Biggest Festivals In The Philippines To Add To Your Travel Bucket List17 min read
First, a little Araling Panlipunan refresher: The Philippines is composed of 7,107 islands, with 81 provinces that celebrate almost everything with grand and colorful festivals.
It’s really “more fun in the Philippines when you happen to be in town for its annual festival. Colloquiality known as the fiesta, the custom was originally brought to our islands by Spanish colonizers. It meant a religious festival to celebrate the feast day of an area’s patron saint.
One thing’s for sure: We Filipinos really love our festivals, which feature music, parades, dances, food, vivid costumes, and processions that depict the historic tradition and culture of our ancestors. However, the fiesta has long evolved beyond just celebrating a saint and become one giant rave party where locals and visitors experience the best of Filipino hospitality.
Be part of the merry-making and experience world-class tourism by knowing which local fiesta lands on which month, and plan your trips in advance.
When: An 11-day celebration cumulating on the third Sunday of January
Where: Cebu City
The Sinulog Festival is held in honor of the Santo Niño. It is one of the most popular festivals celebrated in the Philippines, gathering around two million tourists each year.
Sinulog came from the Cebuano word “sulog,” which means “like water current movement,” describing the forward and backward steps of the Sinulog dance, a ritual prayer dance honoring the child Jesus or most known by Catholics as Señor Santo Niño.
When: A celebration lasting 10 days, which cumulates on the third Sunday of January
Where: Kalibo, Aklan
Known as the “Mother of All Philippine Festivals,” the Ati-Atihan is a celebration held in Kalibo, Aklan in honor of Santo Niño. It has inspired many other famous Philippine Festivals such as the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City and the aforementioned Sinulog Festival in Cebu City.
The biggest feature of the Ati-Atihan is a series of street parades where dancers dressed in colorful indigenous costumes perform tribal dances to music, and encourage spectators to dance along with them.
The costumes, dances, and music depict the way of living of the Ati, the first settlers in the area and in many other parts of the country.
When: An almost month-long series of events that cumulate on the fourth Sunday of January
Where: Iloilo City, Iloilo
Selected as the Best Tourism Event in the Philippines for three consecutive years, the Dinagyang Festival is regarded as a world-class festival because of its innovation, legacy, and popularity.
Considered as a cultural and religious celebration, it honors the Santo Niño. The festival began after a replica of the original Santo Niño de Cebu was brought to Iloilo in 1968. Since then, the rich heritage, colorful history, and passionate devotion of the Ilonggo people is celebrated in front of the world in the form of the Dinagyang festival.
Philippine Hot Air Balloon Festival
When: Previously three to four days in February, in 2020, three days in March (March 5-8)
Where: Previously at the Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga, but in 2020 it will be held in Carmona, Cavite
From just a mere adventure for both locals and tourists, Philippine Hot Air Balloon Festival became a source of national pride and is part of the best festivals in the Philippines.
This festival, which began in 1996, was actually canceled on what would have been its 24th year back in 2019. However, as of 2020, it’s back in a new venue and on a new month.
Featuring colorful hot air balloons, military aircraft drills, and skydiving, the festival previously attracted more than 50,000 visitors from all over the world and the new organizers are hopeful that the event will continue on into the future.
When: Weeklong celebration that starts on the last week of February till March 7
Where: Sto. Tomas, Batangas
An annual festival held to celebrate the feast day of the town’s Patron Saint, St. Thomas Aquinas on March 7.
The Mahaguyog Festival is a weeklong celebration marked by street parades, pageantry, and a lot more festivity. This is done as a gesture of gratitude of the farmers to their Patron Saint for a bountiful harvest.
When: Every third weekend of February
Where: The strait between Iloilo City and Guimaras Island
Held in the Villa de Arevalo district in Iloilo City, the Paraw Regatta Festival is a yearly celebration featuring the Paraw, a native Visayan sailboat.
People flock to the area to witness the sailboat race along Iloilo Strait, the largest sailing event in the Philippines. The sails are painted in colorful designs depicting the colorful history of the city.
When: Weeklong festival on the third week of February
Where: Taytay, Rizal
A celebration of gratitude and thanksgiving, the “Hamaka Festival” or “Araw ng Pasasalamat” is held each year in the city of Taytay in Rizal to showcase the city’s own products.
It came from the Filipino words “Hamba, Makina and Kasuotan”, the items which are featured and showcased during the celebration.
From parades to pageants, singing contests, boodle fights, basketball leagues, and bike fests, the Hamaka Festival is a week-long celebration filled with fun and thanksgiving.
When: February 11
Where: Iriga City, Camarines Sur
A celebration of abundance in harvest, Tinagba Festival in Camarines Sur honors the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
It is the Bikolanos’ way of showing gratitude for a whole year of good harvest the past year and an offering for a request of a much abundant year this year.
There is usually a whole week of activities leading up to the feast day on February 11. A highlight of the day is a parade of carabao-drawn carts and motored floats surround the whole city, featuring their best products. The procession will end at the Emerald Grotto at the top of Calvary Hill where families can attend masses and participate in the distribution of agricultural products to needy families in the city.
International Bamboo Organ Festival
When: Series of concerts held in February
Where: St. Joseph Parish Church, Las Piñas City
A world-renowned showcase of the rich musical heritage of the Philippines, this festival centers around the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ at Saint Joseph Parish Church in Las Piñas City.
The Las Piñas Bamboo Organ was built way back in the 1800s and survived numerous natural disasters, including earthquakes, typhoons, and flooding.
Though the organ survived these destructive events, it was damaged and in 1975, was sent to Germary for repairs. Upon its return, the International Bamboo Organ Festival began to celebrate the organ’s return and the music it can create.
When: Whole month of February
Where: Baguio City, Benguet
A month-long festivity celebrated annually at the City of Pines, Baguio City, Panagbenga Festival is held as a tribute to the city’s abundant flora. The name “Panagbenga” came from the Kankanaey language and means “season of blooming.”
The festival began after the Luzon earthquake on July 1990, devastated the city as a way to prove that they had risen above the disaster.
The most awaited part of the celebration is a float parade where various floats are decked with colorful flowers make their way throughout the city.
When: February 19
Where: Bago City, Negros Occidental
This festival aims to rediscover and highlight the indigenous dances, literature, music, and rituals of the Bagonhon tribe, who settled Bago City in the pre-Spanish times.
Just like other exciting festivals celebrated in the country, it is filled with music, dances, parades, and colorful costumes the locals or even the tourists can enjoy.
When: February 20 – 27
Where: General Santos City, South Cotabato
Celebrated for almost two decades now, the Kalilangan festival is the second biggest festival in General Santos City. It is held to commemorate the arrival of the city’s organizer and primary pioneer, General Paulino Santos from Luzon to the area in Sarangani Bay where the city now stands.
The festival displays the unique traditions, ethnic rites, and rituals of the B’laan tribe, the first settlers in the city. Several dance and sports competitions, as well as some economic, political, and social activities are usually held in conjunction with the festival.
Malasimbo Music and Arts Festival
When: A weekend on March
Where: Initially Puerto Galera, Mindoro; in 2020, La Mesa Ecopark, Quezon City
The Malasimbo Music and Arts Festival started in 2011 with the goal of serving as a medium by which the indigenous people of Mindoro to channel and showcase their art and culture.
The festival aims to showcase both traditional and contemporary culture and art. Its most famous feature is its musical performances from guest artists both here and abroad.
It also works towards promoting environmental protection and sustainability with ticket sales going to fund events such as tree planting of mangrove seedlings, hardwood trees, herbal and medicinal plants.
When: Holy Week
Where: Boac, Marinduque
A Lenten rite held every Holy Week, the Moriones Festival features and women in costumes and masks duplicating the clothing of Roman soldiers from the biblical story of the Passion of Christ.
The local folks in Marinduque celebrate this colorful festival from Holy Monday to Easter Sunday by engaging in mock sword fights, dancing, and a reenactment of the Suffering of Christ and the crucifixion.
When: Holy Week
The Witches Festival or Healing Festival in Siquijor is celebrated as a sign of good faith and healing. The area’s culture and their traditions towards black magic, faith healing and witchcraft are celebrated during the festival.
The festival focuses on showcasing the healing process and good intentions of the “mananambals” or healers. Healers from all over the country gather every year during Holy Week in Mt. Bandilaan to share their healing talents with each other.
Healing herbs and potions can also be purchased during the festival, one of the many highlights of the feast.
When: Holy Week
Where: Pakil, Laguna
In honor of the seven sorrows of the Blessed Virgin of Turumba, the Turumba Festival is celebrated seven times each year during the months of April and May in Pakil, Laguna. This makes it the longest religious celebration in the Philippines.
The event starts the Friday before the Palm Sunday and ends on the fifth Sunday after the Easter Sunday.
When: 10-day celebration in April
Where: Dagupan City, Pangasinan
Milkfish or bangus in Filipino is considered as the country’s national fish. That said, it is not surprising that it has a festival of its own. Each year, Bangus Festival is held in Dagupan City, the country’s bangus capital.
The event, which was first conceptualized in 2002, features a grand parade and a week-long celebration of contests and costumes highlighting the bangus. In 2003, it won recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records after organizing the longest barbecue set-up in the world.
Flores de Mayo
When: Whole month of May
Where: In Catholic parishes all over the Philippines
Flores de Mayo is a month-long celebration held country-wide in the month of May. It signals the start of the Santacruzan season, a ritual pageant on the last week of May honoring the finding of the True Cross by Helena of Constantinople, who is commonly known as Reyna Elena.
Each city has its own respective versions of the representation of the Santacruzan thus letting the tourists experience it differently in every city.
When: Month of May
Where: Albay Province
Meant to honor the beauty of Mayon Volcano, the Magayon Festival is a month-long celebration happening in the province of Albay.
The streets in the city are filled with the cultural events of the Albayanos featuring Albay’s rich culture and thus showcasing their natural wonders, culinary fare, and native industries.
The “sili-eating” event is the much-awaited program in the celebration featuring the toughest of the though who accepted the challenge of eating spicy foods as a part of the traditions of the Albayanos.
When: May 15 and 16
Where: Pulilan, Bulacan
Carabaos, being a staple in the county’s mainly agrarian areas, have their own festival as well. Though there are smaller Carabao festivals in other parts of the country, the most popular one is held in the municipality of Pulilan in Bulacan.
Honoring the town’s Patron Saint, San Isidro Labrador, farmers celebrate as a way of giving gratitude for the abundance in harvest. The highlight is carabaos being paraded through the city ending at the church where they are blessed to ensure a better harvest in the coming months.
When: May 15
Where: Lucban and Sariaya, Quezon
One of the most colorful festivals in the Philippines, the Pahiyas Festival is celebrated in honor of the patron saint of farmers, San Isidro Labrador.
Tourists flock the area to gaze in wonder at how families in the municipalities decorate their homes. The colorful decorations are not just for tourists though but are a sign of gratitude for the blessings of the previous year and a wish for a better harvest in the harvest season.
When: May 17 to 19
Where: Obando, Bulacan
Obando in Bulacan is most popular because of its Obando Fertility Rites and Dance festival.
It is one of the most interesting events that take place in the Philippines as couples who are hoping for a child dance for the Patron Saints of Santa Clara and Nuestra Señora de Salambao.
When: June 23
Where: Ormoc City, Leyte
A colorful celebration paying homage to Ormoc City’s Paton Saints and Queen Pineapple, the Piña Festival is composed of lively street dancing, pageants, and a lot of street competitions.
Ormoc Queen Pineapples, deemed as one of the sweetest in the world, are the symbol of the city’s rich agricultural heritage.
The Piña Festival seeks to promote not only the sweetness of their produced fruit, but most importantly the strong personality of the Ormocanons.
Parada ng mga Lechon
When: June 24
Where: Balayan, Batangas
A must-see festival in Balayan, Batangas, the Parada ng mga Lechon is an annual celebration held during the feast day of the town’s Patron Saint, Saint John the Baptist.
Lechon, one of Batangas’ delicacies, is a symbol of their traditions which started even way before the Spanish occupancy.
Roasted pigs are dressed depending on the theme and paraded citywide and then shared by the town and their visitors in a boodle fight. No doubt tourists come to experience this celebration because not only were their eyes are filled with the colorful sight of the dressed-up pigs but for the chance to taste the delectability of the lechon.
When: June 29
Where: Tacloban, Leyte
A cultural and religious celebration, the Pintados Festival is held in honor of the most courageous warriors of olden times who are known as the Pintados.
Participants in this festival use body paint to emulate the colorful patterns and symbol that adorned the bodies of these ancient tattooed warriors.
The Pintados Festival is celebrated not only to show the archipelago’s colorful history, but most importantly to encourage the youth to see the real value and excellence of the customs of the country’s ancestors.
When: Every first week of July
Where: Lanao del Norte
Sagayan Festival is a cultural event based from the Maranao dance, the cultural dance of Lanao del Norte. It is held during the Araw ng Lanao del Norte and competitions as well as street dances depicting the war dance are being performed in the whole city.
When: July 4 – 7
Where: Bocaue, Bulacan
Just like many other towns in the province of Bulacan, Bocaue also has their own festival and theirs falls on July.
The Pagoda Festival is held annually in commemoration of the discovery of the miraculous cross floating on the Bocaue River way back 200 years ago.
During the Bocaue Pagoda festival, a replica of the miraculous cross designed and adorned with colorful trimmings is guided by small bancas in a floating procession down the Bocaue River.
When: August 19
Where: Lucban, Quezon
Other than the Pahiyas Festival, Lucban Quezon also celebrates Gigantes Festival which features 14-feet tall giants made of paper mâché are paraded through the town.
The paper mâché giants that come in pairs and are dressed in traditional costumes. The male giant is in a camisa chino for the male while the female is dressed in the native patadyong or kimono.
The giants are made and controlled by those who have made a promise or “panata” in order to have a wish granted.
When: Weeklong celebration in September
Where: General Santos City, South Cotabato
General Santos City is the largest producer of sashimi-grade tuna in the Philippines, so it’s not surprising that their festival would feature the fish that put them on the map.
The Tuna Festival celebrates all things tuna for whole week in honor of the town’s best commodity and source of prosperity.
The festival features a Tuna Float parade, long lines of grills set-up to allow guests and locals to feast and enjoy (Sugbahan sa Dalan), a Bancarera or dragon boat race, and a grand fish fest. You surely won’t be left bored with the number of programs and events to enjoy.
Bicol Food Festival
When: Entire month
Where: Naga City, Camarines Sur
A month-long celebration centered in Naga City, the Bicol Food Festival celebrates and highlights the delectable cuisines of the Bicol region.
Visitors get a chance to sample dishes such as pinangat, laing, the Bicol Express, the tinotongan, inolokan or tinolmok, and pecadillo, cocido, and many more.
The Bicol Food Festival is a must-try for those who love to eat or even for those who just want to experience a whole new level of cooking.
When: Every third Sunday of September
Where: Naga City, Camarines Sur
Celebrated every third Sunday of September, the feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is a nine-day festivity dedicated to prayers in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Locals as well as tourists flock at her shrine bringing their own pilgrims to pay homage for the favors they have received.
When: October 25
Where: Bacolod City, Negros Occidental
If you want to experience a different kind of celebration, come and visit Bacolod City and party with them during the Masskara Festival.
Prepare to witness street dances in colorful costumes, concerts, street parties, and food fests. Don’t let your chance of celebrating this year’s happiest and most colorful festival in the Philippines slip away.
When: October 16 – 17
Where: Tubod, Lanao del Norte
Every mid-October, the Sagingan Festival in Tubod, Lanao del Norte showcases what the town has to offer. From delectable goodies, farm-fresh products, dances, and handicrafts, they go all out for this weeklong celebration.
A thanksgiving for bountiful harvests as well as a chance to reminisce on cultural traditions and the greatness of its locals, Sagingan festival is indeed a must to experience if you want to discover what the people in Lanao del Norte are recognized for.
When: Every fourth week of October
Where: Mambajao, Camiguin Island
An annual event marked every fourth week of October, the Lanzones Festival is a four-day festival celebrated in remembrance of the bountiful harvests enjoyed on the island of Camiguin. The star of the festival is the sweet lanzones fruit.
Visitors will be left in awe upon seeing houses and street posts decorated with lanzones. Plus, ready your taste buds as you will be eating an abundance of the sweet fruit that is in the offering all over the area.
When: November 3-5
Where: San Carlos City, Negros Occidental
A festival all about the fusion of arts and nature, the Pintaflores Festival retells the tragedy and triumph of a princess who went and conquered an uncharted land.
Dancers dressed in elaborate costumes filled with floral tattoos all over their face and body filled the streets of the town celebrating the victory of their very own hero, the princess who saved their new home, San Carlos City in Negros Occidental.
Giant Lantern Festival
Where: Whole month of December
When: Philippine Christmas Village, San Fernando City, Pampanga
Known as the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines”, San Fernando, Pampanga’s lantern industry has evolved as time pass by producing world-class items meant to be exported all over the world.
During the Giant Lantern Festival, San Fernando’s lantern makers showcase their skills by creating giant parols measuring about 14 to 18 feet in diameter. The colorful and intricate parols, sporting kaleidoscope patterns, are entered into competition where they are judged by world-class spectators.