Philippine Festivals

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Giant Lantern Festival 2023 - Pampanga, Philippines

16 December 2023, Pampanga, Philippines

The first lantern festival was held to honour President Manuel L. Quezon. At that time, Quezon made Arayat his rest area and converted Mount Arayat into a tourist resort. As a show of gratitude to Quezon, the people of San Fernando held a Christmas lantern contest to honour the first family. Lantern Festival is a yearly festival celebrated in December, on a Saturday that precedes Christmas Eve in the fabulous city of San Fernando. Just as the name suggests, the festival features a contest of huge giant lanterns whose grand structure is an attraction in itself. History has it that a simpler version of the event held in Bacoor marked the start of the event. This was followed by the transfer of the event to San Fernando at the start of the 20th century. During this period, the lanterns measured just about three feet, a sharp contrast with the almost sixteen feet witnessed today.

Over the years, the festival was marked with the inclusion of disco lights and further enhanced by the elaborate designs of the Giant Lanterns. One may wonder what all the fuss is about lights and lanterns, but the truth of the matter is that light is significant for local Filipinos as it symbolizes unwavering hope. Today, the festival is home to innovative designs that display creativity and are infused with originality. So popular is the event in the Philippines, that the city has been christened the ‘Christmas Capital of the Philippines’. To get to San Fernando in Pampanga, you can hire the services of a car rental company which will then allow you to take the 3-hour drive to the venue. The other alternative involves taking public transport which will see you board a bus from the capital city, Manila, to San Fernando. Whichever way you choose to get to the venue, the Giant Lantern Festival is a must-attend; a stunningly beautiful and eye-opening event.

The Kapampangan locals or natives call this festival “Ligligan Parul” which is an annual festival that is being held during the Saturday before Christmas in December. This is a century-old festival in the Philippines that started in the year 1904 but the old locals believed and as far as they can recall, that the event was inaugurated in 1904 but it was initialized or instantiated during the later years of 1908. The festival celebrates the Christmas spirit by making different large and giant lanterns designed with different colours and lights. During the event period, you’d see the City sparkling with rainbow colours during the night. It may seem just like any other festivals in the country that has lanterns and Christmas lights during the season but before all of that became a Christmas trend, it was actually a religious activity called the Lubenas or what we usually know as Novena.

Back in the days, the lanterns local people used were just about 2 feet in diameter. But as the annual festival takes place every year, improvements are being made and it gets getting larger and larger with more lighting. In fact, there are now rotors on these lanterns to allow lantern movements as well as optimize the lighting effects. Today, the lanterns being used do not measure below 15 feet in diameter. That’s 5 times larger than the original size and up to this date, there are people who want to perfect and create a much larger lantern to continue breaking the record. People during this time or event take every resource they have to win the lantern competition which is being put to contest during the main event date of the festival. There are some who use recyclable materials from their previous designs and some just want to create a new and better model from new parts ordered and made. Some don’t even care about expenses where winning cash prizes wouldn’t even come close to all their expenditures. There are some participants who just aim for the glory and fame as well as bragging rights of being the winner of the annual lantern festival. However, back in the days, Giant Lantern Festival isn’t that bright and vibrant at all. There was no electricity during the early years of the event as electricity was introduced to San Fernando, Pampanga around the year 1931.

  • Juntado, Dominique Angela. Ligligan Parul: Pampanga’s Giant Lanterns as Political and Cultural Thought. TALA 2, no. 2 pp 165-197. December 2019. Retrieved September 29, 2022

  • Orejas, Tonette. Pinoys aim to create world’s biggest parol. Inquirer News Service. Inq7. Retrieved through Wayback Machine from original on September 29, 2022

Buglasan Festival 2023, Negros Oriental, Philippines

14 - 22 October 2023, Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental

The Buglasan Festival is Negros Oriental’s movable provincial fiesta, participated in by the Province’s six component cities and 19 municipalities. “Buglasan” is derived from buglas, the tall, napier-like reeds which once covered the entire island of Negros. Natives and residents of the neighboring islands are said to have called the place Buglas. The highlight event is the Buglasan Festival of Festivals, which gathers the finest performing contingents of Negros Oriental’s established and emerging festivals

2023 Buglasan Street Dance Showdown, Negros Oriental Philippines

Booth showcase from the various towns and cities of Negros Oriental, Philippines - Buglasan Festival 2023

Sinulog Festival

Third Sunday of January, Cebu, Philippines

Sinulog celebrates the Philippines most famous relic, the Santo Nino (Holy Child). The image that Ferdinand Magellan originally brought from Spain in the 16th century. The people chant the words “Pit Senor” which always been  heard throughout the celebration is a plea to the Holy Child.

Bailes de Luces Festival

5th January, La Castellana, Negros Occidental, Philippines

Bailes de Luces or festival of lights is relatively different festival as it is a young festival started in 1997 in the town of La Castellana, Negros Occidental as a thanksgiving feast for the upcoming new year. It is a celebration with lively parade of dancers moving to the Latin beat and  showcase of floats with children all decked with beautiful lights.

Ati-Atihan Festival

January, Aklan, Philippines

Ati-atihan is one of the oldest festival in the Philippines and originally a pagan festival and today’s time is celebrated as tribute to Santo Nino (Holy Child). The festival is characterised by  soot-covered skin of the performers dressed in indigenous costumes dancing to the beat of the drums. It is also considered the grandest Mardi Gras in the Philippines.