The Philippines not only boasts of pristine beaches and untapped dive spots for tourism, we are also popular for hosting spectacular and festive celebrations! Held in various towns and provinces across the country, Philippine festivals offers a rich cultural experience for both locals and tourists.
Right after the Christmas and New Year celebration, the festivity continues with these 5 big events in the country. Watch out for them this coming January 2017.
Don’t forget to mark you calendars!
3rd Week of January, Kalibo Aklan
What to Expect: Celebration of colors; a deluge of music, dancing, and happy people!
The Ati-Atihan is dubbed as the Mother of Philippine Festivals. It is a grand celebration in honor of the miraculous Sto. Niño.
Visitors are expected to go out on the streets, celebrate with the locals, and dance with street dancers. The festival ends with a procession and a meaningful Sunday mass.
Fun Fact: The festival is inspired by the story of Ten Datus from Borneo (including Datu Puti) who migrated to Madiaas (the old name of Panay Island) and settled there. The Borneys traded gold salakot, jewelries, and clothes with the local Atis in exchange for the island. Now, the story is relegated as myth and is deemed a historical fiction.
Guide for First-Timers: Street dancing and procession starts early in the morning so you better get energized as early as possible. Also, don't hold back from joining the dancers on the street, it’s an integral part of the festiva’ls essence.
Every 2nd Saturday of January, San Joaquin, Iloilo.
The entanglement of Spain’s world-famous bullfighting and Filipino local culture brought forth the Pasungay festival in San Joaquin, Iloilo. Bullfighting is still practiced in San Joaquin where huge crowd gather to watch the spectacle. One interesting part of this festival is Horse fighting. It starts by introducing a young mare to two horses to spark rivalry and competition.
Spectators need not to worry because the bull and horse fight is overseen by strict regulation that will protect the lives of the participating animals. The festival ends with a grand feast and lots of drinking.
You can start your January-festival adventure here and on the following week, you can take a half-day drive from Pasungay to Kalibo to participate in the Ati-atihan Festival.
Guide for First-Timers: This event is definitely not for the faint-hearted. If you wonder why the participants patronize this blood sport, delve into the local culture so you may understand why they have this local tradition.
3. Sinulog Festival
Every third weekend of January, Cebu City, Cebu.
The loud, colorful, and spectacular festival in Cebu honors Sto. Niño de Cebu, a statue of the Child Jesus in Cebu City. This month-long celebration is famous for its grandiose street parade of Sto. Niño and street dancers. A solemn fluvial procession, beautiful floats, and graceful street dancers are the three main events of the festival.
One local described the event as if "Cebu is converted into a very big party place where you can find different thematic parties." True to this statement, there are a lot of activities during the festival like puppets and giants, tattoos and face paints, and celebrity performances and fireworks!
Fun Fact: Did you know that the Sto. Niño de Cebu is more than 400 years old? It is the same one given to Raja Humabon and Juana by Magellan.
Guide for First-Timers: Cebu City is often swarmed by millions of people during the festival. Brace yourself for a crowded event. Also, note that slots are limited at the Cebu Sports Stadium and ticket price range from 1,000 to 2,000. Although, you can still enjoy the festival on the streets — and its free!
Fourth Sunday of January, Iloilo City, Iloilo
Right after Sinulog, fly to Iloilo City to witness the Dinagyang Festival. It is one of the most spectacular celebrations in the Philippines with flamboyant parade performances and a fluvial procession.
The three-day Festival pays homage to Sto. Niño. It started in 1968 at the Jaro Cathedral and since then the celebration grew to cover the whole city and the nearby towns. It is the last leg of the January Sto. Niño festivals in Visayas, and is one of the grandest and most festive.
Guide for First-timers: No vehicle is allowed at the parade route, walking is your only option.
Third Sunday of January, Pagadian City Zamboanga del Sur.
A week before Dinagyang, Zambulawan festival is yearly celebrated in Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur. It is a colorful festival all fitted with parades, feast, exhibits, and merrymaking to celebrate the local Subanon culture. It coincides the founding celebration of Pagadian and feast of their Patron Saint, Sto. Niño.
You can watch tribal dances and ethnic songs of the colorful Subanon Culture. Since 2000, it is officially called Pasasalamat Festival, but it’s still popularly called Zambulawan Festival.
Excited to experience these festivals yourself? Bring out your planner and prepare your itinerary for these January festivals that you shouldn’t miss.
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