FESTIVAL GUIDE to the 10 Most Awesome Fiestas of the Philippines!

If there’s one thing you should know about me (besides my fondness for food and travel), it’s that I love fiestas. And after 9 years of blogging, I’ve compiled a list of Top 10 Fiestas that every Filipino should experience to get a deeper appreciation of our own culture and traditions.

It wasn’t an easy process since each festival has its own style and unique charm, but I wanted to come up with something to help kickstart your festival journey this 2014. So here’s my definitive guide to the 10 Most Awesome Fiestas of the Philippines (based on our own first-hand festival experiences):


Dinagyang 2012-106.jpg

What is it? Dinagyang means “Merry Making” and its a celebration held in honor of the Santo Niño
Type of Festival: Religious, Cultural, and a Spectator-Type Festival
When is it Held: 4th Sunday of January (one week after Sinulog and Ati-Atihan)
Main Highlights:

  • Ati-Atihan Dance Competition on Sunday (all day starting 9am), and 
  • Kasadyahan Street Dancing on Saturday (all day)

Iloilo’s Dinagyang: Hala Bira! Viva Señor Santo Niño!

A lot of festival enthusiasts believe that Dinagyang is one of the BEST Festivals in the Philippines.

Although the celebration still has that quaint, provincial city-feel, the Ati-Atihan dance productions are among the best I’ve seen in street dance festivals in the Philippines. They are the Grand Champions in the Aliwan Festival (Manila-based competition for all the street dance festivals).

Dinagyang is the best time to go to Iloilo!

Read More: Iloilo’s Dinagyang: Hala Bira! Viva Señor Santo Niño!

Festival Power Travel Tips:

  1. Make sure you have confirmed reservations preferably outside the main city for less noise.
  2. Secure your tickets to watch the performances from the grand stand
  3. The entire city is closed to vehicular traffic so make sure to walk around and explore the city. 

For more info, visit Official Websitehttp://dinagyangsailoilo.com/


Sinulog 2006 - 15

What is it? SINULOG is a dance ritual in honor of the miraculous image of the Santo Niño. The name pertains to the strong current movement of the Cebu River which is re-enacted in the dance.
Type of Festival: Religious, Cultural, Dance Ritual, and a Spectator-Type Festival
When is it Held: 3rd Sunday of January (Feast Day of Santo Niño)
Main Highlights:

  • Santo Niño procession on Sunday (all day after the first Sunday Mass) 
  • Sinulog Fluvial Parade on Saturday (Early Morning) 

Sinulog Fluvial Breakfast!

Sinulog in Cebu is the biggest festival in the Philippines, celebrating the feast of the Child Jesus, Santo Niño de Cebú, with a dance ritual to the beat of the drums. Held every third Sunday of January, it is the largest and most attended fiesta in the country with an all-day-long parade and party.

You can read about my 2006 Sinulog experience here:

One day before the Santo Niño procession, the image of the Child Jesus visits his Mother in Lapu Lapu City via the sea. Early in the morning of Saturday, the Santo Niño returns to Cebu City, reenacting the coming of the Spaniards through a Fluvial Parade on Cebu’s Pahina River. 

This is one of my best Sinulog experiences ever, not only because of the parade, but also because of the great fluvial breakfast I got to taste there!

Read More: Sinulog Fluvial Breakfast!

Festival Power Travel Tips:

  1. Choose the Hotel based on who has a Fluvial Tour package that you can join.
  2. It has the longest parade ever, so best to pick your vantage point and enjoy the entire day with your family or barkada. Cebuanos drink the entire day during the Sinulog celebration.
  3. Get a Media or Photographer’s pass to cover the parade on the streets itself. Make sure to start shooting when they are preparing and join them throughout the parade. 

For more info, visit Official Websitehttp://www.sinulog.ph/


Kalibo Ati-Atihan-11.jpg

What is it? ATI-ATIHAN means “to become like Aetas” which is originally a pagan animist festival that the Spaniards adapted in honor of the Sto. Niño
Type of Festival: Religious, Cultural, and a Participative-Type Festival
When is it Held: 3rd Sunday of January (Feast Day of Santo Niño)
Main Highlights:

  • Ati-Atihan parade on Saturday (after the dawn procession at 4am & devotee’s mass at 5am.)
  • Feast Day religious celebrations of Señor Santo Niño de Kalibo on Sunday

KALIBO: What to Expect in the Sto. Niño ATI-ATIHAN Festival in Kalibo?

Kalibo’s Ati-Atihan is the mother of all the big Sto. Niño festivals of Sinulog in Cebu and Dinagyang in Iloilo.  It’s the biggest fiesta that is “non-commercialized” and stays true to its Filipino Fiesta vibe. It’s a “participative fiesta” where you dance with the performers vs. a “spectator fiesta” where you just watch in the sidelines. They say you have not experienced a Filipino fiesta unless you’ve been to Ati-Atihan.

Ati-Atihan means “to become like Aetas” or in modern terms an “Ati Cosplay“. It was originally a pagan animist festival that the Spaniards adapted in honor of the Sto. Niño celebrated every third sunday of January.

It started when 10 Bornean Datus escaped from the island of Borneo and migrated to the Island of Panay in the 13th century (c.1200 A.D.). They bought the Panay Island plains from the Ati’s who were the original settlers in Maharlika (former name of the Philippines before the Spaniards) with gifts of golden salakot, brass basins,  bales of cloth and a very long necklace for the Ati chieftain.

The Aetas celebrated the occasion with eating, dancing, and merry making that became the inspiration of what we now call as the Filipino Fiesta.

Read More: KALIBO: What to Expect in the Sto. Niño ATI-ATIHAN Festival in Kalibo?


Festival Power Travel Tips:

  1. This festival is fun when you participate in the actual dancing. There’s no specific route and you can follow different parade groups that goes around the town.
  2. This is the only festival that allows drinking during the parade because it is part of the fiesta tradition. Most of the people are drunk but there’s zero security incidents during the event.
  3. Best to create your own Ati-look to fully immerse into the festival. 

For more info, visit Official Websitehttp://www.kaliboatiatihan.ph/


Lucban's Pahiyas Festival-26.jpg

What is it? A Harvest Thanksgiving Festival to San Isidro Labrador, the Patron Saint of Farmers 
Type of Festival: Religious, Cultural, Harvest Festival and a Spectator-Type Festival
When is it Held: Every 15th of May
Main Highlights:

  • Early Morning Procession in honor of San Isidro Labrador
  • Walking along the procession route, where all the houses are decorated with kiping and their harvest.

PAHIYAS: 8 Tips for an Awesome San Isidro Labrador Fiesta!

Pahiyas is one of the most awesome fiestas in the country. It falls on the feast day of San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of farmers to show gratitude for a good and abundant harvest. It is celebrated in Lucban (most popular and commercialized), Sariaya, Tayabas and other towns in Quezon.

The Pahiyas Festival is always observed on a fixed date — May 15

Read More:

Festival Power Travel Tips:

  1. Best to go very early (leave Manila as early as 3am) so that you can have a nearer parking and you can see the decorations fresh in the morning.
  2. It always rains during pahiyas and people believe that it is a blessing when it rains. So make sure to get your waterproof gear and always be ready.
  3. Make sure to visit other nearby festivals in the afternoon like the one in Sariaya or Liliw.

For more info, visit Official Websitehttp://www.pahiyasfestival.com/


Cutud Good Friday Rites-30

San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites
What is it? A Holy Week Re-enactment of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ 
Type of Festival: Religious, Cultural, and a Spectator-Type Festival
When is it Held: Every Good Friday 3pm
Main Highlight:

  • Passion Play culminating with a nailing to a wooden cross of three penitents at 3pm.

Cutud Crucifixions: Good Friday Traditions of San Fernando, Pampanga

Spanky once said to us that we need to experience the Cutud Crucifixions before we can be certified as adopted Kapampangans. Our family went to San Fernando, Pampanga on Good Friday to see the 50+-year old solemn tradition of crucifixions in San Pedro Cutud, Pampanga.

Festival Power Travel Tips:
  1. Going to this festival is very difficult and you have to endure the hardships to be fully immerse in the passion play experience.
  2. It’s a great travel retreat experience contemplating on the passion and death of our Lord.
  3. Make sure you go with a family who is from San Fernando, to get invited to their traditional no-meat lenten feast on the evening of Good Friday after the Santo Entierro procession.


Bacolod's Manukan-18

What is it? A Masquerade Party to lift up the spirits of the Bacolod people after the Sugar Crisis in 1980’s. It’s name comes from English word “mass” meaning “multitude of people”, and Spanish word “kara” meaning “face”. 
Type of Festival: Festival of Smiles, Modern Festival and a Spectator-Type Festival
When is it Held: Every Third Weekend of October (or closest weekend to October 19)
Main Highlights:

  • MassKara Street Dancing Barangay Category on a Sunday
  • Electric MassKara Dance Parade and Party on Saturday Night

Festival Power Travel Tips:

  1. Make sure to reserve your hotel along the main Lacson Road so that you can just walk to see the parade and to the street party locations.
  2. This is the best place to create your own food trip cum photography expedition with your barkada.
  3. Make sure to visit the Association of Negros Producers (ANP) Showroom to get your unique and high-quality festival souvenirs and pasalubong.

For more info, visit Official Website:  http://www.bacolodmasskarafestival.com/


Panagbenga Grand Parade-33.jpg

What is it
? A Flower Festival whose name “Panagbenga” comes from local Kankana-ey term in Cordillera meaning “a season or time for blossoming”
Type of Festival: Flower Festival, Modern Festival and a Spectator-Type Festival
When is it Held: Last Sunday of February
Main Highlights:

  • Grand Flower Float Parade along Session Road on Sunday 8am
  • Grand Street Parade along Session Road on Saturday 8am


PANAGBENGA is a local Kankana-ey term in Cordillera, which means “a season for blossoming or a time for blooming“, coined by Ike Picpican, curator of the Saint Louis University Museum in 1997.

It is a month-long celebration in February/March during the business-lean months to attract tourists to the City of Baguio after the holidays and before the peak Summer Season.

It culminates with a Grand Flower Float Parade, held usually on the last Sunday of February.

The Flower festival symbolizes the rise of Baguio from the city’s devastating earthquake disaster on July 16, 1990.

Read More: BAGUIO’s PANAGBENGA Flower Festival

Festival Power Travel Tips:

  1. You have to secure your spot along session road very early morning to watch the parade.
  2. Best to book in a hotel far from session road to avoid the massive traffic on this weekend.
  3. Organize a food trip to the hidden restos and destinations in Baguio.

For more info, visit Official Websitehttp://www.panagbengaflowerfestival.com/


17th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta-78.jpg

What is it? A 4-day Hot Air Balloon and Everything that Flies Festival 
Type of Festival: Airshow Festival, Modern Festival and a Spectator-Type Festival
When is it Held: Thursday to Sunday in 2nd or 3rd week of February.
Main Highlights:

  • Early Morning Hot Air Balloon Flight (Thursday to Sunday)
  • Hot Air Balloon Fly-In and Evening Glow (Thursday to Sunday)

I ❤ Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta!

The Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is one of the passion festivals in the country that I absolutely enjoy. It celebrates the passion for flying and highlights the love for Hot Air Balloons.

It was started after the US Military left Clark Air Base to boost tourism and the morale of the community around Clarkfield, Pampanga.

Read More: I ❤ Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta!

Festival Power Travel Tips:

  1. Best to go on a Thursday or Friday to avoid the crowd.
  2. To best experience the festival, make sure to get a photographer or media pass to get access to the launch grounds.
  3. Make sure to leave Manila as early as 3am and to park near the exit. 

For more info, visit Official Websitehttp://www.philballoonfest.net/


Kadayawan Davao-36.jpg

What is it? A Thanksgiving Harvest Festival to celebrate the harvest of Davao’s fruits, flowers, and farm produce
Type of Festival: Flower Festival, Cultural Festival and a Spectator-Type Festival
When is it Held: 3rd Weekend of August
Main Highlights:

  • Indak Indak sa Kadalanan Street Dancing on Saturday (8am for the entire day)
  • Kadayawan Floral Parade on Sunday (8am until the parade last)

KADAYAWAN DAVAO: Indak Indak sa Kadalanan (A Photo Essay)

KADAYAWAN SA DABAW is an annual thanksgiving harvest festival in Davao. It is held every 3rd Weekend of August to celebrate the harvest of Davao’s fruits, flowers, and farm produce.

Its name comes from the Mandaya word “madayaw“, a warm and friendly greeting used to describe something good, beautiful, valuable, superior, or profitable.

If you are planning to go, you must see the street dancing festival showcasing the colorful costumes, traditions, and stories of the different tribes in Davao. This is known as the “Indak Indak sa Kadalanan” and is held on the Saturday of that weekend and lasts from the morning until the afternoon

Read More: KADAYAWAN DAVAO: Indak Indak sa Kadalanan (A Photo Essay)

Festival Power Travel Tips:

  1. The best and secure vantage point is the Marco Polo Davao stage for in-house guests.
  2. Backpacks are not allowed, so make sure to travel light and just bring the essentials.
  3. Best to enjoy the freshest and sweetest fruits (pomelo, mangosteen and duriand) that are in season during this time.

For more info, visit Official Websitehttp://www.kadayawan.com/



What is it? It’s a Giant Lantern Competition among the different Barangays in San Fernando, Pampanga
Type of Festival: Cultural, Christmas Festival and a Spectator-Type Festival
When is it Held: Second Saturday of December
Main Highlight:

  • Giant Lantern Dancing Lights Showdown

Giant Lantern Festival – Awesome Lantern Competition, Only in the Philippines!

Another awesome festival is the Giant Lantern Festival in San Fernando Pampanga, which is locally known as Ligligan Parul. Ivan Henares previously hosted us the first time we attended and even gave us free guest passes in the reserved seating section. Ivan has a very popular post about Pampanga’s pride. He was the chairman of the Giant Lantern Festival in 2003 so he was able to give us all the juicy details about this fiesta. If you haven’t seen this, this is one of those moments where you will be proud of the Filipino’s creativity and hard work.

Read More: Giant Lantern Festival – Awesome Lantern Competition, Only in the Philippines!

Festival Power Travel Tips:

  1. Make sure to get VIP Tickets in advance to get access to the sitting spectator area.
  2. Best to watch the competition from beginning until the end to appreciate the beauty of each parol and how they perform vis a vis the competition.
  3. Make sure to park near the exit and make sure to go right after the last performance to avoid the massive exodus traffic.

For more info, visit Official Websitehttp://cityofsanfernando.gov.ph/new/tourism/glf.php

That’s it for my Top 10 Most Awesome Fiestas of the Philippines. Wishing you an amazing time in your travels to these festivals this 2014! 

Quick links for vacation in The Philippines

Best accommodations in The Philippines

  • Enjoy the urban view of Timog Avenue with Luxent Hotel (3.5-star; Quezon City; free WiFi, free breakfast, pool)
  • Treat yourself in Seda Capitol Central (4-star; Bacolod; free WiFi, free breakfast, pool)
  • Stay along Leonard Wood Loop: Azalea Residences Baguio (3-star; Baguio; free WiFi, free breakfast, massage)

Best activities in The Philippines

Live an Awesome Life,

Founder, www.OurAwesomePlanet.com 

P.S. Do you have a favorite festival that you think should be included in this list? Let me know in the comments. 🙂

7 thoughts on “FESTIVAL GUIDE to the 10 Most Awesome Fiestas of the Philippines!

  1. Hi Anton!
    Your blog site is amazing! Your articles are informative and fun. I love the photos that you post in every article. These photos are memories to last you a lifetime. The places you have been to and are going to see need not be forgotten. I can’t wait to read more about your travels and view your wonderful photos.
    You can actually share your photos and videos to more people. I discovered an awesome website that let’s you share pictures and videos and helps you remember specific locations you’ve traveled to.
    Have you ever taken photos on a trip only to get home and not be able to remember where you took “that” shot? http://www.Trailu.com is your Travel log, Travel Diary or travel companion. As long as your phone or camera is set as “GEO Tagging” or “Location Tagging” to ON, the GPS data of exactly where you took the photo will be decrypted from your photo and #Trailu.com will place your photo on your very own personal travel log map of the world so you can quickly and easily see every photo you’ve taken and exactly where it was taken.
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  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’ll use it as a guide for Fiestas when I visit PI and share the experience with my Mom while she still can travel around. Love it! Many blessings~

  3. Hello Anton. thanks for this informative guide. I am a Filipino as well. I have written an article on my blog to promote the Philippines as a travel destination. Would it be okay to reference your list of festivals?

      1. Thank you so much, Anton. Here’s a link to my post:
        It would be grand if you would share my post. Thanks for the very informative blog.

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