Festivals serve as windows on the history, culture, and religious beliefs of a region. While a majority of the Filipino festivals or fiestas pay homage to the patron saint of a town/ province, a good number of festivals commemorate historical events and some others celebrate the harvest season. These festivals, lasting from a day to a month, put the culture, creativity, and passion of the Filipinos on display, and their gaiety is so infectious! Elaborate costumes, parades, pageants, food, music, and dance largely depict a Filipino festive scene.
With nearly 42,000 major and minor festivals in the Philippines, it is no wonder that any given day is a festival day in some or the other part of the country that came to be known as ‘the Capital of the World’s Festivities.’ Don’t miss out on these four famous festivals in the Philippines if you are vacationing in the archipelago in the month of January.
When: Third Sunday of January
Where: Kalibo, Aklan
Labelled as “The Mother of all Philippine Festivals,” Ati-Atihan is the oldest festival in the Philippines which is believed to have birthed many other famous Filipino festivals including Sinulog and Dinagyang. The one-week celebrations of this grandest Mardi Gras in the Philippines rise to a crescendo on the third Sunday of January.
Celebrated as a tribute to both Santo Niño (Holy Child Jesus) and the area’s early settlers (called “ati”), participants paint themselves black with soot, dress up in indigenous attire, gather in the streets, and dance vigorously to the reverberating drum beats while loudly chanting phrases like “Viva! Santo Niño!” and “Hala Bira!” Unlike other festivals in the Philippines, every spectator can take part in Ati-Atihan celebrations. So, smother some soot on your body and dance your heart out!
When: Third week/Sunday of January
Just about the time Kalibo celebrates Ati-Atihan, Cebu city will be celebrating its version of Ati-Atihan called Sinulog festival. Sinulog meaning ‘like the movement of water current’ refers to the dance movement performed as a part of the celebrations. This religious festival in the Philippines held to honor Santo Niño also commemorates the historical moment when Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan gifted the statue of Santo Niño to Rajah Humabon of Cebu (this event marked Cebu’s conversion to Christianity). Participants don resplendent costumes and perform the traditional Sinulog dance! The festivities also include parades, street parties, trade fairs, and art exhibitions!
When: 4th Sunday of January
Where: Iloilo City
Dinagyang, a world-famous Filipino festival, draws around 2-3 million people to Iloilo city. This yet another festival dedicated to Holy Child Jesus also celebrates the arrival of Malay settlers in Panay. The celebrations reflect Iloilo’s cultural heritage. Known as the “Queen of all festivals in the Philippines,” Dinagyang (a Hiligaynon word for “merrymaking”) features a plethora of high-spirited events, dancing competitions, and a huge feast with generous food and drinks. All the streets of Iloilo come alive with incredible performances, and it’s a treat to watch them! Plan your trip to the Philippines in January to be a part of these amazing festivals, and book your flight tickets at the lowest price on iEagle.com!
The Black Nazarene Procession:
When: January 9
Where: Quiapo, Manila
The Procession of Black Nazarene is one of the most popular religious festivals in the Philippines celebrated in the month of January. The Black Nazarene is an enormous image of Jesus Christ carved from dark wood. It depicts Jesus Christ as being weighed down by the cross that he carries on the way to his crucifixion. Many Filipinos believe that this image possesses miraculous powers, and a mere touch can cure serious illness. Shrined in the Quiapo Church, it is brought out thrice a year during the processions on 9th January Traslacion (transfer), New Year, and Good Friday.
The Traslación of the Black Nazarene is a reenactment of the “solemn transfer” of the Black Nazarene’s copy from San Nicolas de Tolentino Church in Intramuros to The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo. Considered as the largest religious procession in the Philippines, it lasts around 22 hours covering a seven-kilometer route. Millions of bare-footed devotees join the procession, hoping to touch the image.