Getting into the festive spirit

Contributing to the Philippines’ growing tourism industry is the vast array of cultural festivals the country is home to each year.

One of the biggest of these events on the calendar is the Sinulog Festival, taking place on the third weekend of January in Cebu. The religiously-motivated celebration bears witness to a rich mixture of traditional dancing, drumming, pageantry and sports on display. A grand street parade is the centrepiece, with participants taking to public spaces to dance in brightly-coloured costumes in step with a percussion of native instruments. The reason for such an extravagant palette of dramatic locomotive colour traces its origins back to a religious statue, the Rajah Humabon, which was presented as a gift to the people from Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.

Taking place on 15 May each year is arguably the most visually-dazzling event of the year, The Pahiyas Festival. Carried out in honour of San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of farmers, private homes are decked out in a blaze of colour by the locals in Lucban, Quezon, who transform their houses into a festive artwork that dominate the landscape during the two-day harvest festival. A combination of fruit, flowers and rice wafers crafted into the shape of leaves are used to create the elaborate displays.

Further along in the year, the Masskara Festival takes place in October and showcases a fascinating array of giant masks, colourful outfits and festive dancing on the streets of Bacolod City. The origins of the festival stem from a period of national sadness in the early 1980s, when the inter-island vessel MV Don Juan collided with the tanker Tacloban City and sank, losing more than 700 lives. The Masskara Festival was orchestrated by the government to improve the national mood of the people and it has become an institution ever since.

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