1. Lucban, Quezon – Pahiyas Festival
One of the country’s biggest, and most colorful harvest festival every May 15th, along with the harvest festivals of the towns of Tayabas, Sariaya, Gumaca and Tiaong. These are the Philippines best known harvest festivals to honor San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of farmers. Known as the “Pahiyas”, the festival is deeply rooted in the traditional celebration of the townsfolk in thanksgiving for bounty harvest. Decorations called “Kiping”, leaf-shaped and multi-colored rice paste wafers which are used to decorate the facades of the homes along with fruits and flowers from nature.
2. Obando, Bulacan – Fertility Dance
It is part of a three-day festival in May that honors the three patrons of the town of Obando in Bulacan, located just 15 miles from Manila. May 17 is for San Pascual de Baylon (St. Paschal) , the patron saint of devout worshipers who are looking to marry and have baby boys May 18 is for Santa Clara (Saint Claire), the patron saint of the childless who want to have baby girls May 19 is for Nuestra Senora de Salambao (Our Lady of Salambao), protector of people who work in fishing, the main source of livelihood in Obando The roots of this festival go back to the the Kasilonawan, an ancient fertility dance said to promote pregnancy.
When the Spanish missionaries came, they introduced saints to replace the locals’ objects of veneration. That is why this celebration is also known in Tagalog as Pista ng Kasilonawan (Kasilonawan Festival). Couples who are childless go to Obando to perform this rite as do individuals who are looking for life partners. The dance itself is a pandanggo (“fandango”) and is performed as they walk the streets. Thiese are the songs they sing.
3. Marinduque – Moriones Festival
The Moriones Festival is a folk-religious event held annually during Holy Week on the island of Marinduque, considered the geographical heart of the Philippines.
4. Aklan – Ati-atihan Festival
The Ati-Atihan Festival is held every year in January in Kalibo, the capital of Aklan province. It is a two-week festival that ends on the third Sunday of the month. The Ati-Atihan Festival of Aklan is called the Mother of All Filipino Festivals. Kalibo has been known for its Ati-Atihan before all the other neighboring provinces started theirs. The name of the festival means “pretending to be like an Ati.” The Ati, also known as Negritos, are an indigenous people who have distinctively black skin and curly hair. In the year 1212 AD, ten datus from Borneo landed on Panay island (where Aklan is located) and amicably purchased land from the native king Marikudo. They had a feast to celebrate.
5. Cebu – Sinulog
The famous Sinulog festival in Cebu City is held every year on the third Sunday of January. The festival is characterized by a very long parade with many groups of persons dressed in colourful costumes, finding their way through the streets while dancing the Sinulog. To distinguish the festival from the popular Ati-Atihan Festival on Panay island, this festival is characterized by a different dance. This Sinulog dance, is now the traditional and ritual dance in honor of Santo Niño. The dance is accompanied by the sound of the drums: all the time moving two steps forward followed by one step backward. Though the dance is already very old, the parade is rather young! 1980 was the first year that the parade was organized.
The Sinulog was already danced by the locals in honor of their wooden statues in the period before the Cebuanos were baptized. Later on, after the image of the famous Santo Niño was brought to Cebu and the Catholic faith was established in the region, the dance was made a part of the yearly fiesta in honor of the Santo Niño. While dancing, people are shouting petitions and thanksgivings to the Santo Niño. Shouting is necessary because the pilgrims have to be sure that they will be heard by the Santo Niño. “Pit Señor! Señor Santo Niño, Manoy Kiloy….” The Sinulog became indeed a dance ritual in honor of Santo Niño!
6. Ilo-ilo – Dinagyang Festival
The Dinagyang is a religious and cultural festival in Iloilo. It is held every year on the fourth Sunday of January. This is right after the Sinulog Festival in Cebu and the Ati-Atihan Festival in Aklan. The Dinagyang festival is to honor the Santo Niño (Christ Child) and to celebrate the arrival on Panay island of Malay settlers and their subsequent purchase of the land from the local Ati people.
Santacruzan is a religious-historical beauty pageant held in many cities, towns and even small villages throughout the Philippines during the month of May. This custom and celebration started after the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and after the publication circa 1867 of Mariano Sevilla’s translation of the devotional Flores de Maria or Flowers of Mary. Since May is also the month dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the celebration is also known as Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May). The festivity commemorates the search of the Holy Cross by Queen Helena and her son, the newly converted emperor Constantine the Great. After the Holy Cross was found in Jerusalem and brought back to Rome, there was joyful celebration for thanksgiving.