The Philippines’ population is about 85% Christian which is predominantly Roman Catholics. For this reason, religion has a great influence to the country’s festivities. Below are the important dates to note when planning a visit.
New Year – 01Jan
Like in all other countries, New Year is an important festivity in the Philippines that marks the start of the Gregorian calendar. The celebration starts in New Year’s Eve, which is on 31 December. Filipinos usually celebrate it with families and relatives over bountiful food and drinks as it is believed to reflect the rest of the year’s opportunities. Other beliefs include serving sticky food for a stronger family ties and having circular fruits for financial luck and lighting fire works to drive evil spirits away.
Chinese New Year
This is the most important festival for the growing Chinese community in the Philippines, though this is not yet considered as an official holiday in the country. Following the lunar calendar, there is no fixed date for this celebration except that it is usually around February. Dragon dances can be witnessed in China Towns all over the country and of course fire works.
A week long commemoration of the Jesus’ life. Starting on Palm Sunday which recalls the successful entry of Jesus in Jerusalem. Priests all over the country bless palm leaves brought to the church which is later displayed at homes. There are several “pabasa” wherein the life of Jesus is being read or sang in group which is done publicly. This is followed by “Siete Palabras” which reenacts the Seven Last Words of Jesus before he died on the cross. During this period, most establishments are closed and even some television and radio stations sign off.
Balamban Festival – 01 to 05 May
From the local language which means butterfly and is a cultural dance of the lowland Christian that originated in the city, this is the theme of this year’s cityhood anniversary and to honor the city’s patron, Saint James the Apostle. It showcases the city as the melting pot in the North with various activities like street dancing, performances like comedia and beauty pageant. The video below can give you a better impression of this festivity. Visit and experience the city’s hospitality and friendliness. (Note: previously called Pattaraday)
video clip courtesy of Rheanne May Santos
Flores de Mayo
Before Santiago turned into a city it is now, Flores de Mayo is one of the highlights in a year, which is a month-long celebration. Rain or shine, beautiful young women (and also transvestites nowadays) portray the biblical and historical character but mostly the queens in the past as they parade along the streets all over the city. The sponsors of the event determine who will be the Reyna Elena of the Santa Cruzan, which marks as the end of the celebration. Admire the beauties in Santiago and witness one of the procession in May.
Independence Day -12 Jun
On this day, about more than a century ago, the freedom of the Philippines from the Spaniards was declared by Emilio Aguinaldo at his balcony. The Philippines flag was first raised and the national anthem was played. As a national holiday, government offices as well as schools and other establishments are closed. Though there are several programs organized by government bodies participated majority by students.
Feast of St. James Apostle – 25 Jul (Fiesta ng Stgo)
This celebration is in honor of the patron saint of the city, St. James Apostle as he saved the Christians against the Moros (Muslims). The Catholic church organizes sarswela and moro-moro, a local dance depicting the battle between the two religions. Aside from the acts, “perya’ is also associated with this festivity. It is a temporary, easily assembled and less extravagant amusement park and arcades situated in front of the church.
Undas – 01 & 02 Nov
Undas is a two-day celebration which honors the dead by visiting and cleaning the tomb Filipino families recalls and give respect to the diseased love ones by cleaning the graveyard and have picnics there. To some extent, some families will camp in cemeteries guarding the tomb of the diseased
Christmas Day – 24 & 25 Dec
The spirit of Christmas could be felt as early as begin November when colorful Christmas lanterns and lights are used at homes and establishments. Christmas songs are played over the radios. Young and old alike go houses to houses singing Christmas carols. The icing on the cake during this holiday is the traditional family dinner at Christmas Eve called Noche Buena.