On any given day, a city or a town somewhere in the Philippines surely has a fiesta going on. Colorful and vibrant, Filipino fiestas are always happy occasions for Filipinos. It is a tradition that’s hard to break because its roots go back so far in time.
The Philippines were under Spanish conquistadores for more than 300 years and surely much of Spanish culture and tradition has been absorbed and imbibed by the locals. Needless to say, Filipinos got the celebration of fiestas from the Spaniards, who were sworn Catholics by hook or by crook. The extravagant celebrations are to thank patron saints for the blessings, or to commemorate the passage of the seasons.
The inherent jovial and lively spirit of the Filipinos is what makes them stand out. Music, street dancing, feasting, processions, sports competition, beauty contests; you name it and Filipino fiestas have it. So to name a few of the grandest festivals in the whole country, I’ll give you my personal top three list.
1. Sinulog Festival
Every third Sunday of January, locals in Cebu, Philippines get all festive and celebrate Sinulog Festival. It pays honor to the origin of Roman Catholicism in the country which started in the Queen City of the South, Cebu. Patron saint of Cebuanos is Santo Niño, the image of the baby Jesus.
Rainbow colored costumes of street dancers flood the street to heighten the merry making on the final day of the celebration. The term “sinulog” comes from the word “sulog” or water current, which describes the buoyant forward-backward movement of the festival dance. For the whole month of January, locals make all sort of merriment both for religious sake and general spirit of celebration.
2. Feast of the Black Nazarene
Just before the Sinulog Festival, on the 9th of January, devotees of the Black Nazarene deluge the streets of Quiapo in Manila, Philippines. Six to eight million devout Catholics pay tribute and take part in the procession when the statue is brought out for public veneration.
The Black Nazarene or the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno is a dark wooden sculpture of Jesus carrying a heavy cross. It was originally fair-skinned but it became dark when the ship carrying it from Mexico caught fire. Followers from all over the world believe that by touching the life-sized sculpture all sorts of ailments can be healed.
3. Masskara Festival
In a painful period of crisis, the province of Negros Island specifically Bacolod City, came up with a life-changing event just to lift up the heartbroken spirits of the Bacoleños. With the combined efforts of the tourism community and some artists, they came up with a brilliant suggestion for the first ever festival of smiles since Bacolod City is known to be the City of Smiles.
And since that third week of October some thirty years ago, the locals of the city have the grandest and the most vivacious celebrations every year. Merry making of all sorts is seen everywhere on the streets, but the most famous is the vivid and lively street dancing where all the dancers wear fascinating masks with big wide smiling faces.
So whatever day, week or month you want to visit the Pearl of the Orient, the Philippines, you’ll surely find an exciting festival that will get you hooked. You’ll not regret the merry making you’ll experience during any of the Philippine fiestas because then again, it’s always more fun in the Philippines.