is said to have been a big moment, marking a transition from paganism to Catholicism.
Since then, locals have been honouring that occasion with a particular dance, a colourful street parade, fireworks and a whole calendar of events in the days around the third Sunday of January.
3. Parada ng Lechon in the Philippines
Warning, this one is not for the veggies.
A literal translation of parada ng lechon means ‘roasted pig parade’ so no shock, there are loads of roasted pigs here. This is one of the meatiest festivals in the Philippines there is.
Located in Balayan, this fest takes place on June 24th and marks the area’s pride in its pork. The roasting follows a special 5-hour process before locals garnish the pig in accordance with the year’s theme. As if this wasn’t strange enough, the pigs are then paraded down to church for a quick mass before people dance their hooves away, tuck into the pork and douse each other in water.
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I’ve got loads of blog posts about the Philippines, check them out!
4. Moriones Festival in the Philippines
Like most of the Philippines’ festivals, this one revolves around religion.
It takes place the week of Easter on the island of Marinduque and is definitely on the unique side. Locals dress up in eccentric costumes that make them look like demented Roman soldiers. This is because it’s said that a half blind soldier who lanced Jesus got his sight back when some of Jesus’s blood landed in the soldier’s eye.
You can catch a street performance telling this and other biblical stories throughout the week.
Less of a fest for partying, this is a nice one if you fancy learning more about Filipino culture.
5. Panagbenga Festival in the Philippines
Flower power all month long. That’s more or less the mantra at Panagbenga. This one takes place in Baguio City in the north of the country and is 30 days of celebrating all the flowers in bloom.
You only have to visit the website with its bright colours and twinkly music to get a taste of what the whole month of February is like in Baguio. Harnessing community spirit and all things green-fingered, there’s chock-a-block agenda of parades, gardening competitions and firework displays.
6. MassKara Festival in the Philippines
Get your funkiest mask at the ready because MassKara, on the fourth Sunday in October, is all about putting a face on it.
MassKara takes place in the seaside city of Bacolod and has a bittersweet story behind it.
In the 1980s, sugar prices dropped making for some tough times given this was the city’s main crop. Then the city lost over 1,000 people in a ferry crash. People needed some cheering up and convincing things would get better so the local government put on a festival and told everyone to slap a smile on.
Forty years later, they still turn up with their smiling masks and so do thousands of tourists looking to embrace the happiness.
7. The Pineapple (Pinyasan) Festival in the Philippines
Apparently no one likes pineapples as much as the citizens of Daet just off the north coast.
Dedicating 9 days to the fruit, the Philippines festival runs from June 15th to 24th and specifically celebrates the Queen Formosa Pineapple, the town’s main export. There’s an exhibit, beach events, cooking classes, and competitions.
But the best thing of all?
8. Obando Fertility Rites in the Philippines
This started off as a dance ritual and is now a fully fledged festival and particularly popular with couples looking to conceive. That doesn’t mean you can’t go and watch the unusual event in Obando, just north of Manila, but a word of warning: if you’re visiting with a partner get ready for some serious assumptions.
Between May 17th and 19th, hundreds of couples step out to perform the original folk dance in the hope that their two step will bring about tiny footsteps.
Others come to watch the gyrating action (what other dance moves would there be?) while parents come to give thanks for their own children.
Festivals in the Philippines
The Filipino festivals may not centre around popular music like many festivals around the world, but they’re definitely still worth including in your Philippines itinerary, if you can.
Going to a festival in the Philippines is a great introduction to the local culture, and to see the Filipinos at play. It’s also a brilliant way to get to sample some of the local food and flavour!
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