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2019 in Festivals: A Year-Long Guide to Philippine Fiestas

by Maia Marquez
February 6, 2019

Lock in those travel plans and file those vacation leaves because it looks like you’re taking a trip around the country this year!

More than just teeming with breathtaking beaches and lush mountain sceneries, the Philippines is also deeply rooted in colorful culture and heritage. Of course, that merits loud and proud celebrations through fiestas and festivals around the country! And with 7,641 islands and so many things to remember and be grateful for, it’s no surprise that each year is a fiesta-filled one.

So, whether you’re in for a more immersive travel experience, or you’re looking for a more vibrant adventure, we highly suggest joining in on the festivities. Not sure where to go? You’re in luck as we’ve come up with a list of some of our favorites!

JANUARY

Ati-atihan

INSTAGRAM: dexstories_13

Where: Kalibo, Aklan

When: Every 3rd Sunday of January

The inspiration behind Cebu’s Sinulog and Davao’s Dinagyang (among many others), the Mother of all Festivals was first a celebration of Aeta and Malay camaraderie, until the Spanish came and integrated Catholicism. Expect street dancers in colorful costumes, blackened faces, and snake dancing (imagine a group of people dancing in a line and weaving through crowds—not actual dancing snakes!), all in honor of Sto. Niño.

Extend your vacation and take a side trip to majestic Boracay to complete your paradise experience!

Sinulog

INSTAGRAM: bobtagacphoto

Where: Cebu City

When: Every 3rd Sunday of January

Arguably the grandest and most famous Philippine fiesta is Cebu City’s tribute to the image of Sto. Niño, given by Ferdinand Magellan to Raja Humabon when he set foot in the country in 1521. Take part in their famous two steps forward, one step backward dance that mimics the adverb “sulog” which roughly means “like water current,” and join as the crowds plead, “Pit Señor!”

Looking for a place to stay? Check out our promos on Cebu hotels and resorts here.

Dinagyang

INSTAGRAM: the_hungry_mestizo

Where: Iloilo

When: Every 4th Sunday of January

Derived from the Ilonggo ‘dagyang,’ which translates to merrymaking, this fiesta is yet another celebration of the image of the Child Jesus. A more modern Ati-atihan and Sinulog, it celebrates the anniversary of when the Sto. Niño was first brought in from Cebu by dramatized interpretations, a streetdancing contest, and an Ati-atihan competition.

Indulge in a complete Iloilo experience and discover more of this hidden gem when you stay at one of our partner resorts.

FEBRUARY

Pasinaya Open House Festival

INSTAGRAM: philballettheatre

Where: Cultural Center of the Philippines, Pasay City

When: Typically held in February, this year’s Pasinaya will happen on February 1-3

A celebration of music, theater, dance, film, literature, and visual arts, this festival is dubbed as the biggest one-day multi-arts fest in the country; but due to its popularity, the recent years have seen it transpire over a couple more days. With a “see-all-you-can, workshop-all-you-can, and pay-what-you can” system, it invites Filipinos to hone their craft, discover new passions, and even simply just admire local talent. This year’s theme revolves around “Karapatan, Kalayaan, Kultura” (Rights, Freedom, Culture).

Art Fair Philippines

INSTAGRAM: artfairph

Where: The Link Ayala Center, Makati City

When: Usually held every first quarter, it will take place on February 22-24 this year

A showcase of the country’s best modern and contemporary visual art pieces, the fair is a one-stop spot for what’s hot and trending in the colorful local art scene. It aims to make art accessible to enthusiasts and newbies alike, while also generating support for our local artists.

Panagbenga

INSTAGRAM: the_jerrynation_why

Where: Baguio City

When: 4th week of February

Derived from a Kankanaey term that translates to “time for flowering,” this colorful fiesta pays tribute to the city’s brilliant and diverse flora. Also a celebration of hope following the destructive 7.7-magnitude earthquake Baguio experienced in the ‘90s, it showcases the locals’ talent alongside their resilience and positive spirit through streetdancing and flower-decorated floats and costumes.

Want to experience the city in full bloom? Book a Baguio stay at its best rate here.

MARCH

Malasimbo Music and Arts Festival

INSTAGRAM: deejfabian

Where: Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro

When: Annually held in March, this year’s festival happens on March 1-2

Featuring a curated lineup of famous local and international artists and rising talent, this festival is a celebration of the gift of art—whether it be visual or through performance. Held in an outdoor amphitheater, it offers a laid-back “come as you are” vibe and brings together people from different walks of life. This year’s roster includes Robert Glasper, IV of Spades, Munimuni, Carousel Casualties, and Danny Krivit, among many others.

When you’re in need of a place to stay to join in on the festivities, check out our Puerto Galera deals here.

APRIL

Moriones

INSTAGRAM: picturesque_journeys

Where: Marinduque

When: Holy Week

Holy Week on the island sees a practice of Lenten rites, where a reenactment of St. Longinus’ story happens. A Roman centurion who was blind in one eye, he experienced a miracle from Jesus that brought back his eyesight, hence a celebration filled with vibrant Roman costumes and painted masks, plus a playful game of “cat and mouse,” depicting the capturing and recapturing of Longinus.

Aliwan

INSTAGRAM: terest8trinidad

Where: Star City Complex, Pasay City

When: Last week of April

A gathering of different Philippine festivals, people from various provinces come together to outperform one another in streetdance, float parade, and the Reyna ng Aliwan beauty pageant (Queen of Entertainment). The fiesta aims to showcase Filipino culture and heritage to locals and foreigners alike, as well as serve as an avenue for contest participants to promote where they come from.

MAY

Flores de Mayo

INSTAGRAM: erroljohnnoel

Where: Throughout the country

When: The whole month of May

This month-long celebration and flower festival is a Christian tradition to show devotion to Mother Mary. As one of the most celebrated religious feasts in the country, it features the Flores de Mayo parade, as well as the Santacruzan or the pageant held on the last day of the fiesta, which roughly translates to “holy cross” and honors the finding of the True Cross.

Pahiyas

INSTAGRAM: iampopoy21

Where: Lucban, Quezon

When: May 15

Dubbed as the country’s most colorful harvest festival, this fiesta is the form of thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest by the people of Quezon, as well as a tribute to San Isidro de Labrador, the patron saint of farmers. Enjoy the sights, sounds, and tastes of merriment through parades, floats, marching bands, and of course, by trying the famed Pancit Lucban served the habhab way.

JUNE

Wattah Wattah Festival

INSTAGRAM: carloflorenzo

Where: San Juan City

When: June 24

Prepare to get wet when you pass the city’s streets on the Feast of Saint John the Baptist! Also known as the Basaan Festival—or literally, a dousing of water, it pays tribute to the man who cleansed and prepared believers for the coming of Jesus by baptizing them. And in the spirit of reenacting these baptisms, children and adults alike line the streets and throw water at unsuspecting passersby or other participants of the fiesta.

Pintados-Kasadyaan

INSTAGRAM: Balay.PH

Where: Tacloban

When: June 29

Pintados is a cultural-religious month-long fiesta, which originates from body-painting traditions of the olden tattooed pintados warriors. Merged with the Kasadyaan festival that happens on the 29th, it pays tribute to the Sto. Niño on his feast day. Imagine a street filled with dancers whose bodies are painted in such vivid colors—it truly is a one-of-a-kind and enjoyable sight to see!

JULY

Sandugo

INSTAGRAM: yendreyfus

Where: Tagbilaran City, Bohol

When: The whole month of July

Commemorating the Treaty of Friendship between Datu Sikatuna and Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi, this annual historical fiesta remembers the blood compact or “sandugo” as a pact of peace. Experience a month-long celebration with events like the Holy Mass, a motorcade, the Miss Bohol Sandugo Beauty Pageant, and the Sandugo Street Dancing Competition.

Take part in month-long merry-making and buy discounted Bohol stays here.

AUGUST

Kadayawan

INSTAGRAM: karlosmanlupig

Where: Davao

When: 3rd week of August

With a name that comes from the Dabawenyo word “dayaw,” meaning good, beautiful, and valuable, this festival honors just that—all things good. It’s a thanksgiving festival for good harvest, thus it’s only fitting to celebrate with beautiful sights of floats with fresh flowers and fruits, as well as the lively and cheerful “indak-indak sa kadalanan,” or street dancing in colorful costumes.

SEPTEMBER

Our Lady of Peñafrancia

INSTAGRAM: nagacitydeck

Where: Naga City, Bicol

When: 3rd Saturday of September

With a strong devotion to the blessed Mary, Bicolanos start the tribute to their patroness by praying the novena, and partaking in the procession that brings the replica of her powerful image to the Naga Cathedral. The evening festival is truly a spectacle to behold! Lit by thousands of candles, boats filled with devotees sail along the Naga River to escort the image back to its shrine, and once they reach it, joyous shouts of “Viva La Virgen!” bring the Virgin back home.

Make an adventure out of your visit to Bicol, and avail of a discounted stay here.

OCTOBER

MassKara

INSTAGRAM: nerizatavera

Where: Bacolod

When: 3rd week of October

Locals and tourists alike flock to the City of Smiles to take part in this colorful Mardi Gras and Oktoberfest-like fiesta filled with masks of smiling faces. Stemming from an all-time low in sugarcane production and a loss of around 750 lives to the sinking of MV Don Juan in 1980, the local government wanted an uplift in their people’s morale, hence the festival that celebrates the strength, resilience, and triumph of the Negrenses was born. Now, it’s known as one of the country’s major annual tourist attractions!

NOVEMBER

La Union Surfing Festival

INSTAGRAM: josephpuducay

Where: San Juan, La Union

When: Usually held during the semestral break of schools to attract students from all over the country to take part

They say that to know a place best, you must live like a local, and there’s no better way to experience La Union than by surfing! Can’t catch a wave? Take part in the community-based festival—it educates locals and natives on the wonders of surfing through proper methods and techniques. Born in 2006, this tourism activity also invites pros from all over the country to compete, enjoy, and give exposure to the sport in one of the Philippine’s best surfing destinations.

Higantes

INSTAGRAM: john23vc

Where: Angono, Rizal

When: November 22-23

What started as a mocking of hacienda owners through colorful papier-mâché caricatures is now a celebration in honor of San Clemente, the patron saint of fishermen. Sprinkle water on the parade of giants or other devotees in the basaan and watch the young parehadores girls and the band as they wear vibrant costumes and carry symbols of San Clemente devotees, and shout, “Viva San Clemente!”

Make your Rizal trip more worthwhile by extending your stay! Check out our discounted offers here.

DECEMBER

San Fernando Giant Lantern Festival

INSTAGRAM: monoclemadnesss

Where: San Fernando, Pampanga

When: Mid-December

Giving the city its nickname as the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines,” this fiesta boasts of the most vibrant and intricate giant lanterns or parols. While the first ever festival was held as a thank you to then president Manuel Quezon, it’s now more than just a competition as it also symbolizes the unity of the barrios.

Torotot Festival

INSTAGRAM: braganzajudith

Where: Davao

When: December 31

Ring in the new year loudly and proudly—but in a safe way! Following a strict imposition of a fireworks ban, Dabawenyos celebrate the year that was and the year that is to come by making loud noises with torotots (trumpets), or by banging on anything that creates booming sounds. Last year, a private group sponsored the fiesta and held competitions like the Best Giant Torotot, the Best Torotot-inspired Costume, and the Torotot Group Dance Contest. Celebrate with a bang and find that countdowns can be loud, happy, and safe!


Mark your calendars with trips and travels around the country this year. Browse through our Save Now, Travel Later! Collection and for a limited time only, buy our discounted stays that you can use from February-December 2019.

For exclusive deals and stories about local travel, sign up for Deal Grocer!

About Maia
Maia’s passions in life are to travel and tell stories. Born in the States and raised in Manila while having studied in France, her ultimate goal is to travel all countries of the world. While she’s not abroad, she spends time tanning at the beach, exploring the underwater world or chilling with her 15 dogs. Follow her adventures on her Instagram @maiawillseetheworld.

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