Festival Fever

Philippine Daily Inquirer, Summer 2002

ASIA'S only Catholic country is a nation of festivals and fiestas, commemorating historical events and celebrating the feast days of patron saints. While the traditional town fiesta is an occasion for merriment and has become mostly secularized, particularly in urban areas, at its heart is religious devotion. This is all the more evident in the somber observance of Holy Week in the Philippines, as devout Catholics turn to spiritual contemplation and remembrance of the passion and death of Jesus Christ.

While hardly exhaustive, here is a list of some important Philippine feasts and festivals.

March 31

Held in Limasawa, Southern Leyte, site of the first Catholic mass celebrated in the Philippines. The arrival of the Spaniards heralded the eventual conversion of most of the Philippines to Christianity. To celebrate this momentous occasion, the province holds an anniversary program, including a reenactment of the first mass as well as songs and dances.

Mahal na Araw (Holy Week or Semana Santa)

The passion and death of Jesus Christ is commemorated with an eight-day religious festival. The Lenten observation actually starts with Ash Wednesday, over a month before Holy Week. During Ash Wednesday, a priest makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of devotees, using ash. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday rites and ends with a stirring dawn procession, known as the salubong, during Easter Sunday. In some parts of the country, penitents not only flog themselves but actually allow themselves to be crucified.


The senakulo is part of Holy Week, a folksy reenactment of the life of Jesus Christ. Dating back to Spanish times, this traditional dramatic play is usually performed in open-air makeshift theaters.

Moriones Festival
Holy Week

Celebrated in the island of Marinduque, which prides itself on being the country's "Lenten capital." An age-old ritual, this retells the story of Longinus, the Roman centurion who had pierced the side of Jesus while he was on the cross-and who was afterwards converted. The people of Marinduque don centurion masks and wear colorful costumes as they depict the Roman soldiers of Christ's time.

Manaoag Pilgrimage
2nd week of April

This is an annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag in Pangasinan. Many pilgrims visit the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Manaoag, which is believed to be miraculous.

May 1, 8, 15, 22, 29

This colorful procession is a grand event throughout the country, with the most attractive and charming young ladies depicting the different queens. This religious event commemorates the finding of the True Cross by St. Helena, the mother of Constantine, first Christian emperor of rome. A nine-day novena held in honor of the Holy Cross is held before the procession, which traditionally takes place on the novena's ninth day, during a weekend.

Carabao Festival
May 14

Celebrated in Angono, Rizal, this is held in honor of the patron saints of farmers. A procession of carabao carts bears the various local produce, with the owners of the most beautifully decorated carabaos winning prizes.

May 15

Celebrated in Lucban and other towns of Quezon, this annual festival attracts many city folk and tourists. It is the feast day of San Isidro Labrador, patron saint of farmers. The main attraction is the colorful decorations known as pahiyas, including the edible kiping or special rice wafer leaves used to beautify the houses. INQ7.net

Source: Inq7.net. (Philippine Daily Inquirer Online)

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