Festivals are grand events that mirror traditions, past triumphs or religious celebrations. Most of them are marked by colorful costumes, street dancing, breathtaking fireworks, parades or processions and other entertaining activities. For countries in Southeast Asia, festivals have always been a part of culture.
The Philippines, Malaysia’s neighboring country, is home to numerous festivals all throughout the year. Each of its 7,107 islands usually has a local festival, making that a lot of celebrations. However, there are also festivals that major regions recognize.
If you’re a tourist who’s confused on where to go and what festival to see, here’s a narrowed list of choices.
Celebrated in Cebu, the Sinulog festival is held on the third Sunday of January in honor of the child Jesus, or Sto. Nino, who used to be the patron saint of the whole Cebu province.
“Sinulog” simply means “graceful dance,” which reflects the pagan Filipino natives’ acceptance of Christianity. Before the arrival of the Spaniards, residents of Cebu province were pagans and Islamic people. The image of the child Jesus, which was a gift to the wife of Cebu’s Chieftain, is a symbol of conversion.
Local tourists and contingents from across the country head to Cebu every January to take part in this colorful and meaningful street dance.
This month-long flower festival is the biggest celebration in Baguio, also known as the city of Pines or the Summer Capital of the Philippines. Held yearly during the month of February, it is a tribute to the city’s beautiful flowers that helped Baguio forget the earthquake that has devastated the city in 1990.
The term “Panagbenga” is from a Malayo-Polynesian origin, which means “a season of blooming.” The celebration features floral floats and native street dances, presented by dancers in flower-inspired costumes. Aside from that, there are also band exhibitions and beauty pageants.
The month of August is a festive time for people of Davao. Locals and tourists flock to this part of the Philippines to take part in the weeklong celebration of harvest called the Kadayawan festival. Celebrated annually on the third week of August, this festival is a “celebration of life, the gifts of nature, the wealth of culture, the bounties of harvest and serenity of living.”
“Kadayawan” is a warm greeting that explains a thing that is valuable, beautiful, superior or profitable. The festival showcases floats of fresh flowers and fruits. Ethnic tribes parade the streets with colorful costumes and jewelry.
Lenten season comes alive in the island of Marinduque with the Moriones festival. “Moriones” refers to the masked penitents who march around the town searching for Longinus, a Roman centurion who was blind in one eye. This annual folk-religious festival features men and women of Marinduque in Roman soldier costumes who roam the streets from Holy Monday to Easter Sunday engaging in antics and various surprises.
The Via Crucis, or the the re-enactment of the suffering of Jesus Christ on his way to the Calvary, is also observed during this time.
Now held in July of every year, the Sandugo Festival happens in Tagbilaran City, the island of Bohol. It remembers a historical event: the 16th century blood compact between two important people of the time, Datu Sikatuna and Spanish Conquistador Miguel Lopez de Lagazpi. This act, which made a huge impact to the lives of Filipinos until now, was to establish a friendship between the locals and the visitors.
The festival highlights fireworks, loud drum beats, colorful costumes, beauty pageants and sports tournaments.