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  1. 1. Philippine festivals and other cultural celebrations Philippine festivals or fiestas are among the most colorful in the world! I recently got to readthe book "A Year of Festivals: A Guide to Having the Time of Your Life" published by Lonely Planet. Itfeatures the most unique festivals in the world. The first thing I did was to check how many Philippinefestivals were featured.There are five in the book, two of them in San Fernando, Pampanga! The five were the Feast of theBlack Nazarene (Quiapo, Manila), Ati-Atihan (Kalibo, Aklan), San Pedro Cutud Crucifixion Rites (SanFernando, Pampanga), MassKara Festival (Bacolod, Negros Occidental) and the Giant Lantern Festival(San Fernando, Pampanga). There should have been more since the Philippines is known to be acountry of colorful festivals!Thats what Ive been saying about making sure festivals are unique. Festivals that cannot be foundelsewhere are those which attract attention. With so many festivals and events flooding the Philippinefiesta calendar, I decided to pick my favorites from the crowd and came up with my own list of uniquefestivals worth visiting. Most definitely, these festivals have become iconic symbols of the towns andcities where they are held annually.FEAST OF THE BLACK NAZARENEJanuary 9 | Quiapo, ManilaOn this day, the centuries-old image of the Black Nazarene is pulled through the streets of Quiapo bymale devotees clad in maroon, in an intense mammoth procession. This has been a tradition for overtwo centuries and some people who have touched the Nazarene during the procession claim that theyhave been healed of their diseases.ATI-ATIHAN FESTIVALThird weekend of January | Kalibo, AklanHeld every January to commemorate the feast of the Santo Niño, many consider the Ati-AtihanFestival as the Mother of all Philippine Festivals. Among the wildest, if not the wildest of Philippinefiestas, revelers paint their faces with black soot and wear bright, outlandish costumes as theymasquerade and dance in revelry around the streets of Kalibo to the beat of ambulant ethnictroubadours. This is the original street dancefiesta of the country and many of the later street dancefestivals in honor of the Santo Niño were inspired by Ati-Atihan.The origins of the festival are said to date back to the 13th century when a group of Malay datusfleeing Borneo purchased land from the local Ati people. This agreement was commemorated with acelebration, where the datus and their people painted themselves black to honor the Ati people. Thiswas later converted into a religious celebration with the arrival of the Spanish.SINULOG FESTIVALThird weekend of January | Cebu CityThe Sinulog Festival is one of the grandest, if not the grandest, and most colorful festivals in thePhilippines. It is held in honor of the Santo Niño. Just like the other Santo Niño festivals, it features astreet parade with participants in bright-colored costumes dancing to the rhythm of drums, trumpets,and native gongs. The day before the parade, a fluvial procession is held in the morning with theimage of the Santo Niño carried on a boat from Mandaue City to Cebu City. In the afternoon, a moresolemn and larger procession makes its way around Cebu City.DINAGYANG FESTIVALFourth weekend of January | Iloilo CityAnother Santo Niño festival, the Dinagyang is a religious and cultural festival held the weekend afterSinulog and Ati-Atihan. The festival is also characterized by street dancing, frenetic stomping of feet tothe beat of ambulant ethnic troubadours.The festival saw its birth in the late 1960s but was just confined to a parish. It was in the 1977 whenPresident Marcos ordered various regions to come up with festivals that would boost tourism that the
  2. 2. Dinagyang as we know it today began to take shape. In fact, as a testament to how it has grown andevolved, Dinagyang was voted as the best Tourism Event for 2006, 2007 and 2008 by the Associationof Tourism Officers in the Philippines. PANAGBENGA FESTIVALFebruary | Baguio CityPanagbenga, or the Baguio Flower Festival, is month-long annual flower festival held in Baguio. Thefirst one was organized in 1995. The next year, it was renamed Panagbenga, a Kankanaey term thatmeans "a season of blossoming, a time for flowering." The highlight of this festival is the Floral FloatParade usually held during the last Sunday of February (or first Sunday of March).TURUMBAApril to May | Pakil, LagunaThe Turumba commemorates the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary with seven pistang lupi.The first pistang lupi is held on the Friday before Palm Sunday (the first of two feasts of the SevenSorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and the seventh is done on Pentecost Sunday. During these days,the image of the Nuestra Señora de Dolores de Turumba is borne on an andaand brought around thestreets of Pakil in a procession amidst dancing. Other processions are also held aside from thesevenpistang lupi, the last being on the third Sunday of September, the second feast of the SevenSorrows of the Blessed Virgin May.The schedule for 2009 is Unang Lupi (Biyernes de Dolores, April 3), Ika-2 Lupi (Pistang Martes, April14), Ika-3 Lupi (Pistang Biyatiko, April 20, 21 & 22), Ika-4 Lupi (Pistang Biyernes, May 1),Ika-5Lupi (Pistang Linggo, May 10), Extra Lupi (Pistang Pakileña, May 12), Ika-6 Lupi (Pistang Pag-akyat,May 22), Ika-7 Lupi(Pistang Pagpanaog, May 31), Ahunan sa Ping-as (May 30), andDomingo deDolores (September 20).MORIONES FESTIVALGood Friday | MarinduqueA pageant of wooden masks called morion, the Moriones Festival is celebrated in the towns of townsof Boac, Mogpog and Gasan. Men are colorfuly garbed and masked as Roman centurions. The festivalculminates in the reenactment of the beheading of Longinus. CUTUD CRUCIFIXION RITESGood Friday | San Pedro Cutud, San Fernando, PampangaThe San Pedro Cutud Crucifixion Rites is arguably the cultural event most visited by foreign tourists.Its mentioned in almost every guide book about the Philippines. Its actually the center of bloodyflagellation practices that happen in Pampanga every Holy Week. The very first crucifixion happened in1962 as part of a passion play of the barangay. Ever since, more and more penitents followed suit andthus began a cultural practice that went beyond ordinary flagellation.PULILAN CARABAO FESTIVALMay 14 | Pulilan, BulacanAn annual festival held the day before the feast of San Isidro Labrador, it features hundreds ofdecorated carabaos and colorful floats parading along the streets of Pulilan, a celebration for abountiful harvest. PAHIYAS FESTIVALMay 15 | Lucban, QuezonAn annual celebration to celebrate the feast of San Isidro Labrador and to usher in a bountiful harvest,homes in Lucban are decorated with the towns agricultural products. The most distinct of thesedecorations is the kiping, a brightly colored rice dough rolled into thin wafers and shaped like leaves.Other decorations include fruits, vegetables, grains and straw hats.Also visit the Agawan sa Sariaya and Mayohan sa Tayabas the same afternoon in the neighboring
  3. 3. towns. The highlight ofMayohan is the famous agawan ng suman in honor of San Isidro Labrador.OBANDO FERTILITY RITESMay 17 to 19 | Obando, BulacanA three-day festival where childless couples, praying that they bear children, do the pandango or"fertility dance" on the streets of Obando as a procession carrying the towns patrons Santa Clara, SanPascual Baylon and the Nuestra Senora de Salambao, makes its way around town.TAONG-PUTIK FESTIVALJune 24 | Aliaga, Nueva EcijaTo commemorate the feast of Saint John the Baptist, the people of Brgy. Bibiclat, Aliaga, Nueva Ecija,transform themselves into mud people or taong-putik. The ritual, called Pagsa-San Juan, begins atdawn when devotees wear dry banana leaves or vines, smear themselves with mud and walk thestreets to ask for alms in the form of candles which are lit at the plaza.PARADA NG LECHONJune 24 | Balayan, BatangasAnother celebration to commemorate the feast of Saint John the Baptist, the town of Balayan paradesdozens of lechon (roasted pigs) in outlandish costumes. Imagine roasted pigs wearing wigs,sunglasses, hats, and clothes! And just like in any fiesta for San Juan Bautista, expect to get wet!APUNG IRU FLUVIAL PROCESSIONJune 28 to 30 | Apalit, PampangaA three-day fluvial festival, the Pampanga River comes alive with gaily decorated motorboats andcolorful bancas during the feast of Saint Peter. At the center of the fluvial processions is a lavishly-decorated pagoda mounted on a barge that carries a centuries-old ivory image of Saint Peter whichthe locals call Apung Iru.PENAFRANCIA FESTIVALThird Saturday of September | Naga City, Camarines SurA festival honoring the feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia,Patroness of the Bicol Region, on the last dayof the celebrations, the image is returned to the Basilica in a fluvial procession along the Naga River.The procession is lit by thousands of candles from devotees in boats escorting the image.MASSKARA FESTIVALWeekend nearest October 19 | Bacolod CityThe MassKara Festival is held every October to celebrate the Charter Day of Bacolod City. The festivalfeatures carnivals, fairs, and a Mardi Gras-like street parade of costumed and masked dancers. It wasfirst held in 1980 during a period of crisis. The local community decided to hold a festival of smiles,because the city is the City of Smiles, in order to pull residents out of the gloomy atmosphere.LA NAVAL DE MANILASecond Sunday of October | Quezon CityThe La Naval de Manila is a grand procession held in honor of the Nuestra Senora del SantisimoRosario (Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary) along the streets of Quezon City. Before the destruction ofthe grand churches of Intramuros during the liberation of Manila, this tradition was held in the walledcity. The image is said to be the most lavish and most celebrated Marian image in the country, and isbrought around preceded by carrozas of St. Joseph and various Dominican saints. HIGANTES FESTIVALNovember 23 | Angono, RizalA festival held in honor of San Clemente, its one big party around the streets of Angono with a loud,rambunctious, and wet & wild Mardi Gras-like parade (its actually a procession). The processionculminates in a fluvial procession in the Laguna de Bay. Higantes are colorful paper mache giantsmeasuring about ten to twelve feet in height.GIANT LANTERN FESTIVAL
  4. 4. Saturday before Christmas Eve | San Fernando, PampangaThe date of this spectacular festival is a bit confusing but its usually held the Saturday beforeChristmas Eve but not too close to it (so that would be sometime between December 15 to 21). Thefestival features close to a dozen 18-foot lanterns made by competing barangays of San Fernando.Each lantern is fitted with thousands of light bulbs that are controlled manually. The dynamic interplayof lights and color that precisely moves with the rhythm of music is unbelievable! It is because ofthese giant lanterns and the San Fernando lantern-making industry that the City of San Fernando hasbeen dubbed the Christmas Capital of the Philippines.