Many festivals in The Philippines commemorate important dates in the Catholic calendar; visitors and devotees flock to the processions of the Black Nazarene in Manila and the ‘Higantes’ of Angono. Others, like Masskara are simply an excuse to party. No matter what the occasion, there is a carnival atmosphere as the people come together to celebrate.
January 9 annually
The Black Nazarene is a life-sized statue of Christ carrying the cross. On January 9, Catholics flock to Manila to see it carried by barefoot men around the city to depict the stations of the cross. The people line the street to watch the procession and hope for the chance to touch the statue, believed to be miraculous.
January 18-15 2016
This seven-day festival is held to honor the Baby Jesus in Kalibo, Alkan. Catholics attend mass and religious processions take place in the streets accompanied by traditional music and dancing. The final day, the third Sunday in January, sees a torchlit parade and a masquerade ball where the most colorful tribe wins prizes.
January 11 2016
This day-long festival is celebrated by the people of Cebu to honor their patron saint, the infant Jesus, and to commemorate the city’s history of paganism and acceptance of Roman Catholicism. There is a colorful carnival parade with music and drumming and crowds line the streets to watch the traditional Cebuano dance performance.
January 24 2016
Visitors flock to Iloilo City for this celebratory day held in honor of the child Jesus and of the arrival of Malay settlers on Panay. There are parades of flotillas on the water and a carnival in the street where the locals dress in colorful costumes and perform energetic street dances to music and drumming.
February 1-28 annually
This month-long tribute to Baguio’s status as the summer capital of the Philippines celebrates the city’s beautiful flowers. It was established in 1990 to help the residents recover from the Luzon earthquake. There are colorful floats and dancers decorated with flowers that parade through the streets in a city-wide carnival.
29 March - 4 April 2016
This week-long festival takes place throughout Holy Week on the island of Marinduque. Locals dress in colorful Roman armor and costumes and parade in the streets. Stories are reenacted and on Good Friday, the men march through the streets, whipping themselves to reflect the suffering of Christ in order to absolve themselves of sins.
A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is enshrined in Pakil in Laguna and every year between the Friday before Palm Sunday and Pentecost Sunday, the women of Pakil carry the image into the city and commemorate the ‘Seven Sorrows of Our Lady’ by performing seven ‘Turumbas,’ which are wild dances performed in homage to her.
April 3 2016
This traditional religious ritual takes place annually on Good Friday. In a rice field outside the city of San Fernando, repentant sinners are tied and nailed to a cross with stainless steel, disinfected nails, in a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Christ. Penitents take part in order to cleanse themselves of their sins.
May 1-31 annually
Throughout the Philippines, devotees of Roman Catholicism celebrate Flores de Mayo for the full month of May. It is held to honor the Virgin Mary and every afternoon, children dressed in white attend church and sprinkle flower petals along the aisle and lay a bouquet at the alter. The final nine days are devoted to prayer.
May 15-16 annually
This two-day festival honors the carabao, the animal without whom the farmers of Pulilan could not plough their fields. On the first day, the carabaos are groomed and decorated with flowers and parade through the streets to the church square where they kneel to be blessed. The second day brings an informal race in the town.
May 15 annually
Every year on 15 May, the residents of Lucban pay respect to St Isidore, the patron saint of farmers, with this colorful celebration. The houses in one street are decorated with fruits, vegetables and adornments made of rice, which can be eaten later. The house owners compete to be named best-decorated.
May 17-19 annually
Visitors from all over come to Bulacan for this three-day festival, primarily men and women who want to bear children. There is a parade each day for San Pascual, Santa Clara and Senora de Salambao and the people follow the images of the saints, dancing in the street to bamboo instruments, hoping to be blessed with fertility.
May 31 annually
This festival on the last day of May is the culmination of Flores de Mayo. In cities and towns all over the country, people celebrate Reyna Elena (or Saint Helena) finding the true cross and returning it to Rome. There are huge pageants in the streets with people dressed as biblical characters or former queens.
June 29 annually
This month-long celebration begins on June 29 and includes the Kasadyaan festival. It’s a celebration of the baby Jesus and includes traditional body painting and tattooing in the style of the pintado warriors. There is a colorful grand parade with tattooed performers demonstrating tribal dancing in the center of Tacloban city.
August 1-September 1 annually
This week-long celebration is one of the few ethnic festivals in the country. Held in Malaybalay, it commemorates the anniversary of the establishment of Bukidnon as a province and honors the culture of the tribal groups in the region. Traditional tribal costumes are worn and the people perform their native dances in the streets.
August 8 2015
This popular week-long festival is a celebration of the culture, heritage and nature of the city of Davao. The people give thanks for their lives and the blessings of the city with joyful parades of floats decorated with flowers. They dress in authentic ethnic costumes, play traditional instruments and hold street dancing competitions.
September 20-21 2014 | September 19-20 2015
Our Lady of Penafrancia is a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary and every year, devotees visit Naga city for nine days of festivities to honor her. They attend mass and enjoy street processions, feasts and fireworks. On the ninth day, the people line the banks of the river to see the statue sail past on a barge in a huge fluvial procession.
October 16-18 2015
Masskara, which means ‘many faces,’ is a vibrant two-day festival taking place over the third weekend of October in Bacolod. People from all over travel to the city to take part in games, watch the beauty pageant and the popular masked tribal street dance competition, while enjoying the music, food and festivities.
October 17-21 2015
Lanzones are small tropical fruits on which the inhabitants of the Camiguin Islands rely for their livelihoods. Every year, the people celebrate the harvest with a colorful festival in which the fruit and its leaves are used to decorate everyone and everything. There are cultural displays and markets of food and crafts.
November 23 annually
This day-long annual festival takes place in Angono to celebrate San Clemente, the Patron Saint of fishermen. Wearing fishermen’s clothes, men parade through the streets with huge papier mache puppets. The ‘Higantes’ are placed in floats upon reaching Laguna Bay and set adrift. Finally, the image of San Clemente is returned to the church.
December 24 2015, 2016
On the Saturday night before Christmas, thousands of visitors flock to San Fernando to see this spectacular festival. Each barrio spends a year designing and making enormous colorful plastic lanterns arranged in beautiful, intricate patterns and lit with high-tech, computerized lights, competing for the top spot in the lights competition.