Filipinos love celebrating holidays, especially religious ones, with over 90% of the population estimated to be Christian. Learn more about the culture of your Filipino neighbors as we run through a list of the Philippines’ most popular festivals.
Filipinos are known for their love of celebrations. It's among the many reasons why Filipinos start celebrating Christmas in September and see the calendar months as a series of festive events.
For many, these occasions are celebrated away from the Philippines while they are working abroad. We run down some popular Filipino festivals so you can learn about friendly neighborhood Pinoy and our amazing culture.
- Ati-Atihan festival – costumes of bright headpieces and grass skirts
- The Sinulog Festival
- Quiapo Festival – feast of the Black Nazarene
- Holy Week – a staple in Filipino culture
- The Moriones festival
- Pahiyas Festival
Ati-Atihan was originally celebrated to honor how the Aetas welcomed the Malay settlers when the country was not yet an archipelago – a group of islands. The name translates to “like Ati or Aetas”, the first settlers of the Philippines. When the Malays were granted entry by the Aetas, the Aetas celebrated and honored their guests with a dance.
Ati-Atihan is celebrated in January, and observed by the residents of Aklan, an island in Central Philippines. It is regarded as the mother of all festivals. This immersive festival involves participants dressing in grass skirts and wearing vibrant headpieces, drums are played and lots of dancing takes place. The Malays often use black body paint, as part of this festival, to emulate the Aetas.
The festival attracts visitors from all over the world, who are invited to dance along and join the parade.
The festival was given religious significance when the Spaniards colonized the country. Today, the statue of the infant Jesus, or Sto. Nino, is also incorporated in the parade, and the festival celebrates both its pagan and religious history.
Fun fact: While most festivals have religious connections, a surprisingly high number have pagan origins. The Philippines was a largely pagan nation before the Spaniards colonized the country in the 15th century. As a result, a lot of pagan and religious beliefs tend to merge, which is why religion and superstition make up a large part of Filipino culture.
Sinulog, which translates to “like the water current”, is largely celebrated in Cebu, the second most populous city in the Philippines. The festival has roots in Ati-Atihan, with some of the dances being similar. The festival also honors the Santo Nino, infant Jesus, and commemorates the transition from Pagan beliefs to Christianity. Devotees and tourists from all over the world attend the event. The week-long festival usually starts in the second week of January, with grand festivities such as big parties, parades, and concerts being scheduled towards the end of the week. The grand parade is something most viewers eagerly anticipate, as various representative groups perform and go all out in costumes and makeup.
If you have done your bachelor’s degree in another country, you can opt to study a diploma or Schools join in the fun by adorning their premises with flowers and colorful decorations. Households are decked with decorations, and embellished altars. Several Catholic households would also have their own statue of the infant Jesus, which would be dressed up in stylish outfits, much to the amusement of many. There is also an abundance of free food during this season, and it is customary to hold numerous lunches or dinners. Many famous Filipino dishes are usually served during events.
Also known as the Feast of the Black Nazarene, this bi-annual event is celebrated in Manila, Philippines. The name derives from a statue which is carved from dark wood. The Quiapo Festival is usually celebrated on the 9th of January, as well as on Good Friday.
The Black Nazarene usually attracts between nine and ten million devotees, as the statue is often regarded as a channel for miracles. Many believe that merely touching the statue may cure ailments. The festival is not exactly a happy one, but provides hope to the sick. The festival also involves the “traslacion”, which is the manual transfer of the statue between Quirino grandstand to Quiapo church. It is a very laborious task, but is willingly done by devotees to show penitence. The whole process is done via slow procession, and involves men manually carrying the carriage on their shoulders.
See also: Things you can only find in Filipino homes.
Holy Week is usually recognized to be celebrated towards the end of Lent. In 2022, Holy Week takes place from April 10 to 17. During this time, countless Filipino Easter traditions are practiced, with Easter Sunday a big occasion for families to get together and eat.
In Australia, the season is called Easter, and not Holy Week.
The Moriones festival is also held during Holy Week, and is a festival commemorating the Roman centurion who was half blind. The Marinduque Festival, unlike the other festivals, is primarily celebrated on the island of Marinduque. Locals wear Romanesque costumes and big masks and it is a theatrical play to re-enact the Passion of Christ.
Deriving from the Spanish words ‘santa’ and ‘cruz’, which translates to ‘holy cross’, Santacruzan is a festive occasion celebrated in May. The occasion commemorates the moment that Helena of Constantinople found the True Cross. A parade called ‘Flores de Mayo’ is also held on the last day of the festival. This exciting parade is regarded as a beauty pageant by many as is often cheekily referred to as a right of passage for many young ladies. Formal attire is also worn, which is expected to be tailored. Parents, in particular, typically find the festival quite expensive.The festival can be very expensive, especially for parents.
Different regions in the Philippines celebrate this event, particularly the Bicol and Western areas. Wooden arches adorned with fresh flowers are also held by men when the couple walks and parades around the city.
If you would like to help out family members in the Philippines who are attending the festival, our forex services can help you transfer money to loved ones in the Philippines. Send money now and enjoy the first three transfers fee-free!
The Pahiyas Festival is held as a way to pay respect to the Patron Saint of Farmers, St. Isidore or Isidro, and happens during harvest season. It is often celebrated on 15 May, and is a way to be thankful for a bountiful agricultural harvest. This event is celebrated by Quezon, a region in the northern part of the country. Agriculture is the main income driver in this region.
During the festival, popular crops such as corn, tomatoes and red peppers adorn houses and establishments. Fresh flowers, such as sunflowers, are popularly used to decorate facades. Most festivals in the Philippines are colorful, but Pahiyas is probably the most vibrant one. It is a joyous time for many, and is also seen as a celebration that all their hard work in the fields was worth it.
Which festival would you want to celebrate in the Philippines?