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Summer Festivities in the Philippines

| by Apple Barretto

Summer Festivities in the Philippines

Foreigners and travelers remember the tagline, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”. It doesn’t just mean white sand beaches and friendly people. It’s also a representation of the festivities Filipinos celebrate all year round.

The diversity of culture, beliefs and traditions of the Filipinos is anchored on its history, from the ethic tribal origins to the Spanish occupation. It’s no surprise that every province in the country’s 7,107 islands has their own version of “fiesta” they celebrate every month– each one showing off colorful traditions that from the different provinces of the Philippines.

With the summer season just around the corner, here’s a list of the Top 10 most anticipated Summer Festivities you shouldn’t miss!

A Brief History about Festivals in the Philippines

When the Spaniards came to the Philippines, one of their key purpose s, aside from colonizing the island, is to convert its inhabitants to Christianity. However, during their conquest, Filipinos refused to be converted. To capture the Filipinos hearts, they used their culture of celebration through fiestas to introduce the Catholic faith. It is through these vibrant processions and religious themed stage plays that they were able to convert Filipinos to Christianity.

The Spaniards assigned a specific day to celebrate the life of a saint or religious event. This appealed to old Filipino beliefs that gaining the favor of gods or holy beings will give theman advantage in life.This is why worshipping offerings and extravagant celebrations are performed in order to show gratitude to the provinces’ patron saints. These rituals are often done to pray for a good harvest season, safety from calamities, and granting of personal wishes and requests.

Types of Festivals Celebrated in the Philippines

Whether it’s honoring a patron saint or a historical event, the Philippines never runs out of occasion to celebrate. With every part of the country celebrating at least one festival each year, the list is endless. To help and guide tourist, travelers and locals, here’s a guide to fiestas in the Philippines.

Religious Festivals

According to National Statistics Office (NSO) data of 2010, 81% of Filipinos are Catholic. The Filipinos’ faith is greatly affected by the 300 year colonization of Spain. “Semana Santa” or the Holy week is considered to be the most celebrated religious event in the country.

Semana Santa is an important week-long religious observance that starts with the Palm Sunday until Easter Sunday. During Palm Sunday, people bring their Palaspas or palm fronds to be blessed by the priest. After the mass, these Palaspas are placed on the door or window of the house to drive away evil spirits. It is followed by Miyérkules Santo or Holy Wednesday where people (mostly from the Provinces) hold a procession on the Passion of Christ.

The following day is the start of the Holy Triduum. Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday celebrates 3 events; blessing of the oil, washing of the feet of the 12 apostles, and Visita Iglesia. It is also during Holy Thursday that the last mass before Easter Sunday is celebrated.

Observance of the Holy Week continues on with Biyernes Santo or Black Saturday. It is on this day that the church commemorates the 7 last words of Jesus (Siete Palabras). His way to the cross is presented in a street play called Cenaculo. Filipinos use this event to express their Penance and to some extent, havethemselves nailed on the cross the same way Jesus did. Re-enacting the crucifixion is a highlight in one of the Barangays in San Fernando Pampanga. The final event for the day is the Pabasawhich narrates the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Sábado de Gloria or Black Saturday is a day of solemnity and silence to mourn the death of Christ. On the night of Black Saturday, parishioners prepare for Easter by holding a vigil.

Linggó ng Pagkabuhayor Easter Sunday is a celebration to remember Christ’s resurrection from the dead. It starts with a pre-dawn Salubong of Christ’s resurrection. It is followed by a festive celebration that starts with a mass then the procession of Virgin Mary and Risen Christ to honor the reunion of Christ and his mother.

Other Christian festivities that Filipinos celebrate are the Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi which is a 9-day mass in anticipation of Christ’s birth, Feast of the Black Nazarene, Ati-Atihan Festival, Feast of Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia, and Flores de Mayo among others.


Food Festivals

The Filipinos are known for its affinity with eating. Most of the provinces in the country are famous for the different specialties and delicacies that both locals and foreigners alike enjoy. Foodies have more than 7,107 reasons to celebrate. Besides, what’s a festival without a feast?

Luzon is known for these food festivals:

  1. The Longganisa Festival and Bawang Festival at Ilocos Sur
  2. Suman Festival at Aurora Baler in February
  3. Itik Festival at Victoria Laguna in November
  4. Kapeng Barako Festival at Lipa, Batangas in December.

Foodies can enjoy these events in Visayas too:

  1. Manggahan Festival at Guimaras, Iloilo in April
  2. Alimango Festival at Sta. Margarita Samar in July
  3. Dinagat Festival in Cordova, Cebu that highlights the fishing livelihood of the town as well as the rich resource of Bakassi (a type of eel).

Mindanao also showcases its delicacies in these famous festivals:

  1. Tuna Festival at General Santos, South Cotabato in September
  2. Lanzones Festival at Mambajao, Camiguin in October
  3. Banana Festival that is celebrated in Davao del Norte during the first of July, which actually coincides with the founding of the city.

Cultural Festivals

Every region in the country has its own story and each has different set of beliefs and traditions that makes each province distinct.

Bacolod for example is known as “The City of Smile”. However, during the 1980s, the province was struck hard. First, the economy of the province dwindled because its main livelihood, sugar production, was replaced with imported sugar alternatives from the US. In addition, the MV Don Juan accident happened, killing many of its locals. To bring back the cheerful spirit of the province, the MassKara Festival was born. During the festival, people flock the streets of Bacolod city wearing colorful “smiling-face” masks and costumes accompanied by a street dance parade.

Another famous cultural festival is the Panagbenga Festival in Baguio city to celebrate floral season of the province. It is also said that the festival memorializes the city’s rise from the disastrous earthquake that hit Luzon in 1990. Every February, people go up North to the City of Pines to witness the beautiful display of floats that are adorned with the provinces’ best flowers.Flower inspired dress and costumes are also featured in the street dancing activities.

Other cultural festivals include Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo, Pahiyas Festival in Quezon, Kadayawan Festival in Davao, Buyogan Festival in Leyte.

Top 10 Summer Festivities in the Philippines

#1. Sinulog Festival

If there’s one festivity that the country is known for, it would be the Sinulog Festival. The festival is a tribute to the child image of Jesus or better known as the Sto. Nino. During the Spanish colonization Rajah Humabon and his wife, Hara Amihan (later known as Queen Juana) was baptized. They were given an image of the Child Jesus as a baptismal gift. According to historians, Queen Juana joyously danced bearing the image of the Child Jesus. The dancing became a tradition passed down from Queen Juana to the Cebuanos. The day-long grand parade showcases the culture and religion of Cebu. The festival starts with the Sinulog Parade with the procession of Sto. Niño. This is accompanied by a simultaneous celebration of the holy mass across all churches of the province. But the peak of Sinulog Festival is the street dancing and float competition. The 6.1 kilometer stretch of Cebu City is filled with the best and dynamic floats and lively street dancing. The grand finale of the celebration is a magnificent showcase of fireworks at the Cebu City Sports Center. Over a million spectators flocking to the Queen City of the South to witness the Sinulog.

#2. Haladaya Festival

Cebu holds the annual Haladaya festival in August to honor the heroism of Datu Daya for defending the town from Moro invaders. The province was one of the first established communityin the Philippines when the Spaniards came to country. When Spain reached the town of Daanbantayan, Datu Daya led the first Malayan settlers to resist the occupation. Additionally, the festival is offered to the town’s patron saint, St. Rose of Lima. The highlights of the festival include the Haladaya Grand Parade, Haladaya Queen Street Dancing, and a dance presentation depicting the battle between Datu Daya and the Spanish invaders.

#3. Kadaugansa Mactan Festival

This is considered to be the second biggest festival in Cebu next to Sinulog Festival . When translated to English, it means Victory in Mactan. This celebration is meant to commemorate the triumph of LapuLapu in defending the island from the Spanish invasion led by Ferdinand Magellan. The foreground of the event is the remake of the famous Battle at Mactan in the beach where the actual fight took place. It is followed by the planting of the cross which signified Lapu-Lapu’s victory. Street dancing and a sumptuous food feast led by restaurants and hotels in the city takes place after the program.

#4. Kagasangan Festival

Moalboal, Cebu, the country’s diving capital celebrates the municipality’s richness in aquatic resources. Aside from its white-sand beaches and crystal-clear water, Moalboal prides itself with underwater splendor, hence the name of the festival. The Kagsangan Festival aims to promote and preserve the natural heritage of Moalboal. The rich marine ecosystem sustains both sea creatures and livelihood of the townsfolk The festival is also celebrated along with their patron saint, Saint San Juan Nepomuceno.

#5. Tinapay Festival

Tinapay Festival of Cuenca, Batangas is comparable to Pahiyas Festival of the Quezon province. Houses in Cuenca are decorated with bread-inspired embellishments. However, the Tinapay Festival, as its name suggest, showcases the town’s famous bread making industry. Different kinds of bread are paraded along the streets of Cuenca. Parade participants and spectators get to sample the bread at the end of the procession. The celebration also honors the town’s patron saint, Our Lady of Peace and Voyage as a form of thanksgiving for a bountiful life. 

#6. Sigpawan Festival

Another festival that celebrates the country’s prosperous maritime life is the Sigpawan Festival in Lemery, Batangas. The festival promotes the municipality’s agricultural industry, delicacies, and its acclaimed Sinaing na Tulingan and Maliputo Fish. The festival is kicked off with a mass followed by a procession along the coasts of Lemery. Locals also offer tours during the festival that will take tourists around the best destinations in Batangaslike, the Taal Volcano, Fantasy World Theme Park, Pansipit River, Leisure Farm, and Taal Basilica.

#7. Tapusan Float Parade Festival

The whole country celebrates Flores de Mayo for the whole month of May. It is during this month that prayers and flowers are offered to the Virgin Mary as form of thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest and blossoming flowers. Towards the end of May, people celebrate the Tapusan which is led by a Hermano/Hermana. The biggest event at the Tapusan Festival is theSantacruzan. It is a festival that honors the blessed Virgin Mary and the conquest of Queen Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, to find the Holy Cross of Jesus. In Alitagtag, Batangas, Eighteen (18) beautiful ladies in stunning costumes participate in the event. Each lady represent the different Reynasor Accolades of Our LadyThey are escorted by equally handsome men in Barong Tagalog, abode different floats that are covered with flowers.

#8. El CirculoFernandino

It is one of the oldest social club and gathering of San Fernando, Pampanga‘s elite. The highly-anticipated event in Pampanga was once exclusive to the members of the group, during its formative years in the 1920s. Derived from a former social club, La Gente Alegre de San Fernando, El Circulo Fernandina aims to resolve their political and agricultural issues by hosting annual events. However its celebrations were once halted by the hostilities of war and in 1987. A decade later, El CirculoFernandinowas revived as a socially-involved organization rather than an exclusive group for the crème de la crème. The annual ball opens the festivities in the province with Rigodon de Honor as the highlight of the ball; an ode to the country’s traditional court dance.

#9. Sabuaga Festival

To culminate the solemnity of the Holy Week, people of Sto. Tomas, Pampanga celebrate Easter with Sabuaga Festival. The festival is the town’s way of thanksgiving for a bountiful year and of honoring the resurrection of Christ. Eight (8) barrios participate in this celebration. It is also through this festival that the people of Sto. Tomas get to showcase the town’s produce such as poultry, garments, pots, caskets, abundant agriculture &aquatic resources.

#10. AggaoNac Cagayan

Capping off summer’s lineup of festivities is Tuguegarao’sAggaoNac Cagayan. The grandiose festival is a homage to the town’s rich tradition, history, as well as the commemorationits establishment in 1583. Governor Teresa Dupaya initiated the festival with the hopes of promoting the social and cultural progress of Cagayan. Since then, Aggao Nac Cagayan has been a highly-anticipated event by both local and foreign tourists. Some of the activities held during the festival are the agricultural and trade tourism fair, a novena for the Our Lady of Piat ng Piat Basilica Minore, a beauty pageant and several games and sports.

Whether you are visiting Luzon, Visayas or Mindanao, you will never run out of vibrant celebrations to experience and remember. What better way to spice up your summer getaway than witnessing the country’s festivities that reflects the Philippines’ rich culture and heritage.

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