Most Crowd-Drawing Festivals in the Philippines

There’s no better way to experience the Philippines than joining its spectacular festivals. Deeply rooted in culture and heritage, our country’s fiestas are huge celebrations that attract both local and foreign tourists all year round.

https://visayas.politics.com.ph/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/politiko-Sinulog-festival.jpg
Sinulog Festival, photo via Visayas Politics

If you’re looking for a vibrant adventure like no-other, joining fun-filled Filipino fiestas is a must! Timing won’t be a problem as there’s usually a festival going on each month. Here’s a list of the most popular, crowd-drawing festivals in the country to get you and your friends excited for your next trip. Grand parades, gastronomic delights, loud music, and radiant Filipino smiles – you’ll find all that and more in a Philippine festival. 

Cebu’s Sinulog Festival 

Hailed as one of the grandest festivals in the country, Sinulog is also internationally renowned for drawing more than a million attendees yearly. Highlights of the event happen on the third Sunday of January every year, with colorful parades and street dances that aim to connect the country’s rich pagan history with its Christian traditions. You’ll hear loud cheers of “Pit Señor” or a plea to the Holy Child – as the Sinulog pays tribute to the image of the Santo Niño. Besides the parade and street dancing, the festival has also grown to include a choral competition and a beauty pageant.

Bacolod’s MassKara Festival

This festival is likened to a ‘giant masquerade party’ with Latin-inspired music and intricate garbs. The international magazine National Geographic has chosen MassKara Festival as one of the 12 must-do events in the world for October. The smiling mask is a testament to the city’s drive to rise from adversity. It was born from a desire to lift the spirits of people reeling from a sugar crisis and the sinking of MV Don Juan. For years, MassKara has been bringing cheers to Bacolod through food festivals, live music, street dance competitions, and a parade of illuminated floats and giant puppets.

Kalibo’s Ati-Atihan

This celebration is world famous for its colorful costumes and noisy crowds. Hailed as the “Mother of all Philippine Festivals,” the Ati-Atihan turns Kalibo, Aklan into a big party venue. The festival is a week-long event that peaks on the 3rd Saturday of January. It started out as a pagan festival meant to celebrate the anitos, but is now celebrated as a tribute to Santo Niño. Audiences are wowed by performers dressed in indigenous costumes dancing to catchy tribal beats. Ati-Atihan literally means “to be an Ati.” “Ati” is the local term for the Aetas who settled in Panay Island many years ago.

Marinduque’s Moriones Festival

This festival makes Marinduque one of the top destinations in the Philippines during the Holy Week. Men and women dressed in Roman soldier costumes and wearing intricately carved “Morion” masks attract crowds as they march down the streets. The Moriones festival re-enacts the story of Longinus, a Roman Centurion who pierced Jesus Christ with a lance and converted into Christianity. During the festival, the person who plays Longinus must hide from the “Morions.” The townspeople get to participate by searching for Longinus or by helping him hide in their homes. 

Davao’s Kadayawan

Kadayawan, a crowd-drawing festival in the Philippines
Kadayawan Festival in Davao is celebrated in August, which is one of the most crowd-drawing festivals in the Philippines. Photo via Davao City website

Arguably the biggest and grandest festival in Mindanao, the Kadayawan takes Dabawenyos back to their truest roots. Held in August, the festival celebrates the abundance of Davao by showcasing the region’s bountiful harvests of fruits, flowers, and other fresh produce. It also pays tribute to the ethnicity and diversity of Davao’s indigenous tribes. During the festival, the tribes celebrate their unity and diversity by sharing their respective dances and thanksgiving rituals. Besides the street dancing parade, the Kadayawan also features a week-long street food fiesta, songwriting competitions, captivating fireworks displays, eye-catching floral floats, and beauty pageants.

Baguio’s Panagbenga

This visually captivating festival features gorgeous floats decked with the freshest blooms parading the main streets of the mountain city. Also referred to as the “Season of Blooming,” Panagbenga is a tribute to Baguio’s booming flower industry that has attracted millions of people. It was first held in the aftermath of the devastating Luzon 1990 earthquake, to help uplift the spirits of the people who were affected by the tremors. The festivities happen in February and activities include street dancing, trade fairs, bazaars, and lots of contests. 

Lucban’s Pahiyas

The stunningly bright decorations at Pahiyas Festival makes it one of the country’s most colorful and elaborate celebrations. Instead of street dancing, the highlights of Pahiyas are houses in Lucban, Quezon that are decorated with colorful foods and handicraft—a grand display of fruits, vegetables, and kiping, a leaf-shaped wafer made of rice dough. Held in May, Pahiyas is meant to honor San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of laborers, peasants, and farmers. The houses are picture-perfect plus you can actually bring a basket and pick produce from the walls for free. Town officials award the best decorated houses.

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