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7 Fantastic Festivals in the Philippines You Shouldn’t Miss
#1 – Sinulog Festival in Cebu
Cebu is a province in the Philippines that is popular for having the most festivals in a year. One of these is the Sinulog Festival, which is celebrated in honor of the Santo Niño or the Holy Child Jesus, and signifies the time when Filipinos embraced the Roman Catholic religion. Happening every third Sunday of January in the province’s main city, Cebu City, the event features a parade of street dancers hopping to the beat of drums and gongs, with the participants donned in vibrant costumes, headdresses and body paint. One of the more fascinating highlights is the Fluvial Procession which occurs the day before the parade.
#2 – Ati-Atihan Festival in Kalibo, Aklan
Celebrated concurrently with the Sinulog Festival every third Sunday of the month is the Ati-Atihan Festival, this time in the town of Kalibo in Aklan. As a matter of fact, Sinulog is an adaptation of the Ati-Atihan Festival, which bears the same message and the same characteristics: street dancing to tribal music, with revelers dressed in flashy native outfits, in honor of the Santo Niño. However, where Sinulog commemorates a religious event, Ati-Atihan originally started off in the early days as a tribute to Animism. Today, the Ati-Atihan Festival is now a largely religious affair.
#3 – Panagbenga Festival in Baguio
Can’t get enough of local festivities? Every February, Baguio gives one a chance to celebrate one month – yes, one whole month – of bewitching blooms, magnificent weather, the best of native and local products, and more street dancing, this time in flower-inspired apparel. A fabulous parade of mobile floats made entirely out of flowers highlights the event. Said to signify the “season of blossoming”, the Panagbenga Festival was conceived not only to symbolize the city’s abundant blossoms but also to represent the Baguio's rise after the 1990 Luzon earthquake.
#4 – Kadayawan sa Dabaw Festival in Davao
Another festival of flowers is the Kadayawan Festival, held in Davao City every third week of August. Strikingly similar to the Panagbenga Festival, the Kadayawan Festival also features a procession of spectacular floats made of flowers, and a parade of street dancers clad in the traditional Muslim batik or the native T'boli woven costumes (t'nalak) and headdresses formed with gaily colored beads. But aside from the classic blooms, various exotic fruits are also on display, as Kadayawan essentially represents harvest time. Where Panagbenga is thanksgiving for survival and renewal, Kadayawan is thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest.
#5 – Moriones Festival in Marinduque
In Marinduque, the subdued and solemn season of the Holy Week serves as the perfect background for a religious celebration. The Moriones Festival is an event which re-enacts the story of Saint Longinus, and also the suffering of the Christ Jesus while on his way to be crucified. In the parade, some participants are disguised as biblical Roman centurions, complete with painted masks and helmets, and vividly colored tunics. Others perform as penitents and flog themselves or carry a cross on their shoulders, sometimes even allowing themselves to be nailed to their crosses. (While to many this may seem barbaric, the locals consider it an act of penance.)
#6 – MassKara Festival in Bacolod
October 19 is Bacolod City’s charter anniversary, and to commemorate the event, the MassKara Festival is celebrated on the third weekend nearest that date. A street dancing parade is held, where richly adorned locals in various heavily ornamented masks and headdresses gyrate gaily to Latin tunes in a contest of coordination and stamina. Because the place is also known as the “city of smiles”, the masks have one thing in common: they are all painted with radiant smiles.
#7 – Higantes Festival in Angono, Rizal
The Higantes Festival occurs every 23rd of November in the town of Angono in Rizal. It is a celebration in honor of the patron saint of fishermen, San Clemente. The main event shows male devotees carrying a small statue of the patron saint, while leading the “pahadores”, locals wearing native costumes or fisherman’s clothing, and carrying boat paddles and fish nets; and the “higantes”, awesome 10-12 foot tall elaborately dressed, paper-mache figures with clay heads, supposedly representing the Spanish landlords during the days of the colonial occupation. While the procession is ongoing, participants may splash water on onlookers or at each other.