If there’s one thing Filipinos know how to do, it’s to throw a party. We call it fiesta — and there’s literally at least one being celebrated every single day in the 7,107 islands that make up the Philippines. It’s colorful, it’s loud, and there’s sure to be a ton of food, drink, and merrymaking. Simply put, the Filipino fiesta is unlike anything you’ve experienced anywhere in the world.
You’ve been to one fiesta, you’ve been to them all… right? Nope. That is not quite the case here in the Philippines where there are literally a thousand ways to throw a fiesta. There’s a fiesta dedicated to the awesomeness of the Lechon (roasted suckling pig) where cute little piggies are dressed up in crazy costumes, another one where the highlight is a Filipino style rodeo, and one celebrated by literally covering houses in colorful fruits and other agricultural produce.
During fiesta, all work stops — as it should — because we don’t mix work and play here. Needless to say, we take our fiestas here very seriously. And here are just a few noteworthy fiestas you need to check out on your next vacation in the Philippines!
Boracay and Kalibo, Aklan | 3rd Weekend of January
The Ati-Atihan is one of the oldest religious festivals in the Philippines, celebrated by both Christians and non-Christians alike to honor the Sto. Niño (or Child Jesus). During the “Mother of all Philippine Festivals”, thousands of locals and tourists alike cover their bodies in black soot, don tribal outfits, dance to blaring drums, and shout “Hala Bira!” at the top of their lungs. Of course celebrating the Ati-Atihan along the white sand shores of pristine Boracay is but a bonus. The celebration is also known as the Mardi Gras of the Philippines and ends with lots of food and drink by the ocean.
Cebu | 3rd Weekend of January
It’s the big one! The Sinulog Festival is one giant street party. Celebrated during the same time as the Ati-Atihan, the Sinulog Festival is Cebu’s version of the celebration of the Sto. Niño (Child Jesus). Millions and millions of locals and tourists flock to Cebu around this time to take to the streets to witness grand parades and then hop around some of the country’s biggest raves and street parties after the sun sets. Lots of food and alcohol is involved during Sinulog. Not bad for a religious holiday, right?
Iloilo | 4th Weekend of January
Like Sinulog, Iloilo’s Dingagyang Festival can be seen as one giant street party. People takeover the streets for a weekend of nothing but merrymaking, headlined by colorful performers and musical acts, food, drink, and smiling faces. Dingagyang is not to be missed — just ask the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines that awarded the festival as the Best Tourism Event of the Philippines.
Masbate City | Mid-April
If you’re looking for a taste of the Wild West, look no further than Rodeo Country’s Rodeo Masbateño in the “Wild East” that is Masbate City. Rodeo Masbateño is a five-day festival that showcases cow-wrestling, lassoing, cattle parades, barn dances, and livestock shows.
Balayan, Batangas | June 24
There are many places in the Philippines that claim to be home of the best-tasting lechon (roasted suckling pig) in the country. To be honest, they all taste great; so we’ll leave that up for debate. But when it comes to the best-looking lechon, the little town of Balayan, Batangas takes the cake, hands down, no questions asked. Just look at those beautiful lechon! During Parada ng Lechon, townsfolk dress up roasted pigs in crazy costumes that take inspiration from historical characters, pop-culture icons, and the latest TV shows. After the parade, of course, everybody eats lechon. Yum!
Bacolod City | October
Regarded as the happiest and most colorful festival in the Philippines, the Masskara Festival is a month-long celebration filled with concerts, food fests, street parties, and of course the main event: the parade of masks! Held every October in the City of Smiles, the Masskara Festival draws thousands of thousands of visitors annually. Be sure to wear comfortable clothing and footwear during the big parade itself, because dancing is mandatory! Come nighttime, Lacson Street in Bacolod becomes the hub of street parties, raves, concerts, and night food markets.
Baguio City | February
The season of bloom, or Panagbenga, is hands down the most fragrant festival in the Philippines. Panagbenga is celebrated in February in the cool mountain tops of Baguio City and is headlined by “Session Road in Bloom” where the entire Session Road is closed to traffic to make way for the festival. There you will find flower-filled floats, lots of street dancing, and of course lots of food.
Lucban, Quezon | May 15th
It’s colorful! So, so colorful! Households of Lucban, Quezon compete against each other during Pahiyas by decorating the facades of their houses with an assortment of colorful produce like eggplants, bananas, chilis, turnips, squash, beans, pineapples, and so on. And after the judging is done and the best Pahiyas house has been awarded, everyone is encouraged to pick from the houses all the fruits and vegetables to be cooked and shared with the community during the festival.
Davao City | 3rd Week of August
To give thanks for the abundance of beauty and the harvest (literally Kadayawan in the local dialect), Davao fills its streets with the most colorful floral and produce floats, holds the prestigious Miss Kadayawan beauty pageant, and nonstop indak-indak (street dancing). Of course, no fiesta is complete with lots and lots of food — that is why during Kadayawan, Davao mounts “Kaan sa Da’n” (to eat in the streets, in english), which is a week long street food fiesta along Roxas Avenue.
As we said earlier, the Philippines takes partying seriously.