Though known as ‘Land of the Singers’, we bet you didn’t know that the beautiful landscape of Philippines is home to a plethora of cultural festivals that are damn near impossible to imagine unless you actually go there. The Sherp gives you a list of the most popular festivals that border on extremely eccentric, and definitely niche, in all their glory.
1. Banana Festival
When: March 18 – 19, 2016
Regardless of whether you belong to the species of ‘The Minion’, head to Baco to witness the unusual, yet beautiful festival where the celebration centers around the delicious fruits that can be found on most islands of the country. The two-day festival brings together farmers, visitors and banana enthusiasts alike, showcasing the different kinds of the nutritious fruit, including the Lacatan, the Saba as well as the Latundan. The novelty, however, doesn’t end there. Be a part of the cook-fests for the best banana meals, Saba-inspired street dancing competitions, and beauty pageants where the contestants enthusiastically battle it out to win the title for the year.
When: March 26, 2016
While the Holy Week and the period of Lent is a sombre period of prayer and worship, Black Saturday in Leyte is set aside for Carugara’s annual festival, Turogpo, where “tugpo” in waray-waray dialect, stands for matchmaking or stimulating a relationship between lovers. Before you can imagine a romantic scenario for the same, we should tell you that this festival stages carabao fights (bull fights) which establishes the dominance of one bull over the other, thus winning the right to a favourable mate. The recent addition to the fights have been battles between male horses, where a mare is presented to trigger the match; and a cockfight, where the last one standing is considered the winner. According to the tale, Turogpo had its origin in the Spanish era, some 200 years ago and originally held on Good Friday.
3. San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites
When: March 25, 2016
Where: San Pedro Cutud
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is what marks the holy Good Friday on calendars across the world. But what if you knew that even today, devotees are still crucified to to cross as penance for their sins in this life? This enactment of Christ’s death started in the early 1950s and every year, a dozen or so penitents are nailed to a cross in a rice field in the barrio of San Pedro Cutud using two-inch stainless steel nails that have been soaked in alcohol to disinfect them. Other penitents strike their bare backs with sharpened bamboo whips. The Catholic Church does not approve or endorse these acts, and even though the media has called them “pagan and barbaric”, the event is still viewed as a spectacle by people who come to view them, the numbers in the crowd increasing every year.
4. Wanderland Music and Arts Festival
When: March 5, 2016
Where: Globe Circuit Event Grounds
An annual tradition of good music and great people, Wanderland is a music and arts festival that takes pride in bringing both international and homegrown indie acts to the same stage, suitably catering to the eclectic musical tastes of its audience. It has curated a loyal following in the Philippines, effortlessly weaving music, art and community into the spirit of the festival, making it a premiere event in the country. Wanderland 2016 is ready to blast off with its theme being outer space. Death Cab by Cutie, Bon Iver, San Cisco, The Naked and Famous, Blackbird Blackbird, Panama, CRWN and Jess Connelly, and many others.
When: May, 2016
If you thought manure, cross dressers and animal fights had nothing in common, we urge you to take a look at this festival held in Barangay San Vicente, Olango. Every May (particularly on the date with the highest 12-noon tide),to honour San Vicente Ferrer, the festival is celebrated to symbolizes the confusion of the faithful. The celebration includes cross-dressing men in exuberant dresses and make-up, the simulation of giving birth by the same men in the sea, fights between animals, and selling cow manure topped with condiments, mostly ketchup. Some are unexplainable experiences in terms of their beliefs and are also a way of reminiscing God’s wrath. And you thought you’d seen all there was to see!
6. Taong Putik Festival
When: June 24, 2016
To commemorate the feast day of John the Baptist, hundreds of devotees of the saint transform themselves into ‘taong putik’ translated as ‘mud people’. Locally called Pagsa-San Juan, the event allows people to engage in revelry such as drenching unwary people with water in Aliaga, Nueva Ecija, in Barangay Bibiclat. While the exact origin of the tradition is unknown, one theory suggests that when all the men in the village were to be executed by Japanese soldiers during World War II in retaliation for the death of 13 fellow soldiers, a heavy downpour led to the villagers being herded into the church to seek shelter. After a while, the Japanese soldiers changed their mind and set their captives free. The residents attributed this to a miracle of Saint John the Baptist, and vowed to pay homage to him on his feast day by wearing costumes patterned after his attire, using mud, leaves and any other natural materials they could find.
7. Malasimbo Lights and Dance Festival
When: March 24-26, 2016
Where: Puerto Galera
Held amidst the serene gardens of Puerto Galera, Malasimbo is know for the best funk, hip-hop, house, and electronic music acts, which when combined with the groovy dance groups, magical light shows and exemplary performances, guarantees a three day spectacle that will give you memories to cherish for a lifetime. Witnessing a footfall of more than 5000 people from over 30 countries, the festival has only grown bigger and better from its inception in 2010. This year’s line up includes San Soda, Dualist Enquiry, DJ Yuoto, MC Cards and many more.
8. Parada ng Lechon
When: June 24, 2016
Also known as The Roasted Pig Parade, this is another festival held on the San Juan feast day where the pig (lechon) is placed on a spit, in a roasting pit. The pig is baked and dressed up, depending on the theme the social organization has chosen for the event. After dressing the pig, clear plastic is wrapped around the pig to prevent it from getting wet and brought to the church. While the parade pass by the streets, bystanders will drench the participants with water, signifying the dousing of holy water that one is baptized with, in church. Once the parade is done, the citizens participate in the feast and the lechon is distributed amongst those who are present.
9. Obando Fertility Rites
When: May 17-19, 2016
Celebrated every May in Obando, this festival features a dance ritual where locals and pilgrims, sometimes dressed in traditional costume, sing and dance to honour the three patron saints: San Pascual, Santa Clara and Nuestra Señora de Salambáo on the three days, respectively. A procession is held with the images of the saints followed by bands playing instruments made of bamboo or brass. It is a simple dance of prayer, asking the spirits to bring life into the wombs of women who wish to conceive a child and quite a joyous occasion for those who wish women good health and fortune with their children, in the future.
10. International Reggae Festival
When: April 16, 2016
The very first of its kind, this festival proudly states that “you don’t have to be like Bob Marley, or you don’t have to be from Jamaica to fall in love with nothing but the sound of Reggae”, which is already a fantastic incentive for all music lovers out there to attend the festival, regardless of their taste in genres and artists alike. The line up for the year includes Tropical Depression, Reggae Mistress, Coco Jam, Bahaghari and so many more.
11. Bangus Festival
When: April 1, 2016
Where: Dagupan City
Commonly known as Milkfish, Bangus is the lone living species in the family of Chanidae and is most closely related to carps and catfish. First celebrated in 2002, Bangus Festival was started by mayor Benjamin S. Lim, who wanted promote Dagupan as the Bangus Capital of the World. The festivities begin with the lighting of 1,000 barbecue grills lined up to cook more than thousands of bangus. There exist cook-offs among chefs, whose dishes are judged by the grilling and creating the most creative way of serving the fish. Apart from this, the festival includes eating contests, a search for the biggest and heaviest bangus and several dance competitions for people to participate and have fun.