The fiesta, while not a uniquely Filipino tradition, is one of the main cultural and religious events in the Philippines. The celebration of fiesta, which means feast, is one of the influences of Spain that has taken root in the Philippines. Each barangay has a fiesta, which probably holds true for most municipalities and cities (refer to the Philippine political subdivisions). The festivities mostly coincide with the day of the Patron Saint of a particular place, although it’s on the charter day in some places. Here are the more famous fiesta celebrations (if there are others that you believe should be included in the list, please let us know through the comment section below):
Sinulog (Cebu City)
The Sinulog dance ritual, which is in honor of the miraculous Santo Niño or Infant Jesus, is held every third Sunday of January. I understand it wasn’t always that way, and it was celebrated to coincide with the enthronement of the Santo Niño image at its shrine on April 28, 1565. Read more about Sinulog festival from a previous entry (with one great video, kudos to Jerrold Tarog) in this site, or go to the the official Sinulog Festival website.
Ati-Atihan (Kalibo, Aklan)
This is also a feast in honor of the Santo Niño, also celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of January (since the feast is celebrated at the same time with Sinulog of Cebu City, you better make up your mind which feast, and street dancing, to attend). Ati-atihan is from the “Atis” — the aboriginal Negritos in the area. The Ati-atihan, just like the Sinulog, has become more famous for its mardi gras. Read more at the Ati-Atihan website.
Pahiyas Festival(Lucban, Quezon)
From the website of the Pahiyas festival: “The San Isidro Pahiyas Festival held every May 15 has become one of the country’s tourist attractions prompting the Department of Tourism to list down Lucban as a tourist town and a cultural heritage site. During the San Isidro Pahiyas Festival, each household tries to outdo each other in friendly competition as they vie for honor of recognizing their creativity. As incentives to their effort, prizes were given to the winning pahiyas based on a given criteria. This accounts for some of the most curious décor that the unstoppable spirit of the festival tends to show. Decking the hall or decorating the wall with “Kiping” and agricultural harvest is what “PAYAS” or “PAHIYAS” literally means.” [See Colors and Tradition of Pahiyas Festival, Lucban.]
Feast of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo, Manila)
The feast of the miraculous Black Nazarene, with the Quiapo Church as its home, is celebrated on the second Tuesday of January. Thousands of devotees flock to attend the procession of the Black Nazarene, trying to touch the carriage or even the ropes used to pull the carriage.
Obando Fertility Rites (Obando, Bulacan)
Part of the festival is the dance of childless women, mostly with their partners, in honor of three patron saints — Santa Clara (patron saint of the childless), San Pascual Baylon (a 16th century shepherd who danced his prayers and became a model of religious virtue) and our Lady of Salambao (the image of the Immaculate Conception was fished out by a fisherman, with the use of a salambao net). The festival is celebrated on on May 17, 18, and 19.
I must say that fiesta celebration in the provinces or probinsya is more traditional, illustrating Filipino hospitality at its best. There are games and activities for everyone. The celebrations serve as thanksgiving for the bountiful harvest. Each household prepares food for guests. Even uninvited visitors are welcome.
In our town, a fiesta is being celebrated on almost each day of the month of May. Here’s the more interesting part — since the fiesta is usually a 2-day celebration (the fiesta proper and the viesperas, which is the day before the fiesta proper), the viesperas in one barangay falls on the fiesta proper in another barangay. Imagine the festivities if you factor in the rest of the barangays in the neighboring towns. So, if you’re a traveler, try bringing wash and wear clothes, then go through the different barangays during the month of May. You won’t get hungry, most probably. =)