The tradition of the fiesta is an ancient one handed down from the many Spanish religious practices. Most fiestas are celebrated among patron saints and or the major events in the life of Jesus Christ and His Mother. Examples are Christmas, Quiapo Fiesta, Ati-atihan, Holy Week, Santacruzan, Peñafrancia Fluvial Festival, Antipolo Pilgrimage, Obando Fertility Rites and Carabao Festival. Our Muslim brothers observe the Ramadan of the Hari-raya Puasa Feast. There are also feast that existed prior to Spanish colonialization like the Tengao and Fagfagto which are rituals among the Ifugaos, Bontocs and Kalingas of Mountain Province. Filipino hospitality is legendary and at no time is it more in evidence than at fiesta time.

  1. CHRISTMAS is the longest and happiest of the Filipino festivals. Christmas in the Philippines commences on December 16 and ends in the first Sunday of January (or the feast of Epiphany).For the nine days preceding December 25 (Christmas Day), masses – popularly known as Simbang Gabi or Misa de Aguinaldo – are held starting at four o’clock in the morning. After the mass, the people hurry to the tiny stalls which sell fresh rice cakes and other native delicacies, with free steaming cups of tea. On the eve of Christmas Day, families dine together in what is popularly called Noche Buena.

    On the eve of New Year’s Day (December 31st), the families make as much noiseas they can by lighting firecrackers, beating pans and cans, and blowing horns and whistles up to midnight. They then dine together again for the Media Noche.

    The Lantern or Parol has become the most popular symbol of Christmas in the Philippines. It is a visual expression of a creative and imaginative mind. In the evenings especially, you can see displays of beautifully lighted Christmas lanterns.

  2. QUIAPO FIESTA is celebrated on the second Tuesday of January. It is the feast day of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo Church. After the main mass, the famous statue of the Black Nazarene, carved in Mexico during the 18th century, is placed ona gilded carriage and borne in procession around the Quiapo district, with thousands and thousands of devotees participating.

  3. ATI-ATIHAN -- “Hala Bira! Hala Bira!

    This resonant cry fills the air as the people of Kalibo (Aklan) and their visitors – dressed in outlandish costumes and get-ups -- gyrate through the streets in a hypnotized mass of dancing and shaking. Feet stamping, hands clapping, bongos beating , and whistles blowing, all cry out the rhythmic beat of the Ati-Atihan, undoubtedly the most fantastic fiesta in the Philippines.

    Ati-Atihan is celebrated in Kalibo, Aklan, on the third Sunday of January. It is held in honor of the Infant Jesus or Santo Niño. It derived its name from the word Atis, the aboriginal Negritos in the area.

  4. HOLY WEEK – Being the only Christian nation in Asia, the Philippines naturally celebrates the passion and death of Jesus Christ in a grand manner. Here are the major celebrations related to the Holy Week:

  5. SANTACRUZAN is the queen of Maytime festivals. It is a novena procession, in commemoration of Saint Helena’s finding of the cross. Saint Helena was the mother of Constantine the Great. The procession, however, differs from other religious processions in that it does not parade the usual images of patron saints. Instead, biblical and historical characters are represented by the local people dressed in appropriate costumes.

  6. HARI-RAYA PUASA is a thanksgiving feast, commemorating the Ramadan – the Muslim fast which lasts for 29 days. It is celebrated on the first day of the ninth lunar month in the Muslim calendar. (February in the Christian calend ar.) Hari-Raya Puasa is a fast-breaking holiday. An excited beat of a drum signals the end of the Ramadan and the start of the festival.

  7. PENAFRANCIA FLUVIAL FESTIVAL starts with a nine-day novena. The ninth day, usually falling on the third Saturday of September, is marked by a fluvial procession. The image of the Virgin Mary is carried on a barge which is trailed by thousands of devotees in boats gliding alongside. People who line the river banks shout “Viva la Virgen! as the Virgin passes by.

  8. ANTIPOLO PILGRIMAGE – “Tayo na sa Antipolo, at doo’y maligo tayo, sa batis na kung tawagin, ay Hi-Hi-Hinulugang Taktak, at doo’y kumain, ng mangga, kasuy at balimbing, kaya’t magmadali ka at, tayo ay sumama sa Antipolo.”

    This lilting native song of merry picnics and cool mountain spring rings through the air every summer month of May, as folks of every age journey to Antipolo. Antipolo is a small town in the province of Rizal, some 45 minutes away from Manila. Here is found the shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, more popularly known as the Virgin of Antipolo. A popular side attraction is Hinulugang Taktak, once a pretty waterfall just outside of the town.

  9. OBANDO FERTILITY RITES – “Santa Clarang pinong-pino, Ang pangako ko ay ganito, Pagdating ko sa Obando, Sasayaw ako ng pandanggo.”

    This lively song holds significant meanings to the childless mothers who, in their desire to share the fulfillment and happiness of motherhood, make the pilgrimage to Obando.

    Obando is a small town in Bulacan, on the banks of Angat River. On May 17, 18, and 19, a fiesta is celebrated in this town in honor of its three patron saints – Santa Clara, the patron saint of the childless; San Pascual Baylon, a humble 16th century s hepherd who danced his prayers and became a model of religious virtue; and Lady of Salambao, who got her name because the image of the Immaculate Conception was fished out by a fisherman, with the use of a salambao net.

    What makes the Obando fiesta unique among Philippine festivals is the dance performed in the streets by the childless women. With both their hands in the air, they swing and sway wildly to the Santa Clara melody.

  10. TENGAO or rest day is celebrated in June or July among the wealthy people of the Bontocs, Ifugaos, and Kalingas. Tengao or rest period is proclaimed by the Council of Elders. During this period, Cañaos or feasts are held and everyone must observe the rest period.

  11. FAGFAGTO – This is a ritual enacted annually by the Bontocs in Mountain Province. It is connected with the annual planting and harvesting of camote crop.Fagfagto is a mock battle where stones and rocks are hurled at each other by two opposing groups. The ritual is celebrated by the Bontocs because they believe that the warrior who sustains plenty of wounds as a result of rock hurling will reap plenty of camotes in the next harvest and that the bigger the wounds or bumps on the head, the bigger the camote crop will be.

  12. CARABAO FESTIVAL -- This is held on the feast day of San Isidro on May 15th in the farming towns of San Isidro (Nueva Ecija); Pulilan (Bulacan); and Angono (Rizal). On this day, the three towns pay homage to the beast of burden which is the farmer’s best friend – the lowly carabao. Early in the morning of May 15th, each farmer assembles his carefully groomed and gaily dressed carabao at the church yard, where the priest comes to bless them, sprinkling them with holy water. After this ceremony, the beasts of burden are lined up to parade around the town. The climax of the day’s activities arrives when the carabaos line up and prepare to race against each other across the fields. A signal goes up and the thunderous hooves stampede toward the finish line. At the finish line, the bulky beasts thunder to a halt and kneel as if in prayer. The priest then comes out and once more blesses them.