Your Month-by-Month Guide to the Festivals in the Philippines 2019

[UPDATED January 2019] There’s no denying that we Filipinos are quite simply a happy bunch. We like to celebrate almost everything, and we like to do it in such a spectacular manner if we can get away with it. Any excuse to celebrate or party, we will do it.

Our numerous festivals, with practically every province having one, can attest to this love of pomp and pageantry.

Check out this list of Philippine festivals and a guide on where to go and what to do.

 

 

Traslacion of the Black Nazarene (January 9)

black nazarene festival Join the Catholic devotees converging at Quiapo Church for the Feast of the Black Nazarene. (Photo by Tony Magdaraog from Shutterstock)

There’s a common misconception that January 9 is the festival of the Black Nazarene, since it’s the time when the iconic statue gets the most exposure. The Feast of the Black Nazarene is actually on Good Friday.

What happens on January 9 is the Traslacion, which celebrates the transfer of the statue of the Black Nazarene from Intramuros to Quiapo.

It’s understandable why people get confused. The Traslacion is a colorful, chaotic, and festive affair.

Festival Tidbits

  • The Translacion has changed routes over the years because of accidents, and structural deficiencies in the bridges that are part of the traditional route.
  • The Black Nazarene first arrived in the Philippines from Mexico in 1606. Quiapo Church only began to house the statue in 1787.
  • The statue is borne on its carriage called andas and has two large ropes being pulled by devotees.
  • Millions of devotees and attendees will flood the streets of Manila making their way to the Black Nazarene to either touch the statue or to toss towels and handkerchief at any part of the image.

How to Get There

  • By plane: Coming in to celebrate the Feast of the Black Nazarene from another country? All you need to do is book a flight to Manila and you’re all set.
  • By boat/ferry: If you’re coming from a province in Visayas or Mindanao and would prefer to travel cheaper, try booking a boat or ferry ticket to Manila. You can choose from ferry lines like Negros Navigation, 2GO, or you can try the RoRo (roll-on and roll-off) bus and ferry transport.
  • By land transportation: For commuters in Metro Manila, going to the Feast of the Black Nazarene involves taking the jeepney or the trains LRT-1, LRT-2 and MRT-3 depending on your location. The route of Translacion is normally televised and announced on social media. Heavy traffic is expected forcing some schools to be suspended or some establishments to be closed during this day.

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Ati-Atihan Festival (January 14 – 20)

ati-atihan festival Take in the colorful sights and sounds of this year’s Ati-atihan festival in Aklan. (Photo by Frolova_Elena from Shutterstock)

There’s a reason why the Ati-Atihan Festival is the “mother of all Philippine festivals.” Iloilo’s Dingayang Festival and Cebu’s Sinulog took their inspiration from this Kalibo celebration.

The Ati-Atihan festival is held annually every third Sunday of January to honor the Santo Niño (infant Jesus).

Festival Tidbits

  • While it celebrates the Santo Niño now, the Ati-Atihan Festival was previously a pagan festival meant to celebrate the anitos.
  • The 2018 celebration will feature “Never-ending Snake Dancing” (people weaving like a snake) at Magsaysay Park.
  • Ati-Atihan translates to “be like the Atis.” The Atis or Aetas were the original settlers of Panay, where the province of Aklan is located.

How to Get There

  • By plane: You can book a ticket to Kalibo in advance online. From the Kalibo International Airport, you can hire a tricycle to take you to the town center or your hotel.
  • By boat/ferry: You can also opt to ride one of the Roll-on and Roll-off (RoRo) ships that dock at the Caticlan Jetty Port, Dumaguit Port and the New Washington Port. Tricycles-for-hire are available at any of these ports to help you get around town.
  • By land transportation: If you book a flight going to Caticlan, you can either celebrate the festival in Boracay or you can ride a bus or a van going to Kalibo, where the main celebrations will be held. The ride from Caticlan to Kalibo usually takes an hour and a half and will cost you around 200 pesos.

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Sinulog Festival (January 1 – February 2)

sinulog festival This famous Philippine festival lures in tourists from all over the world. (Photo by Constantine Agustin from Flickr)

The Sinulog Festival in Cebu City is one of the country’s most famous festivals. It is marked by a very long parade by different participating groups in different colorful costumes, dancing in honor of the Santo Nino.

The highlight of this month-long celebration happens every third Sunday of January. This is when the Sinulog Grand Parade is held.

Festival Tidbits

  • The word “sinulog” roughly translates to “like the water current,” and is actually the name of the step that the dancers perform.
  • Aside from the street dancing, the Sinulog Festival has also grown to include a fluvial parade, a choral competition, and a beauty pageant.
  • While it is a Cebu-based festival, participants in the street dance competition come from all over the country.

How to Get There

  • By plane: Cebu is known as one of the most accessible cities in the country. You can book affordable flights from Manila to Cebu. Make sure to book a hotel in advance since hotels in Cebu City can be fully booked during the Sinulog Festival.
  • By boat/ferry: Roll-on and Roll-off (RoRo) bus and ferry transports also have routes from Manila to Cebu. This a cheaper alternative to flying as the fare is only below 1000 pesos.
  • By land transportation: You can choose from jeepneys, buses, taxis, or tricycles to get around the city proper and the surrounding towns.

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Dinagyang Festival (January 25 – 27)

dinagyang festival As part of the celebration, Ati tribe warrior dancers move and chant to the sound of loud drums. (Photo by Frolova_Elena from Shutterstock)

Just like the Sinulog and Ati-Atihan Festivals, Iloilo’s Dinagyang Festival is also commemorated in honor of the Santo Niño.

This is an award-winning festival, voted multiple times by the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines as the country’s best tourism event.

Festival Tidbits

  • The first few stagings of the Dinagyang Festival were confined to Iloilo’s San Jose Parish.
  • Aside from the recognition from the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines, the Dinagyang Festival has been recognized by the Asian Development Bank as Best Practice on government, private sector & NGO cooperatives.
  • The Dinagyang Festival has an official mascot named Dagoy, a friendly Aeta kid-mascot who stands 6’9”.

How to Get There

  • By plane: There are direct flights from Manila to Iloilo. Almost all venues used during the Dinagyang Festival are just minutes away from the Iloilo airport.
  • By boat/ferry: For those who prefer to travel on a budget, ferries to Iloilo from Manila are also available.
  • By land transportation: You’ll find bus terminals to Iloilo in Cubao and Pasay in Metro Manila. The bus fare is usually around 750 pesos.

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Panagbenga Festival (February 1 – March 10)

panagbenga festival Filipinos flock to Baguio to get a glimpse of the beautiful Panagbenga festival parade.

If you’ve always loved flowers, then the Panagbenga Festival is the celebration for you. Held from February until the first Sunday of March, the festival features gorgeous floats made from different blooms.

During the festival, there are also trade fairs, bazaars, and street dancing.

Festival Tidbits

  • “Panagbenga” is a Kankaney term that translates to “a season of blossoming, a time for flowering.”
  • The Panagbenga 2017 parade drew around 2 million people to Baguio.
  • While it’s hard to imagine Baguio without Panagbenga, the festival is actually a recent creation. It was started in the 90s as a way to recover from the devastation of the 1990 Luzon earthquake.

How to Get There

  • By land transportation: Victory Liner and Genesis Bus provide 24-hour service. The bus fare is between P450 to P700 for a 6 or 7-hour journey. If you are bringing a car along, you can take the NLEX-SCTEX route or the TPLEX route that cuts your travel time to only 4 and half hours.

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Bamboo Organ Festival (February 21 – 27)

bamboo organ St. Joseph Parish Church in Las Pinas City is home to the oldest Bamboo Organ in the world. (Photo by 5th Generation Garcia from Flickr)

While most festivals involve citywide dancing and partying, the Bamboo Organ Festival of Las Pinas is an altogether different affair. This festival is held annually inside the St. Joseph Parish Church in Las Piñas. It is held to celebrate the oldest bamboo pipe organ in the world.

Festival Tidbits

  • More than 50 organists from here and around the world have participated in the festival. These include award-winning organists like Spain’s Antonio Baciero, the United States’ Jennifer Pascual, and Austria’s Martin Haselböck.
  • The Las Pinas Boys’ Choir also perform during the event series.

How to Get There

  • By land transportation: The Parish Church of St. Joseph is very accessible if you are coming from Baclaran via a jeepney. If you’re coming from Cavite, you can ride a jeepney going to Zapote. Once you’re there, you can transfer to another jeepney going to Las Pinas town proper.

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Moriones Festival (March 25 – 31)

moriones festival The artistically-made Morion masks depict the various expressions of roman soldiers. (Photo by Aj Madrigal from Flickr)

If you want a really memorable Holy Week experience, head on over to Marinduque for the Moriones Festival.

Festival-goers wearing Morion masks can be seen on the streets during Holy Week. If it’s your first time seeing one, Morion masks are wooden creations meant to look like Roman soldiers.

Festival Tidbits

  • Aside from the Morions, Holy Week celebrations in Marinduque also feature flagellants like the ones in Pampanga.
  • Aside from the Senakulo, the Pugutan is also a highlight of the celebrations. The Pugutan is a play depicting the life of Longinus, whose one blind eye was healed when blood from Christ’s side dropped on it.

How to Get There

  • By boat/ferry: Another route is by ferry from Manila to Balacanan Port Marinduque or Dalahican Port. Both ports can be very crowded during the festival season so make sure to come as early as Holy Tuesday to avoid the hassle.
  • By land transportation: For a cheaper and more convenient trip, try booking a bus ticket early at Jac Liner. They have daily trips to Marinduque from Manila and the fare is only around 800 to 900 pesos.

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Bangus Festival (April 3 – 14)

bangus The delicious Bangus or Milkfish is celebrated yearly in Dagupan to promote the city as the Bangus capital of the Philippines.

The milkfish — bangus in Filipino — is the country’s national fish, so it’s not surprising that it has got a festival of it’s own.

The Bangus Festival is held yearly on April in Dagupan City. It promotes Dagupan as the bangus capital of the country.

Festival Tidbits

  • The festival started in 2002, and has evolved to become a two-week socio-economic program of activities highlighting bangus.
  • The city won a Guinness Book of World Records recognition for organizing the longest barbecue in 2003.
  • A grand parade is part of the celebration wherein participants wear a bangus costume, dancing and cheering with the crowd.

How to Get There

  • By land transportation: Some of the bus lines with routes going to Dagupan include Five Star and Victory Liner, which both have terminals in Cubao and Pasay.

    The travel time from Manila to Dagupan is 4-5 hours via the North Luzon Expressway and TPLEX and the bus fare will cost you around 350 to 400 pesos.

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Pahiyas Festival (May 15)

pahiyas festival The colorful food displays are sure to get your mouth watering.

Philippine festivals are always colorful, and the Pahiyas Festival is no exception.

The festival takes it to another level with houses decorated with colorful fruits, vegetables, handicrafts and kiping, a decoration made from rice flour.

It is held yearly in Lucban, Quezon to honor San Isidro Labrador.

Festival Tidbits

  • While the procession is a big part of the festival, the houses are also the star of the festival. Every house tries their best to outdo each other when it comes to their designs.
  • Higantes are also part of the procession that makes its way through the town.

How to Get There

  • By land transportation: To get to Lucban, you can ride a Jac Liner Bus in the Cubao or Buendia terminal. Tell the conductor to drop you off at Diversion Road. Here, you’ll find jeepneys with signboards saying Lucena that will take you to the town proper.

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Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival (June 29)

Previously two separate festivals, the Pintados and Kasadyaan Festival have joined together to become the “Festival of Festivals.”

The Spanish called the indigenous Cebuano people Pintados because their bodies were heavily tattooed. Kasadyaan, on the other hand, is the Visayan word for merriment.

Just like the Ati-Atihan, Dingayang, and Sinulog festivals, the Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival celebrates the Santo Niño.

Festival Tidbits

  • As the “Festival of Festivals”, the Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival has also brought together the various festivals of the towns of Leyte. These festivals include the Buyogan Festival of Abuyog, Tanauan’s Pasaka Festival and Lingganay Festival of Alang-alang.

How to Get There

  • By plane: For a convenient trip, take an hour and a half flight from Manila to Tacloban.
  • By boat/ferry: You can also take a 24-hour RoRo (roll-on and roll-off) bus and ferry ride if you feel like roughing it out and seeing the sights. This cheaper alternative to flying will definitely save you money.

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T’nalak Festival (July 11 – 17)

t'nalak festival The colorful costumes worn by the dancers highlight the woven cloth made by the T’boli women. (Photo by Constantine Agustin from Flickr)

Unlike some of the festivals celebrated here in the country, the T’nalak Festival or Tinalak Festival commemorates the founding anniversary of South Cotabato.

The name T’nalak or Tinalak comes from the popular piece of woven clothing worn by T’boli women.

Festival Tidbits

  • The festival opens with a float and cheer dance parade. The dancers are from the different tribal groups of Mindanao and are garbed in their traditional clothing. It’s a colorful look into their culture.
  • Fairs and bazaars are also part of the festival, and give you a chance to support local industry.

How to Get There

  • By plane: The easiest way to get to South Cotabato is via a plane ride to either General Santos City or Davao City, both of which are neighboring cities.
  • By land transportation: Once you’re in General Santos City or Davao City, you’ll find bus and jeepney terminals going to Koronadal, South Cotabato. The trip is about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

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Kadayawan Festival (August 13 – 19)

kadayawan festival Dancers celebrate good harvest for the year. (Photo by Jeffrey Pioquinto from Flickr)

Another festival that doesn’t take its cues from Catholic belief is Davao’s Kadayawan Festival.

The Kadayawan Festival originally offered thanksgiving to the gods Manama and Bulan. Nowadays, it celebrates Davao’s bountiful harvest.

Festival Tidbits

  • The Davao River Festival, a parade of colorful boats, is a must-see.
  • Sayaw Mindanaw is a dance competition showcasing different tribes from Davao City.
  • The Miss Kadayawan beauty contest provides visitors a glimpse of beautiful and talented Davaoeñas.

How to Get There

  • By plane: Daily flights to Davao from Manila are available.
  • By boat/ferry: If you’re up for a 3-day long commute, you can opt to take a ferry from Manila to Cagayan de Oro. The ferry ride usually takes around two to three days. Once you’re in Cagayan de Oro, you can take a 7-hour bus ride to Davao City.
  • By land transportation: If you’re coming from nearby towns or cities like General Santos City and Koronadal, just ride a bus or a van going to Davao. The travel time is usually around three to four hours. Within the city, visitors can get around via a jeepney.

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Tuna Festival (September 3)

tuna festival General Santos holds yearly tuna celebrations as the tuna capital of the Philippines. (Photo by Constantine Agustin from Flickr)

If there’s anything you immediately associate with General Santos City, it’s fresh fish, tuna on a platter.

General Santos is considered the country’s “Tuna Capital.” It’s not surprising that they would have a tuna festival to celebrate.

Festival Tidbits

  • The Tuna Congress, Tuna Fiesta Carnival, Tuna Culinary competition and Miss GenSan pageant are some of the activities held during the festival.
  • Don’t miss the “Parada sa Dagat” street dance and float parade.
  • Aside from these, fun runs, dragon boat races, and skimboarding are also part of the celebrations.

How to Get There

  • By plane: Just like Davao, there are direct flights to General Santos. From the airport, you can ride a tricycle to take you to the city center called Plaza Heneral.
  • By land transportation: Nearby cities like Davao and Koronadal have bus routes to and from General Santos city. Travel time is usually around three to four hours. Habal-habals (motorcycles) are also used by visitors and locals to get around.

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MassKara Festival (October 1 – 28)

masskara festival The elaborately designed masks used in the parade highlight Bacolod as the City of Smiles. (Photo by Jeffrey Pioquinto from Flickr)

Bacolod City bills itself as the City of Smiles, so it’s no surprise the MassKara Festival celebrates this. The city is full of locals, tourists and parade participants wearing masks with smiling faces during October.

Festival Tidbits

  • Just like a lot of local festivals, street dancing is a particular highlight of the MassKara Festival.
  • Check out the MassKara Queen beauty pageant, the food festival, sports events and musical concerts.

How to Get There

  • By plane: Bacolod City is an hour away from Manila by plane. From the airport, you can take a van, taxi or jeepney to get to your hotel.
  • By boat/ferry: There is also a ferry from Manila to Bacolod. Both Negros Navigation and 2Go both have Manila-Bacolod routes and the fare ranges from 1200 to 4000 pesos depending on the cabin class and the number of people.

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Higantes Festival (November 22 – 23)

higantes festival These giant paper-maches attract tourists from all over the country and the world. (Photo by Ting Estrella from Flickr)

This Angono, Rizal festival gets its name from the giant paper mache effigies that are a definite highlight of the parade.

The festival is in honor of San Clemente, the patron saint of fishermen. The image of San Clemente is carried by devotees during the grand parade.

Festival Tidbits

  • Higantes are 12-foot paper-mache giants. About 40 different higantes from each barangay are showcased to attract visitors and foreign tourists to the city.
  • The Higantes Festival Grand Parade is held every third Saturday of November where people from different walks of life gather to witness participants from different schools and barangays dancing and celebrating.

How to Get There

  • By land transportation: There are jeepneys and air-conditioned vans at Farmers Market in Cubao or EDSA Crossing going to different parts of Rizal. You can also ride a bus carrying Angono or Binangonan signboards in Quiapo, Monumento, Marikina and along EDSA. At the LRT-2 Santolan station, there are jeepneys going to Angono.

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Giant Lantern Festival (December 1 – 31)

giant lantern Every Christmas season, barangays in San Fernando Pampanga compete by creating large colorful lanterns. (Photo by Phil_trophy from Flickr)

The parol is a really Filipino symbol for Christmas, so it’s no surprise that there would be a festival celebrating it.

San Fernando Pampanga’s Giant Lantern Festival is a definite crowd draw, and has been going on since 1931.

Festival Tidbits

  • Each barangay creates giant lanterns boasting beautiful, vibrant colors. They will be displayed during the Grand Lantern Festival. The most beautiful parol wins a prize.

How to Get There

  • By plane: If you want a quick and hassle-free trip, you can opt to ride a chartered flight to Clark and ride a bus, van, or jeepney going to the nearby town of Dau.
  • By land transportation: From Manila, you can also take a bus bound for Dau, Pampanga. Victory liner, which has terminals in Cubao and Pasay, has a route to Dau, Pampanga. The fare costs around 105 to 115 pesos but for students and senior citizens, it costs around 75 to 85 pesos.

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