The fiesta is part and parcel of Filipino culture. Through good times and bad times, the fiesta must go on. Each city and barrio has at least one local festival of its own, usually on the feast of its patron saint, so that there is always a fiesta going on somewhere in the country. But the biggest and most elaborate festival of all is Christmas, a season celebrated with all the pomp and pageantry the fun-loving Filipino can manage.
The Ati-Atihan Festival commemorates the 13th century land deal between 10 migrating Bornean chieftains and the aboriginal Ati King Marikudo. It also honors the town patron, the infant Sto. Niño.
The ceaseless, rhythmic pounding of drums get to you, and before you know it you are on the street, shuffling your feet, shaking your head, waving your hands - and joining thousands of soot-blacked, gaily-costumed revelers in an ancient ritual of mindless merriment. A familiar battle cry reaches your ears, and amidst all this confusion you remember where you are: Kalibo, Aklan. "Viva, Sto. Niño!"
The Ati-Atihan celebration is echoed in many parts of the country.
Cebu City's fiesta of fiestas. Characterized by its peculiar two-steps-forward-and-one-step-backward shuffle, thus simulating the Holy Child of the shores, the Sinulog is a century-old tradition observed in the part of Visayas region. The prayer-dance is synchronized to the beat of drums and shouts of "Pit Señor! Viva Sto. Niño!" Feel free to dance with the best of them, grooving all the way to the grand final presentation at the Cebu City Sports Center.
Merry mayhem breaks loose in Iloilo City during this weekend, when Ilonggos leave everything behind to join in the fiesta of the year. All inhibitions are dropped: boring everyday clothes are exchanged for "Ati" warrior costumes and black body paint. Shields and "weapons" are held amidst the pounding rhythm of drums, the costumed Ilonggos put their best feet forward in celebration of…..Dinagyang!
Baguio Flower Festival
23 February - 3 March
It's flower season in the city of Pines - perfect timing for an all-out fiesta in the streets. The Baguio folk take a break on these days to revel in the cool climate and the unique culture of the city. Multi-hued costumes are worn, mimicking the various blooms of the highland region (or any of its 11 ethnic tribes). These are flowerbeds - disguised, of course, as the Panagbenga parade floats.
28 February - 1 March
Expect the Bukidnon to go tribal from the first to the second week of March, when the streets of Malaybalay take on that familiar fiesta theme. Banners, banderitas, and beer will be norm, as well as the sweet, haunting sound of native music. An early morning pamuhat ritual kicks off the festivities, to be followed by an ethnic food fest, trade fairs, and a lot of native dancing.
The island of Marinduque prides itself in being the "Lenten Capital of the Philippines", and it is easy to understand why. Come the seven days of Holy Week, the people of the island take part in the age-old ritual of the "Moriones". Colorful warrior costumes are worn, topped with finely carved masks depicting the fierce Roman soldiers of Christ's time. All these are done to depict the story of the conversion of Longuinus, the centurion who pierced Jesus' side - and his subsequent beheading.
CUTUD LENTEN RITES
San Fernando, Pampanga
Prayer of a different meaning during the Lenten season, when villagers of San Pedro, Cutud, engage in the act of self-flagellation. This ancient ritual is performed in the morning of Good Friday during the Holy Week. Backs, arms, and legs are cut and then struck with burillo whips. The climax to this occasion happens at midday, when penitents are literally nailed to their waiting crosses.
Flowers come out in May, but these aren't the only things flaunted during this merry month. Down south in the town of Lucban, Quezon, there's also the kiping - a colorful, translucent rice tortilla that serves as an edible ornament of sorts. You will see lots of these at the Pahiyas Festival, an annual celebration held to usher in a bountiful harvest, and smashing good times.
It's a free-for-all, grab-all-you-can affair with suman-sweet, sticky native rice cakes-as the center of contention. It is also the grand prize, so feel free to join the fray. Rest assured, whether you get handfuls or just a mere mouthful, the Mayohan sa Tayabas will leave you wanting for more - suman, of course!
Sariaya's own version of the San Isidro festival showcases the creativity and ingenuity of the townsfolk in their craft and culinary tradition.
FLORES DE MAYO / SANTACRUZAN
A parade of the town's loveliest ladies, depicting the search and discovery of Christ's Cross by Queen Helena and Constantine.
Murcia, Negros Occidental
Oneness with nature is the underlying theme behind Murcia's annual mud-moving spectacle. Check on its murky highlight - a lively street dancing parade with the participant wearing nothing but mudpacks (well, almost...). It's a surefire way to mix our ecological concerns with good, clean, cloddy fun - just be sure to shower afterwards!
PINYAHAN SA DAET
Daet, Camarines Norte
Sweet, succulent pineapple is the fruit of choice for the people of Daet, Camarines Norte. In fact, they loved it so much that they made a festival in its honor. Join the locals as they celebrate the Pineapple Festival featuring a colorful street presentation complemented by art exhibits, trade fair, cultural dances, and sport events. Feel rich when you go for a visit at Paracale Gold Mines, and be acquainted with some Bicol heroes like Vinzon and Panganiban and Lucban.
PARADA NG LECHON
A different sight and flavor are introduced in June with a festival in Balayan, Batangas, popularly known as the "Parada Ng Lechon". These succulent roasted pork form the highlight of the occasion, decked out in their platforms with all kinds of décor. Since the festival coincides with the feast of St. John the Baptist, be prepared to get wet as people observe the feast by repeating the ritual of baptism - pouring water.
TACLOBAN PINTADOS FESTIVAL
Back during pre-Hispanic years, tattoos signified courage among the natives of Tacloban. These days they symbolize a cultural revival, and a wild, wacky fiesta called the Pintados. Join the town residents as they deck themselves out in body paint, mimicking the warriors of old while dancing to the frenetic beat of drums.
The Spanish colonization of the Philippines began with a blood-sealed peace treaty on the shores of Bohol. This historic event is remembered today with an all-out fiesta at the island's capital city. Check out the Sandugo street dancing parade featuring ten colorfully-dressed groups dancing to the beat of drums. There's also a traditional Filipino carnival, a martial arts festival, and Miss Bohol Sandugo Beauty Pageant, among the dozen of other exciting activities.
An exotic and colorful pageant re-enacting the Spanish-Moorish wars, particularly the Battle of Covadonga where the Spanish forces under General Pelagio took their last stand against Saracan. They were able to reverse the tide through the miraculous apparition of St. James. The addition of local color and innovation has made this annual revelry a popular attraction which brings thousands of visitors to the city.
KADAYAWAN SA DABAW
Davao's annual festival, Kadayawan Sa Dadaw promises another weekend of fanfare and fun - tribal style. Watch as the festivities reach a glorious climax on Saturday morning: that's when the Kadayawan parade is held, featuring colorful, orchid-bedecked floats and more than a dozen "ethnic" groups dancing to the beat of wooden drums.
BONOK-BONOK FESTIVAL & SILOP CAVE ADVENTURE
Behind Surigao's multi-faceted culture is its original tribal background. The Surigaonons go back to their roots this month as they celebrate their heritage with a loud, rowdy street dancing parade.
PEÑAFRANCIA VIVA LA VIRGEN
Bicol Region's biggest celebration is an annual affair that combines religion with culture and tradition, packing it all in a 9-day fiesta of biblical proportions. Stay until sundown for stirring climax: the fluvial parade as it makes its way down the river, surrounded by a sea of glowing candles - a fitting end of this truly spiritual occasion.
ZAMBOANGA HERMOSA FESTIVAL
All roads in Mindanao lead to Zamboanga, as the "City of Flowers" celebrates its grand, annual Hermosa Festival. The vintas, those colorful native sea boats, once again make their appearance in a fast-paced, race-till-you-drop regatta. There's also a wealth of cultural and flower shows, art exhibits, and trade fairs. It's an all-out celebration of life - Chavacano style!