Colorful and Fun Festivals You Shouldn’t Miss in the Philippines
The Philippines, also known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient,’ is known for its white sand beaches with pristine waters, mouth-watering foods, and super-friendly locals. It’s no wonder why lots of foreign nationals, travelers, and vloggers add this country to their itinerary list.
In fact, according to statistics published by the Philippines’ Department of Tourism, more than 1.4 million tourists visited the Philippine archipelago during the pre-pandemic period.
Aside from the wonders of nature and exotic foods (we all know the balut and durian) the Philippines has to offer, tourists and travelers should also take a glimpse of the fun and colorful festivals in the archipelago. Festivals are a great way to see and experience the culture of a country, and we bet you that festivals and celebrations here in the Philippines are colorful, loud, and one-of-a-kind!
One thing is for sure — Filipinos love to celebrate and dance together — and it is evident in the long list of festivals they have on their calendar. These celebrations are rooted in their rich history and culture and are driven by the locals’ artistry and creativity. Some events could last for a day, weeks, and even months!
With that, we’ve curated a list of Philippine festivals you might want to go to and experience the next time you visit the Pearl of the Orient!
Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta
We might not lift ourselves and our whole house using thousands of balloons like what Carl Fredricksen and Kevin did in the Up movie, but we can surely experience first-hand what’s like to glide across the bright, blue sky in the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta!
This spectacular gathering of hot air balloons is held between January and February at the Clark Freeport Zone in Angeles City, Pampanga. This four-day event showcases various activities such as hot air balloon flying, skydiving, paragliding, formation flying, and aerobatic displays. Be awestruck as you watch multi-colored balloons float around in the sky! Plus, there are also performances from local artists that you can watch as you munch on the local dishes and delicacies!
If you’re the type that’s up for some thrill and adventure up in the air — you know that gush of air on your cheeks as you drift away from the ground onto the sky, then this is a celebration that you shouldn’t miss!
Giant Lantern Festival
The Philippines is known to have the longest celebration of Christmas, which usually starts in the month of September. If you see the broadcast networks on the television starting their countdown of 100 days before Christmas, then it’s your cue to start lighting up those Christmas lights and hanging those colorful lanterns.
Speaking of lanterns, the country also holds a festival for these gorgeous Christmas ornaments and also to showcase the talents of the locals who marvelously handcrafted these décors.
The Giant Lantern Festival, locally known as Ligligan Parul is held in San Fernando City in Pampanga and is celebrated during the last week before Christmas Eve.
One of the most awaited events in this festival is the lantern-making contest. The mechanics are simple: every participant is tasked to make a giant 15-foot (in diameter) lantern only using local materials.
The finished masterpieces are then paraded into the streets just before the evening mass of Christmas for every spectator to see. Feel the spirit of Christmas as the colorful lights from these giant lanterns danced before your eyes!
Because of the locals’ great craftsmanship and creativity, the Giant Lantern Festival became one of the famous festivals in the Philippines which also earned San Fernando City its moniker ‘Christmas Capital of the Philippines’.
Held during the Holy Week — which usually falls on the last week of March up to the first week of April — Moriones Festival is a reenactment to commemorate the life of St. Longinus in the province of Marinduque.
If we’re going to trace back the story, Longinus is the Roman centurion who pierced the side of the Lord with a spear. He was falling nearly blind at that time, but his sight was fully restored when some of the Lord’s blood fell into his eyes. That’s when he realized that, indeed, the man hanging on the cross is the Son of God. The miracle led him to quit the army, convert himself and serve as a monk in Cappadocia.
If you happen to travel to the Philippines during the Holy Week, be sure not to miss out on this festival! Take a glimpse of the Parade of Morions and the street dance festival in this weeklong event! And the highlight of it all? The spectacle of masks and costumes by the actors and participants made and decked with colorful designs and ornaments!
And while you’re at it, take the chance to explore Marinduque’s finest beaches, caves, and hot spring resorts!
Let’s head on to the Summer Capital of the Philippines and witness the breathtaking views of blooming flowers in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors!
One of the longest festivals in the Philippines — which lasts for a month, Panagbenga Festival highlights the culture and history of Baguio City and the Cordillera. It is also their way of paying tribute to the rise of the city from an earthquake that devastated Luzon in the 1990s.
Everything screams flowers here at Panagbenga Festival — capture the Instagram-worthy floats filled with flowers up to the brim, street dance parades wearing costumes decked with flowers, and numerous exhibits showcasing local products.
Panagbenga is a Kankana-ey term in Cordillera meaning ‘Season of Blooming,’ a very fitting name for this wonderful celebration.
We all know Lechon for its very crispy skin on the outside and tender juicy meat on the inside. Pair it with homemade Lechon sauce and your tongue will dance in delight!
This dish is already a sight to see on top of the table, but it is also a spectacle to see them lined up in the streets!
Head on to Balayan, Batangas, and witness this surprising but interesting event of Lechon parading in the streets wearing different costumes — some wear dresses, shirts, hats, and even eyeglasses for the fun of it all!
This Lechon Festival is a part of the celebration of the feast of St. John the Baptist, which is held on the 24th of June every year. And as we all know, the feast of St. John includes water splashing all around! Indulge in the fun of participating in friendly water fights with the locals and then feast on the delicious Lechon afterward!
Filipinos are known to be one of the happiest people on Earth, and what’s a greater way to put a smile on your face than heading to the Philippines’ City of Smiles, Bacolod City, and witness the 20-day-long MassKara Festival?
Derived from the words ‘mass’ meaning many and ‘kara’ which means faces, MassKara Festival can also be referred to as the Festival of Many Faces. Bacolod parades and street dances include performers wearing smiling masks of all sorts as they dance to the lively beat of the music — an atmosphere that will surely paint a smile on the 3 million annual attendees.
MassKara Festival kick-started in the 1980s, as the province’s way to uplift the locals’ spirit during the agricultural crisis they experienced during that time.
One of the most awaited and most famous occasions in Angono, Rizal is the Higantes Festival. Giants made from paper-mâché parade around the town wearing bright, colorful costumes.
Looking back, it is believed that local townspeople used Higantes as a way of protest against the Spaniards. However, professor James Owen Saguinsin of Far Eastern University believed that there are no papier-mâchés present during the uprising. Instead, the townspeople took revenge against a very tall and towering caretaker of a hacienda named Karias Tangkad. Moreover, ‘higanti’ is the Filipino term for ‘revenge,’ so that’s likely where the word ‘Higantes’ came from.
In addition, the giant papier-mâchés only appeared post World War II and were made by the first higante maker Artemio Tajan, to incorporate fun elements and an atmosphere of festivity into Angono’s post-war fiesta celebration, as requested by the national artist, Francis ‘Botong’ Francisco.
At present time, these towering papier-mâchés not only hold importance when it comes to the city’s historical roots but also with their religious beliefs as Higantes Festival is also held as a way to honor their patron saint, Saint Clemente every fourth week of November.
Remember the witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel where you can virtually eat the walls, doors, and windows? Yes, I know that feeling; you want a taste of that walls, too. Well, don’t worry, Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon will allow you to do that!
Well, it’s not literal that you can eat the walls and windows here, but during this fun and colorful event, every house in Lucban is decorated with fresh farm produce like fruits and vegetables and handicrafts, from top to bottom, wall after wall. The famous decoration is the kiping, a leaf-shaped wafer made from glutinous rice. Of course, a generous prize awaits for the house that stood out the most!
And the best thing? These decorations are free and available for tourists and guests to taste! And who doesn’t want free food, right?
This fun and colorful event is held annually in May, as a way the town’s patron saint, St. Isidore the Laborer.