Flamboyant parades and grand joyous festivities in the Philippines are considered as a norm. Most of these occasions celebrate patron saints of the city, considering that the Philippines’ religious beliefs are deeply ingrained in Catholicism.
According to World Atlas, the Philippines makes up 6.56% of Catholics in the world. Even if this is the case, Philippine festivals are not entirely religious in nature. It also celebrates and vaunts the Filipino traits. Filipinos, after all, are world famous for their hospitality and resilience.
With the Philippines comprising 7,641 islands, it is a no brainer that it holds rich cultural diversity. No matter, each of these differences makes the Philippines a country to experience.
There are numerous festivals tourists – local and foreign – must experience in the Philippines. Here are just some of the few but well-recommended ones:
Image courtesy of Aklan Journal Forum
Ati-Atihan Festival of Aklan
Dance in frenzy along the beat of the drums at The Mother Of All Philippines Festivals! Ati-Atihan is a lively fête complete with a parade of people with their skin covered in soot. They wear colorful costumes and unique headdresses making them a sight to behold. Tagged as the Mardi Gras of the Philippines, Ati-Atihan sets the trend for all festivals in the country.
“Hala Bira, Pwera Pasma!” is chanted during this week-long event. It signifies prayers to the celebrated Sto. Nino (the baby image of Infant Jesus) for a life free from pasma or illness. Apart from this religious aspect, Ati-Atihan is also a commemoration of how the Malays offered salvation to Aetas during a famine.
Image courtesy of Choose Philippines
Sinulog Festival of Cebu
“Pit Senor!”, a chant you’d definitely hear during this wondrous and famous fair. One of the most celebrated in the country, Cebu’s Sinulog Festival draws literal millions of tourists from all over the world. Aside from the usual grand parade of floats and costumed dancers, witness a dramatic display of fireworks, a river parade, the Miss Cebu pageant, and more!
Inspired by the Ati-Atihan Festival, Sinulog lauds the early Cebuanos’ conversion to Catholicism and its likeness to some of their pagan practices. What used to be a dance for pagan idols became a dance in honor of the status of Santo Nino, which Ferdinand Magellan introduced to a rajah’s wife.
In fact, one of the major spectacles of the festival is the re-enactment of the rajah and his wife’s baptismal.
Image courtesy of Yuneoh
Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo
Iloilo’s adaptation of the Ati-Atihan festival, Dinagyang is an Ilonggo word for celebration. Iloilo belonging to the same island as Aklan explains the affinity of the two festivals celebrating the same reasons.
What makes the Dinagyang festival different is both their Ati-Atihan street dancing contest and their Kasadyahan street dancing contest. Tribes from differing barangays and schools join the competition. With such a healthy and lively spree, you would not think twice on why the festival bagged several awards including Best Tourism Event of the Philippines in 2013.
With Iloilo City’s streets closed and brimming with food and drinks, the hypnotic music transforms a once ordinary thoroughfare to a gigantic party.
Image courtesy of Page One PH
Panagbenga Festival of Baguio
Tagged as the Philippine’s Flower Festival, Panagbenga is one for the books! Drawing in millions of visitors, the festival is a display of the Filipino culture and creativity – which is the reason why Baguio has been included in UNESCO’s Creative City for crafts and folk arts.
Unlike other fiestas, Panagbenga is not religiously inclined. It is a tribute to Baguio City’s flourishing flower industry thus the floating parades adorned with different colorful flowers. And it’s not only the floats, parade dancers are also dressed in unique flower inspired costumes.
Image courtesy of Out of Town Blog
Pahiyas Festival of Quezon
People all over the world are fascinated with one the Philippines’ most colorful harvest jamborees, the Pahiyas Festival. It serves as a tribute to the patron saint for farmers San Isidro Labrador and as thanks for a bountiful harvest.
During this time, homes offer kiping (brightly-colored, leaf shaped wafers made of rice powder and water) to all. Not only that, houses in Lucban are competitively decorated with the town’s produce where guests may actually pick for free!
Image courtesy of The Mixed Culture
MassKara Festival of Bacolod
The city of Bacolod is known as The City of Smiles. It is no surprise that their MassKara festival is also known for their traditional smiling masks. Most would think that festivals are only for celebrations of idols, beliefs, and such. The MassKara festival proves to be different as it started as a way to relieve people’s sadness and grief.
One of the things that makes it unique? The festivities last for the whole month of October. Imagine a month of partying, dancing, spectacles, and more!
This is only the tip of the iceberg. The Philippines has more enchanting and incomparable festivals to offer locals and tourists. Experiencing these festivals is a must for anyone who wants to witness the rich culture of Filipinos.
Whether you are an adventurous tourist in search of something different or a Filipino local who wants to know more about his/her countrymen, make sure to avail a travel insurance from the Philippines’ leading non-life insurance company – Malayan Insurance.
Being in a place where thousands or millions of people are, you can never be too sure. Accidents or any inconvenience can happen at any time and any place. Tread along the streets with the security a travel health insurance in the Philippines can give you. You owe yourself that assurance when at a place foreign.