10 Philippine festivals to enjoy in 2017

It’s more fun in the Philippines. This saying is not only the government’s official tourism slogan, but also the truth – the many festivals all around the country are proof of this.

These celebrations – colorful and lively displays, parades and performers, and a great amount of food – are mostly based on Philippine history, cultural traditions and feasts of the Catholic faith. Therefore, they are deeply rooted in the nation’s identity and aren’t just empty merrymaking.

If you want to partake in the all-Filipino fun but don’t have a clue when and where they happen, take a gander at the list below. Who knows? Maybe you’d fancy visiting one, or two, or all of them. Now is the perfect time to be planning your trip to the Philippines.

January: Dinagyang Festival (Iloilo)

Dunagyang celebrates the Christianisation of the Phillipines
Dunagyang celebrates the Christianisation of the Phillipines

If you go to Iloilo City on the fourth week of January, you will hear the thundering of the drums and loud shouts of “Hala Bira!” from the people dressed in colorful tribal clothes. But mind you, Dinagyang isn’t just one of the grandest festivals in the country;  it’s also, and more importantly, a festivity that pays homage to the Santo Nino and the Christianization of the island.

Where to find Oloilo City …

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January: Bailes de Luces de Castellana (Negros Occidental)

Celebrate the dances of the lights in La Castellana
Celebrate the dances of the lights in La Castellana

Behind this festival’s long name is a beautiful meaning – Dances of the Lights. On the fifth day of the first month of the year, people flock the town of La Castellana, Negros Occidental to partake in this celebration that honors the birth of Jesus Christ, where mesmerizing displays of lights and dances wait to be captured by affordable Android phones from the Philippines.

Where to find La Castellana …

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January: Ati-Atihan (Kalibo, Aklan)

Be just like the aborigines of Boracay at Ati-Atihan
Celebrate the aborigines of Aklan at Ati-Atihan

Other than the world-famous pristine beaches of Boracay, the island of Aklan is also known for the Ati-Atihan festival. On the third week of January, men and women emulate the looks and the dances of the aborigines who first occupied the island – thus the name Ati-Atihan, which means to be just like aetas.

Where to find Aklan, Boracay …

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January: Sinulog (Cebu)

Sinulog is the nine day festival of festivals in Cebu
Sinulog is the nine day festival of festivals in Cebu

A festival that lasts only for a day is way too short. So, how about nine days? That is the Sinulog Festival for you. It’s a one-week-two-day extravaganza that draws millions of people to the Queen City of the South, so you better be ready to feast until you drop. But of course, this mega-celebration isn’t just a spectacle of great length and magnitude – it’s also the country’s biggest tribute to the Holy Child Jesus.

Where to find Cebu City …

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February: Panagbenga Festival (Baguio)

The Phillipines version of California's Rose Parade is a festival of colour
The Phillipines version of California’s Rose Parade is a riot of colour

If bees buzz down south, then buds blossom up north in the Panagbenga Festival held in the city of pines. The name of this month-long celebration beginning on 1 February originates from a Malayo-Polynesian word that means “season of blooming”, an appropriate moniker to honor the beautiful flowers in the region.

In Baguio’s own version of California’s Rose Parade, other than the colorful dancers, a wide plethora of flora – one of the city’s crown jewels – are showcased.

Where to find Baguio …

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June: Pintados-Kasadyaan (Leyte)

Honor the Pintados warrior culture in Leyte
Honor the Pintados warrior culture in Tacloban, Leyte

Centuries before the Americans and the Japanese fought in the Island of Leyte, the island had its own defenders centuries ago. Known as the Pintados, they are brave tattooed warriors that are as fierce in battle as they are intricate in their art.

To honor these brave souls, the first Pintados festival is held every 29th of June. If you wish to see these brave men and women of eons past storm the streets in this day and age, then Tacloban is the place to be.

Where to find Tacloban, Leyte …

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August: Buyogan Festival (Abuyog, Leyte)

Do it for the bees! You owe them!
Do it for the bees! You owe them!

You owe the bees for that succulent honey you put in a wide variety of food and drinks. There are only a few things in this world that are sweeter than this liquid gold, and one of them is the Buyogan Festival.

Held in Abuyog, Leyte every August 29 to coincide with St. Francis Feast, dancers imitate not only the bees’ looks but also their buzzing movement, making it an awesome spectacle to behold.

Where to find Abuyog, Leyte

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August: Pasigarbo sa Sugbo (Cebu)

Join the Festival of Festivals in Cebu, Philippines
Join the Festival of Festivals in Cebu, Philippines

If restaurants have sample platters that give you a taste of the many dishes on the menu, then fiestas in Cebu have something similar. In the first week of August, representatives of towns and cities from across the province converge in a host town to join a contest where the municipality with the best preview of their fiesta wins. Its tagline, Festival of Festivals, is a truly befitting one.

You’ll find this festival in the Cebu International Convention Center in Mandaue City.

Where to find Mandaue, Cebu…

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August: Kadayawan sa Dabaw (Davao)

Celebrate all the gifts that nature has given the Philippines in Davao
Celebrate all the gifts that nature has given the Philippines in Davao

From the mountains, fly down to Davao for the Kadayawan Festival. Held every third week of August, it is named after the word “madayaw”, which means good, superior, or beautiful. A celebration of nature’s gifts and the people’s cultural advancement, the festival’s highlights include floral floats, street dance competitions, and exhibits.

Where to find Davao …

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October: Masskara Festival (Bacolod)

Phillipines answer to the mask festivals of Venice
Phillipines answer to the mask festivals of Venice

Masskara Festival is held every third week of October as a defiant response to the region’s economic crisis during the 80s, the citizens of the City of Smiles dance while their faces are concealed by beautifully crafted masks.

Despite its grim origin, Bacolod’s take on Mardi Gras has now become one of the most renowned festivals in the country, turning sadness into celebration.

Where to find Bacolod …

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