Festivals in the Philippines

Let’s Have a Fiesta in the Philippines a Nation of Islanders Who Know How to Celebrate Life.

As they say the show must go on, and so do fiestas in the Philippines. Through good times or bad times, the Filipinos and Filipinas will not neglect their fiestas and there is always one going on somewhere in this country made up of cluster of islands. Each bario or province will have at least one local festival to celebrate, usually with religious or cultural intonation.

Four popular festivals in the Philippines celebrated by the local community of each island are now known worldwide are the Sinulog, Ati-Atihan, Pahiyas and the Masskara.

Cebu’s Sinulog Festival

It is held on the third Sunday of January and traditionally lasts for nine days, ending with the Sinulog Grand Parade. The festival is in honour of the child Jesus or Santo Nino, the patron saint of the city of Cebu. It is also a dance ritual that commemorates the pagan past of the people and their acceptance of Christianity.

The festival features a street parade with participants in bright-colored costumes dancing to the rhythm of drums, trumpets, and native gongs. The city will also be decked with hundres of flowers and candles. Before the parade, the Fluvial Procession

carrying the Santa Nino will arrive at the Basilica where the christianising of Cebu is performed and this is followed with a Pontifical Mass celebrated by the Cardinal, with the assistance of several bishops of Cebu. Most people will go to the Basilica to attend mass before heading out to the streets to watch the parade.Recently, the Sinulog Festival has been promoted as a tourist attraction, with a contest worth one million pesos. Several contingents from various parts of the country will be vying for the prize money.

Ati-Atihan Festival in Panay

The festival has its origin in the thirteen century when a group of Malays from Borneo arrived in Panay to buy land from the inhabitants, the Atis. To mark the arrival, a great feast was held with the Malays painting their faces black with soot to look like the Atis. Today, the festival is celebrated on the second Sunday in January to celebrate Santo Nino. The Ati-Atihan is held in the town of Kalibo in the provice of Aklan on the island of Panay.

On this day, celebrants paint their faces black and wear bright and outlandish costumes participating in dancing revelry. For three days, there will be merrymaking, processions and parades. It is considered to be the wildest among the feistas in the Philippines, and is said to be the ‘Mother of all Philippine festivals’ which has led other provinces to elevate the celebration of their own festivals.

Pahiyas Festival

This is in honour of San Isidro de Labrador, the patron saints of farmers. The celebration is a means of giving thanks for a bountiful harvest and it is held on May 15 at Lucban in the Province of Quezon, which is about 160 kilometres from Metro Manila. During this occasion houses along the streets are artistically decorated with fruits, vegetables, agricultural products and Kiping a leaf-shaped wafer made of rice that comes in different colours.

During the Pahiyas Festival, people display their harvest in front of their homes to allow the parish priest to bless their bounty. At the same time, the procession of the image of San Isidiro is planned along the routes of the houses. A competition is usually held to compete for the title of the best-decorated house. After the competition, the produce which was used to decorate the houses is thrown to groups of people as free treats.

Festival of the Smiles – MassKara 
This feista came about out of a crisis and tragedy suffered by the people of Bacolod City (Bacolenos as they are called) in 1980. A festival of smiles was organised as a way to pull the Bacolenos from the gloom. A city that depends on the sugar industry, the local government began the festival to show the tenacity of the people to survive economic hardships. Visitors from all over the Philippines and worldwide will get a chance to enjoy 20 days of merry making beginning from October 1.

During the celebration everyone wears masks made of papier-mache with men and women in bright costumes dancing in the streets. Revellers wear elaborate masks of every colour and design that are moulded with expressions to depict a smiling, laughing and happy face.
There is also a madi-gras parade with dancing competitions and dancers gyrating to the beat of Latin rhythm. Other activities include the MassKara beauty queen pageant, carnivals, drum and bugle competitions, food festivals, sports events, musical concerts, agricultural trade fairs, garden shows and exhibitions of local products.