Did you know that Pampanga was the first and richest province created by the Spanish Colony in the Philippines? This just proves that among all the other provinces in the country, Pampanga was the most favored by Spain. No wonder why various Kapampangan traditions and culture evidently had a touch of Spanish influence, right?
Pampanga is known for a lot of things. Probably the most famous thing about the province is that it’s home to some of the best-tasting Filipino dishes of all time. Well, they didn’t call Pampanga “The Culinary Capital of the Philippines” for nothing! From the sinful sizzling Sisig and Morcon to the Lengua Estofado, Caldereta, and even San Nicolas Cookies, you could never go wrong with Kapampangan dishes.
However, Pampanga is not only about its famous dishes as it is also one of the most developed provinces in the country. Several corporate centers, large malls, entertainment hubs, and business districts are already erected specifically in Clark, Pampanga. It is said that the government aims to decongest Manila by transferring some of the major government offices to New Clark City in Pampanga.
That being said, it is expected that more and more tourists will flock to the province as the days of completion of the New Clark City are getting closer and closer. This just means that the province of Pampanga will now have the perfect chance to show off its wonderful culture and tradition to the world! From top tourist attractions to fun adventures and activities, Pampanga sure has a lot to offer!
But do you know what is one of the most exciting things to do here in the Kapampangan region? Yes, festivals! Pampanga is also known for holding some of the grandest and jaw-dropping festivals in the whole country. Millions of tourists, local and international, are visiting the province just to experience these anticipated events annually.
So if I were you, I’d prepare my bags right away because in this article, we’re going to discover the best festivals of Pampanga!
1. Sinukwan Festival
First up is one of the many festivals held in the wonderful city of San Fernando. It is no other than the Sinukwan Festival! Visitors all over the country and the world are describing this festival as the “Essence of Kapampangan Spirit”.
The Sinukwan Festival is a cultural and week-long festival mainly focused on giving praise to the Kapampangan god Aring Sinukwan, who is believed to be a deity since ancient times. Several competitions highlight this grand festival such as street dances, photography competitions, pageants, and even local cooking showdowns! Moreover, countless food fairs are scattered around the city giving the visitors a chance to taste the ever-famous culinary brilliance of the Kapampangan people.
Sinukwan Festival is held every December, coinciding with several regular holidays of the year. That being said, the local community expects thousands of visitors to flock to San Fernando City. So, if you’re planning to experience the wonderful celebration of the Sinukwan Festival, you’d better plan ahead!
READ: Sinukwan Festival Experience
2. Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul)
Yet another grand festivity is located at none other than the city of San Fernando! The Giant Lantern Festival or Ligligan Parul is one of the most anticipated events in Pampanga every year mainly because of its aesthetically satisfying giant parol lanterns! Because of this festival, the city of San Fernando was given the nickname “Christmas Capital of the Philippines”.
You will truly feel the Christmas spirit living within the hearts of Filipinos during the Giant Lantern Festival. The festivities were intended to coincide with the Simbang Gabi, as lantern competitions get bigger and brighter as Christmas Day comes closer and closer. The most important activity of the Ligligan Parul is the Lubenas, it is a nine (9)-day novena and evening procession on the eve of every Simbang Gabi.
Aside from giant lantern competitions and activities, visitors also won’t be disappointed with the wide variety of food selections available in the city! If I were you, I’d take this perfect chance to reward myself with a gastronomic feast of Kapampangan food!
3. Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta
Ah, of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without the biggest and longest-running aviation sports in the country! Yup, it’s the Hot Air Balloon Festival of Clark, Pampanga. It is a four-day event featuring hundreds of multicolored and designed hot air balloons with pilots from all over the world in participation!
Did you know that the Hot Air Balloon Festival was initiated to boost the economy of Pampanga after the devastating eruption of Mount Pinatubo? Right. It was the idea of then Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor. Well, look at Pampanga now, I’d say that the province was able to overcome these challenges and prospered beautifully.
The Hot Air Balloon Festival itself is aesthetically pleasing, but the festivities also feature other activities such as skydiving, freestyle aerobatics, flag jumps, kitemaking, remote-control airplane and helicopter competition, and many more! Unleash the daredevil in you as you try all these breathtaking activities!
4. Makatapak Festival
The Makatapak Festival is the famous re-enactment of the townfolks of Apalit, Pampanga who walked barefoot through the lahar caused by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. The word “Makatapak” translates to “being barefoot”.
Therefore, this festival which is held every November is symbolized by the locals walking and dancing barefooted in a procession. This honors their cultural heritage, faith, and experiences. It is said that the Makatapak Festival is a “Pilgrimage to the Past”.
5. Frog Festival (Fiestang Tugak)
Coming from the name itself, Fiestang Tugak is probably one of the most exotic and unique festivals not only in the Philippines but in the whole world! Originating once again from San Fernando City, the Frog Festival was inspired due to the abundance of frogs in the rice fields of San Fernando. Through the years, the Fernandinos developed brilliant ways of catching these frogs and turning them into tasty dishes! Yup! Believe it or not, these Tugak (Frog) dishes taste like chicken!
Several food recipes such as Adobong Tugak, Tinolang Tugak, Fried Tugak, Almondegas, and even Frog Burgers are popular during the festival. Aside from the food, there are also a lot of activities being held such as street dance competitions, pageants, carnivals, and of course, frog-catching contests!
6. Duman Festival
The Duman Festival is one of the youngest festivals in Pampanga. It was established in 2002 by Andy Alviz in the city of Sta. Rita, Pampanga. “Duman” refers to the Christmas delicacy best paired with hot tsokolate batirol or milk. The Duman is made using the long-standing tradition of the Kapampangans of pounding and winnowing unripe glutinous rice which then turns into a yummy green delicacy.
The spirit of “Food Tripping” is brought to life by the Duman Festival along with the celebration of several Kapampangan cultural activities. Aside from the Duman, visitors also have the choice to try various Kapampangan delicacies on the food stalls installed by the locals.
7. Dukit Festival
The Dukit Festival is held annually from December 27 to 28 as a part of the celebration of the feast of St. James the Great, patron saint of Betis, Guagua, Pampanga. This is considered the “Sistine Chapel of the Philippines”. This festival is known for celebrating and preserving the woodcarving culture of the country. In fact, Dukit is considered the “Woodcarving Capital of the Philippines”.
One of the highlights of the festival is an exhibit featuring the best woodcarving products of the town like ecclesiastical and religious items and furniture. There’s also a major competition where thirty (30) or more woodcarvers participate in an on-the-spot woodcarving competition. Visitors are free to buy some of the woodcarving souvenirs as a remembrance as well as support to the woodcarving community of Dukit.
8. San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites
It’s no wonder why Pampanga is home to some of the most religious festivities in the Philippines. After all, it was the first province created by the Spanish Colony, and several of its towns are considered the most important by the Spanish government. In the town of San Pedro Cutud, San Fernando City, one of the most religious re-enactments of the life of Jesus Christ is held during the Holy Week.
The San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites features the Passion and Death of Christ. It includes the passion play with the torture and actual nailing of at least three (penitents) to the cross. The penitents are only brought down if they feel that they’re already cleansed from their sins. Some also join a procession as they relentlessly flagellate themselves with bamboo sticks tied to a rope.
This festival is highly respected as it was also registered at the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.
So, there you have it! You may have noticed that the festivals in Pampanga are very diverse with regard to their theme. Some of the festivals are grand and wild in nature while some are also solemn and religious. This shows how the Kapampangans can adapt to the current and modern trends of the world while also preserving their rich cultural tradition.