Filipinos love to celebrate no matter how small the reason is. From birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, house blessings, and many more. We are kind-hearted and appreciative people capable of hosting a grand celebration for whatever reason there is. This is why our country is known all over the world for celebrating a massive number of festivals every year!
Yup, a total of 42,000 major and minor festivals are being held in the country annually. If you’re a hardcore party-goer, you surely wouldn’t miss a festival every single day of your life. Not only would you be able to enjoy binge drinking and watching grand performances, but you will also surely love all of the traditional cuisine being served in these festivals.
The Philippines was colonized by Spain from the year 1521 up to 1898. That’s a total of 333 years. This helped shape our way of celebrating festivals because most of them are based on Christianity. Every local barangay (village) celebrates the life of its patron saint through festivals.
Every festival in the country is unique in its way. A variety of events can happen within a festival, there are holy masses, processions, parades, pageants, concerts, traditional plays, dances, and many more! You name it, I assure you, a lot of things can happen during a festival here in the Philippines.
So, if you’re a traveler looking to experience the rich culture of Filipino people, going to a festival here in the country is the best way to begin! Are you ready? Let me help you by listing the 15 Best Festivals in the Philippines:
1. Sinulog Festival
Location: Cebu City
Date: 3rd Week of January
This is probably one of the grandest festivals held in the country. The celebration is to honor the life of Santo Nino (The Holy Child Jesus) which is the patron saint of Cebu City. Before the pandemic, this festival attracts more than 2 million tourists from all over the country and even foreigners from different countries. “Sinulog” is a dance ritual that depicts the pagan culture of Filipinos and its transition to Christianity. Aside from the religious celebrations held in Sinulog Festival, it is also well known for grand street banquets during the day before (bisperas) and the actual day of the festival.
It’s also hard to outlast the majestic pageants and parades that happen in the Sinulog Festival. Participants wear multi-colored extravagant costumes dancing to the beat of traditional instruments like drums, gongs, and trumpets. Watching the festival is a treat to the eyes.
Given the multitude of tourists flocking Cebu City during the time of the festival, locals use this opportunity to sell Cebu export products and delicacies in the SME trade fair.
Whew, that’s a lot to look forward to! So, if you’re wondering what festival should you attend in the Philippines, the Sinulog Festival should be one of your choices!
2. Ati-Atihan Festival
Location: Kalibo, Aklan
Date: 3rd Sunday of January
Ah, the Ati-Atihan Festival. Consider this as the “OG” of all festivals in the Philippines. It is also known as the “Mother of all Philippine Festivals” this event is said to have inspired famous festivals such as the Sinulog and Dinagyang Festival.
Like the Sinulog Festival, this event is also held to honor the life of the Holy Child of Jesus. For 800 years, it has always been every 3rd Sunday of January. Basically, “Ati” refers to the native people called “Aeta” who are dark-skinned, short, and frizzy-haired. I’d just like to note that even though the festival originally celebrates the pagan culture of Filipinos, it was the Spanish people who turned it into a Christian event.
This is also considered one of the grandest festivals in the Philippines. One reason is that it lasts for a whole week! Imagine, parties and dance competitions that would last for 7 days. What a treat, right? Surely, your stay here in the country will be memorable if you attend the Ati-Atihan Festival.
Unlike other festivals where tourists are just watching the parades from the sidelines, the Ati-Atihan encourages tourists to jump on the parade and be involved in the dance competitions. So, you’ll never run out of activities to do while you’re here at the Ati-Atihan Festival!
Wait. There’s more. Since the Ati-Atihan festival is held in Kalibo, Aklan, you also might want to visit Boracay! Yup, you read that right. The internationally-renowned tropical paradise, Boracay. How about that? All the more reasons for you to attend the Ati-Atihan Festival, right?
3. Dinagyang Festival
Location: Iloilo City
Date: 4th week of January
If Sinulog is considered one of the grandest festivals in the country, then Dinagyang is considered the most attended. Once again, this festival is held to honor the life of Santo Nino, the Holy Child Jesus, the arrival of Malay settlers on the island, and also the legendary barter of Panay Island from the natives “Aetas” or “Atis”.
“Dinagyang” is an Ilonggo word for merrymaking and revelry. True to its meaning, this world-class festival indeed hosts a plethora of events such as the Santo Nino Motorcade, Dinagyang Foodfest, and the most famous Dinagyang Tribes Dance Competitions. This competition involves Ilonggo tribes performing rituals and folk dances while smeared with body paints. It is a sight to see because it is culturally rich and entertaining. The Dinagyang Festival also gives the world a chance to taste one of the best-tasting cuisines in the country, Ilonggo cuisine.
Truly, the Dinagyang Festival is worth the visit if you plan to go to the Philippines.
Map of Iloilo City
4. Pahiyas Festival
Location: Lucban, Quezon
Date: Every May 15th
This is one of the famous festivals in the country. The word “Pahiyas” means to decorate. Fitting to its name is the true purpose of the festival. That is to find out which house in the neighborhood is decorated the best with farm products like vegetables, fruits, and many more.
Pahiyas is held to honor the life of San Isidro Labrador (St. Isidore the Laborer). He is the patron saint of farmers. This festival is celebrated since the 15th century, where farmers would deliver and display their harvests at the local church in honor of San Isidro Labrador. Then the parish priest will then bless the harvest as a way of thanking the Lord for providing them. Several years went by and this tradition was changed because for convenience’s sake. Hence the display of farm harvests on each of the houses so that the priest will be the one to go around town and bless them.
Aside from the most famous house decorating competition, Pahiyas also hosts contests, exhibits, and parades to showcase its rich culture and tradition.
One of the things that tourists visit in Lucban is their extraordinary cuisine. That’s why if you’re ever planning to attend the Pahiyas Festival, make sure to have a taste of the most famous Longganisang Lucban and Pancit Luglug.
5. Masskara Festival
Location: Bacolod, Negros Occidental
This is also one of the grandest festivals in the country is the Masskara Festival, the sheer volume of tourists attending this festival reaches almost 3 million annually. The word “masskara” is derived from the Filipino word “mascara”. Which literally translates to masks. That is the true purpose of this festival because dancers, performers, and even onlookers are encouraged to wear smiling masks to honor Bacolod which is dubbed as “The City of Smiles”.
This festival is held to honor the life of San Sebastian, (St. Sebastian) the patron saint of Bacolod. Originally, the masks used in this festival were hand-painted by the locals with flowery designs and feathers. Today, the masks are inspired by the Rio Carnival in Venice with plastic beads and sequins.
If you were hyped with the week-long celebration of the Ati-Atihan Festival, then wait ’til you discover this. The Masskara Festival is a 20-day celebration of non-stop dancing competitions, parades, merrymaking, and drinking parties! That’s right. 20. Days. Non. Stop. How about that?
A variety of events are fitted inside those 20 days such as parades, pageants, food festivals, trade fairs, garden shows, concerts, and many more! You’ll never run out of activities, so if you’re planning to attend this breathtaking festival, you have to be physically and mentally prepared. Get ready to have the time of your life at Masskara Festival!
6. Panagbenga Festival
Location: Baguio City
Date: During the Holy Week (March or April)
Unlike the previous festivals listed in this article, this is not a religious festival but rather a cultural one. “Panagbenga” comes from the Kankanaey term which means “the season of blooming”. Yup, you guessed that right. Get ready to see more flowers in a day than you would in a single lifetime.
Panagbenga is a celebration of Baguio City and the Cordillera’s traditions, values, and history. It is also a tribute to recognize Baguio’s rise from the 1990 Luzon Earthquake. This festival is known to parade Instagram-worthy photos of colorful floats covered with vibrant-colored flowers. It is truly a treat to the eyes because of the wonderful combination of flowers displayed and worn by the dancers during their performances.
A multitude of activities is held as well including dance competitions, exhibits, parades, and food festivals. Aside from being one of the most colorful festivals in the country, Panagbenga is also one of the longest festivals ever in history, lasting for one whole month. That’s a lot of partying right there, huh?
7. Kadayawan Festival
Date: Every Third Week of August
This festival is also not a religious one, but rather a celebration of life and a thanksgiving for the gifts of nature. It highlights the richness of Davao’s culture and the bountiful harvests, and the serenity of living. Indeed, the Kadayawan Festival is a celebration of Davaoenos’ gratitude to life. “Kadayawan” is a native expression from Davao usually translating to “madayaw” which means good, valuable, and superior. Kadayawan Festival in Tagalog means “Pasasalamat at Pagpapahalaga”.
Similar to the Panagbenga Festival of Davao, it also boasts of its elegant floral parades and amazing dance competitions. Some of the notable events in this festival are the Indak Indak sa Kadalanan (Street Dancing), Pamulak Kadayawan (Kadayawan Floral Parade) and the Agri Trade Fair.
If you’re planning to go to the Kadayawan Festival in Davao, then you’re in for a big cultural treat. Learn about the ethnic culture of Kadayawan Village, try some of the best delicacies in Davao especially the most famous “durian”, and take side trips to popular tourist spots in the city like Davao Crocodile Park and Philippine Eagle Center. Not to mention going on a hiking adventure on the Philippines’ tallest mountain, Mt. Apo.
8. Moriones Festival
Date: During the Holy Week (March or April)
This festival is held to commemorate the life of St. Longinus. He is the Centurion who pierced Jesus while he was hanging on the cross with a spear. Moriones was derived from the word “Morion” which refers to the Roman soldiers’ helmet.
Although this is a solemn, religious week-long event where locals are re-enacting the “Passion of the Christ” and the search of St. Longinus, it is still a sight to see for tourists.
In this festival, you can see the heavy impact of the Spaniards’ colonization of the Philippines because of the country’s deep devotion to Christianity. In the Moriones Festival, locals are dressed as Roman Military men parading the street. Sometimes they intentionally scare some children just to play with them. While you’re at it, try to explore some of Marinduque’s popular beaches, caves, and mountains!
9. Higantes Festival
Location: Angono, Rizal
Date: 22nd and 23rd Day of November
This festival is held in honor of Angono’s patron saint, San Clemente. This is a one-of-a-kind celebration because originally, its purpose was to mock Spanish Hacienderos (Owners of very large pieces of land) as an agrarian protest.
In Higantes Festival, the locals create giants measuring up to 12-feet high made up of paper Mache’. These giants may represent different people or barangays in Angono. One of the trademarks of the Higantes Festival is the traditional “basaan” where locals sprinkle water on the parade or on each other to attract blessings. Several parades and processions are also held accompanied by a band of drums and lyres where people would shout “Viva San Clemente!” in honor of their Patron Saint.
Aside from the parades, several events such as concerts, food festivals, and the battle of the bands are held in the Higantes Festival.
10. Zamboanga Hermosa Festival
Location: Zamboanga City
Date: October 12th
Also known as “Fiesta Pilar”, this festival is held in honor of Our Lady of Pillar – the patroness of Zamboanga City. It is one of the biggest and most awaited celebrations in the country. Not to mention that it’s also one of the longest, that’s right. This festival lasts for a month. So, if you’re free for the whole month of October, you should visit Zamboanga and enjoy the month-long festivities there!
Novenas, pageants, fashion shows, sing and dance competitions, and trade fairs are all included in the celebration of Fiesta Pillar. The most notable event in this festival is called the “Regatta”, which is a race of magnificently colored vintas (traditional boats of Mindanao).
Indeed, the Zamboanga Hermosa Festival’s spectacle is worth witnessing. So, come on! Visit and experience Zamboanga’s rich culture and heritage, it will surely be a trip you’ll never forget.
READ: Zamboanga Hermosa Festival Experience
11. Pintados Festival
Location: Tacloban City, Leyte
Date: Every June 29th
Pintados Festival was first celebrated in 1987 as a tribute to the tattooed tribespeople of Samar and Leyte called “Pintados”. This is a month-long festival celebrating Senor Santo Nino de Leyte.
One of the notable aspects of the Pintados Festival is the dancers who are painted or tattooed from head to toe with designs that look like armors to resemble the warriors of the old era.
Pintados is a very religious and cultural celebration focused to showcase Tacloban’s rich history and traditions. Dancers roam the street during the parade before performing in a dance competition where they try to tell a story about their hometown. Indeed, it is a sight to see as different municipalities battle out to see who has the most beautiful, graceful, and stunning dance routines.
12. T’Nalak Festival
Location: Koronadal, South Cotabato
Date: 2nd Week of July
One of the most popular festivals in the Philippines is the T’Nalak Festival. It is a week-long festivity showcasing the province of South Cotabato’s colorful “T’Nalak” cloth. These are made of abaca which is woven and created by the women of “T’Boli” tribe themselves.
T’Nalak is a very wholesome festival celebrating the diversity of religions in the province including Christianity, Islam, and ethnic tribes.
As a tourist, T’Nalak promises a spectacular sight to see which begins with the Grand Parade usually held on the first day of the week-long celebration. There are a huge number of events to look forward to including the Fun Run, Cheer Dance Competition, and the famous Bahay-Kubo (Nipa Hut) Competition. The festival culminates on the last day of the week where they would announce the winners of the held competitions.
13. Penafrancia Festival
Location: Naga, Camarines Sur
For more than 300 years, the Penafrancia Festival has always been one of the grandest and most attended festivals in the Philippines. This event is held to commemorate Bicol’s miraculous patroness Nuestra Senora de Penafrancia. As a tourist, it is an overwhelming and moving sight to see millions of devotees parading the street with their patroness’s image while shouting in unison “Viva La Virgen!”
The Penafrancia Festival is one of the longest celebrations in history which lasts for almost three weeks. The festivities usually start with the religious procession “Traslacion” where the carriage containing the image of Nuestra Senora de Penafrancia is paraded from the Basilica to the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral. Along with the religious events are extraordinary dance competitions and civic-military parades performing on almost all of the streets in Naga.
Another main event of this festival is the Miss Bicolandia where Bicolanas showcase their world-class natural beauty. Keep in mind that Bicol is home to some of the country’s beauty queens. Bicol’s appreciation and love for beauty never fail that is why this event draws a tremendous number of attendees.
Penafrancia Festival ends in the most spectacular and religious way possible. Nuestra Senora de Penafrancia’s image is paraded afloat a colorful flatboat along the Bicol River. While the devotees shout “Viva La Virgen!” religiously one last time before the patroness rests back in her altar in the Basilica Minore.
14. Giant Lantern Festival
Location: San Fernando, Pampanga
Date: Weekend before Christmas Eve
This is one of the grandest Christmas-themed festivals held in the Philippines. This century-old festival was first held to honor President Manuel L. Quezon for opening the Mount Arayat National Park which paved the way for prospering tourism that helped the Kapampangans a lot.
The Giant Lantern Festival is so popular that the city of San Fernando was named “The Christmas Capital of the Philippines”. For tourists, local or foreign, the parade of lights is a very memorable sight to see. Participants take their time and effort to create giant Christmas lanterns measuring up to 15-feet in diameter with intricate and beautiful designs. There is only one rule to follow if you want to join this festival, the lanterns should only be made from local materials.
For Filipinos, the Giant Lantern Festival not only proves that we indeed have the best and longest Christmas celebration. But it also gives them unwavering hope symbolized by the majestic parade of lights.
READ: Giant Lanterns in Pampanga
15. Aliwan Festival
Location: Pasay City
Date: Either April or May
Aliwan Festival is one of the youngest festivals yet it is already one of the grandest celebrations here in the country. Started in 2003, the celebrations aim to promote the diverse culture of Filipinos not only to its people but to the rest of the world.
The term “Aliwan” literally translates to entertainment in the local dialect of the Philippines. To no surprise, the Aliwan Festival indeed entertains millions of people all around the world. It is one of the most competitive events in the country where each of the 17 regions is expected to participate in the major contests namely: Float Parade, Beauty Pageant, and the Cultural Street Dance Contest.
Immerse yourself with the Filipinos’ diverse culture and excellent culture through the majestic float designs and the natural beauties of Filipinas participating in Reyna ng Aliwan. However, don’t you miss the Cultural Street Dance Contest where performers showcase energetic dance routines along the 2.5 km parade from Quirino Grandstand to Aliw Theater?
While you’re at it, make the most out of your stay in Pasay by booking a room in its wide selection of world-class hotels.