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Philippines Fiestas

Fiestas from May to December


Icon of San Isidro Labrador being carried through Lucban

Icon of San Isidro Labrador being carried through Lucban

Rene Guevara – part of the image collection of the International Rice Research Institute

Lucban, Quezon
May 15

The Pahiyas is Lucban's uniquely Technicolor way of celebrating the feast of San Isidro, the patron saint of farmers. Held to celebrate a bountiful harvest, the Pahiyas brings forth parades and traditional games - it also introduces an explosion of color through the rice wafers known as kiping.

Sheets of kiping are colored and hung from houses, each house trying to outdo the other with the color and elaborateness of their kiping displays.

Apart from the kiping, fresh fruit and vegetables are everywhere for the visitors to taste and enjoy. The rice cake known as suman is also everywhere on offer - even total strangers are welcomed into the houses in Lucban to enjoy the house's culinary offerings.

Obando Fertility Rites
Obando, Bulacan
May 17-19

The town of Obando plays host to a pagan fertility ritual with a thin veneer of Catholicism laid over it, involving penitents dancing on the streets in the hopes that the saints will grant them their wish.

The penitents push wooden carts before them bearing the image of the saint they wish to supplicate. The saint differs depending on what is being asked for - San Pascual Baylon for those who want a wife, Santa Clara de Assisi for those who want a husband, and our Lady of Salambao for those who want a child. The parade continues down the streets all the way to the town church.

Flores de Mayo

Communities throughout the Philippines celebrate the Flores de Mayo, a month-long flower festival that honors the Virgin Mary and retells the folk tale of the rediscovery of the True Cross by Emperor Constantine's mother Helena.

The highlight of any Flores de Mayo celebration is the Santacruzan, a religiously-themed beauty pageant featuring the community's most beautiful (or well-born) ladies marching in a procession through town.

Participants are dressed in the finest traditional clothing, but no one is better dressed than the lady who represents Queen Helena, who walks under a canopy of flowers. She precedes a float bearing an icon of the Virgin Mary. After proceeding to Church, the whole town celebrates with a huge feast.

For several years, some towns held gay Santacruzan parades, until a cardinal put the kibosh on that trend. ("Cardinal Bans Gays in Santacruzan", CBCPnews.)

Kadayawan sa Dabaw
Davao City

The southern city of Davao's holds its biggest festival in August, a whole week of parades, races, and pageants held to celebrate the incoming harvest. Kadawayan is an interesting showcase of the tribes and traditions that form part of the history behind this rather new city.

Fresh fruits and flowers (two of Davao's key exports) are all readily available, and crowds gather to watch the indak-indak sa kadalanan (a Mardi Gras-like parade of colorful costumes, albeit garbed in tribal wear). The nearby Davao Gulf also plays host to boat races, both traditional and modern. A horse-fight is also conducted during Kadayawan, a brutal spectacle that draws from local tribal tradition.

Peñafrancia Festival
Naga City
September 19

A nine-day fiesta honors Our Lady of Peñafrancia in Naga City, Bicol. The celebrations revolve around a statue of the Lady, which is carried by male devotees from its shrine to the Naga Cathedral. The nine days that follow are Naga's biggest party - parades, sports events, exhibitions, and beauty pageants vie for visitors' attentions.

On the last day, the statue is brought back to the shrine via the Naga River, on a fluvial procession illuminated by candlelight.

Masskara Festival
Bacolod City
14-21 October

Masskara is a recent (1980) innovation on Bacolod City's Charter Day celebrations, but it's great fun nonetheless. Masked partygoers in fantastic costumes dance on the streets of Bacolod City, providing the main spectacle for an event that also includes pole-climbing competitions, gorge-till-you-drop feasts, and beauty pageants galore.

Higantes - Feast of San Clemente
Angono, Rizal
November 23

The Higantes (Giants) tradition was born of a massive inside joke. When the town of Angono was one big farming property owned by an absentee Spanish landlord, the powers that be decided that times were tough, and prohibited the celebration of any fiestas apart from the San Clemente festival in November.

The townsfolk decided to lampoon their masters using larger-than-life effigies paraded during the permitted feast day - the masters were none the wiser, and a tradition was born.

While the ten-foot-high papier-mache giants are being paraded, townsfolk drench each other with water guns and buckets. Devotees also carry the image of San Clemente (patron saint of fishermen) on a fluvial parade down Laguna de Bay.

Angono is also famous for its arts and crafts trade: the town has produced some of the country's most prominent artists, and is still bustling with artisans and art galleries. Take some time to look through their wares while you're in town.

Giant Lantern Festival
San Fernando, Pampanga
December 3

During Christmas, star-shaped lanterns known as parol sprout all over the country. The biggest and best parol are made in San Fernando, which advertises its wares in their biggest Christmas exhibit. The residents eschew the simple parol of old, bringing out multicolored electric beauties with blinking panels. After viewing the many parol on display, you can buy one of your own to take home!

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