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Essay About Philippines Festivals And Holidays

For other uses, see Festival (disambiguation).

"Festivity" redirects here. For the ship, see MV Festivity.

A festival is an event ordinarily celebrated by a community and centering on some characteristic aspect of that community and its religion or traditions. It is often marked as a local or national holiday, mela, or eid. Next to religion and folklore, a significant origin is agricultural. Food is such a vital resource that many festivals are associated with harvest time. Religious commemoration and thanksgiving for good harvests are blended in events that take place in autumn, such as Halloween in the northern hemisphere and Easter in the southern.

Festivals often serve to fulfill specific communal purposes, especially in regard to commemoration or thanksgiving. The celebrations offer a sense of belonging for religious, social, or geographical groups, contributing to group cohesiveness. They may also provide entertainment, which was particularly important to local communities before the advent of mass-produced entertainment. Festivals that focus on cultural or ethnic topics also seek to inform community members of their traditions; the involvement of elders sharing stories and experience provides a means for unity among families.

In Ancient Greece and Rome, festivals such as the Saturnalia were closely associated with social organisation and political processes as well as religion.[1][2][3] In modern times, festivals may be attended by strangers such as tourists, who are attracted to some of the more eccentric or historical ones. The Philippines has traditionally been the capital of the world's festivities, as each day of the year has at least one specific Filipino festival. There are more than 42,000 known major and minor festivals in the Philippines, the majority of which are in the barangay (village) level.[4]


The word "festival" was originally used as an adjective from the late fourteenth century, deriving from Latin via Old French.[5] In Middle English, a "festival dai" was a religious holiday.[6] Its first recorded used as a noun was in 1589 (as "Festifall").[5] Feast first came into usage as a noun circa 1200,[7] and its first recorded use as a verb was circa 1300.[8] The term "feast" is also used in common secularparlance as a synonym for any large or elaborate meal. When used as in the meaning of a festival, most often refers to a religious festival rather than a film or art festival. In the Philippines and many other former Spanish colonies, the Spanish word fiesta is used to denote a communal religious feast to honor a patron saint.[citation needed]


Many festivals have religious origins and entwine cultural and religious significance in traditional activities. The most important religious festivals such as Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, Diwali, and Eid al-Adha serve to mark out the year. Others, such as harvest festivals, celebrate seasonal change. Events of historical significance, such as important military victories or other nation-building events also provide the impetus for a festival. An early example is the festival established by Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Rameses III celebrating his victory over the Libyans.[9] In many countries, royal holidays commemorate dynastic events just as agricultural holidays are about harvests. Festivals are often commemorated annually.

There are numerous types of festivals in the world and most countries celebrate important events or traditions with traditional cultural events and activities. Most culminate in the consumption of specially prepared food (showing the connection to "feasting") and they bring people together. Festivals are also strongly associated with national holidays. Lists of national festivals are published to make participation easier.[10]

Types of festivals[edit]

Religious festivals[edit]

Main article: Religious festival

Among many religions, a feast is a set of celebrations in honour of Gods or God.[11] A feast and a festival are historically interchangeable. Most religions have festivals that recur annually and some, such as Passover, Easter and Eid al-Adha are moveable feasts – that is, those that are determined either by lunar or agricultural cycles or the calendar in use at the time. The Sed festival, for example, celebrated the thirtieth year of an Egyptian pharaoh's rule and then every three (or four in one case) years after that.[12]

In the Christianliturgical calendar, there are two principal feasts, properly known as the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord (Christmas) and the Feast of the Resurrection, (Easter). In the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican liturgical calendars there are a great number of lesser feasts throughout the year commemorating saints, sacred events or doctrines. In the Philippines, each day of the year has at least one specific religious festival, either from Catholic, Islamic, or indigenous origins.[citation needed]

Buddhist religious festivals, such as Esala Perahera are held in Sri Lanka and Thailand.[13]Hindu festivals, such as Holi are very ancient. The Sikh community celebrates the Vaisakhi festival marking the new year and birth of the Khalsa.[14]

Arts festivals[edit]

Main article: Arts festival

Among the many offspring of general arts festivals are also more specific types of festivals, including ones that showcase intellectual or creative achievement such as science festivals, literary festivals and music festivals.[15] Sub-categories include comedy festivals, rock festivals, jazz festivals and buskers festivals; poetry festivals,[16]theatre festivals, and storytelling festivals; and re-enactment festivals such as Renaissance fairs. In the Philippines, aside from numerous art festivals scattered throughout the year, February is known as national arts month, the culmination of all art festivals in the entire archipelago.[citation needed]

Film festivals involve the screenings of several different films, and are usually held annually. Some of the most significant film festivals include the Berlin International Film Festival, the Venice Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival.

Food and drink festivals[edit]

Main article: Food festival

A food festival is an event celebrating food or drink. These often highlight the output of producers from a certain region. Some food festivals are focused on a particular item of food, such as the National Peanut Festival in the United States, or the Galway International Oyster Festival in Ireland. There are also specific beverage festivals, such as the famous Oktoberfest in Germany for beer. Many countries hold festivals to celebrate wine. One example is the global celebration of the arrival of Beaujolais nouveau, which involves shipping the new wine around the world for its release date on the third Thursday of November each year.[17][18] Both Beaujolais nouveau and the Japanese rice wine sake are associated with harvest time. In the Philippines, there are at least two hundred festivals dedicated to food and drinks.[citation needed]

Food and drink festivals

Soweto Wine Festival, South Africa (2009) 

Holi Nepal (2011) 

Beer horse cart from the Hofbräuhaus brewery at Oktoberfest Germany (2013) 

Seasonal and harvest festivals[edit]

Seasonal festivals, such as Beltane, are determined by the solar and the lunar calendars and by the cycle of the seasons, especially because of its effect on food supply, as a result of which there is a wide range of ancient and modern harvest festivals. Ancient Egyptians relied upon the seasonal inundation caused by the Nile River, a form of irrigation, which provided fertile land for crops.[19] In the Alps, in autumn the return of the cattle from the mountain pastures to the stables in the valley is celebrated as Almabtrieb. A recognized winter festival, the Chinese New Year, is set by the lunar calendar, and celebrated from the day of the second new moon after the winter solstice. Dree Festival of the Apatanis living in Lower Subansiri District of Arunachal Pradesh is celebrated every year from July 4 to 7 by praying for a bumper crop harvest.[20]

Midsummer or St John's Day, is an example of a seasonal festival, related to the feast day of a Christian saint as well as a celebration of the time of the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, where it is particularly important in Sweden. Winter carnivals also provide the opportunity to utilise to celebrate creative or sporting activities requiring snow and ice. In the Philippines, each day of the year has at least one festival dedicated to harvesting of crops, fishes, crustaceans, milk, and other local goods.[citation needed]

Seasonal and harvest festivals

Temple Festival in India 

Halloween pumpkins show the close relationship between a harvest and religious festivals 

Study of festivals[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^Robertson, Noel (1992). Festivals and legends: the formation of Greek cities in the light of public ritual (Repr. ed.). Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0802059880. 
  2. ^Brandt, edited by J. Rasmus; Iddeng, Jon W. (2012). Greek and Roman festivals : content, meaning, and practice (1st ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-969609-3. 
  3. ^Pickard-Cambridge, Sir Arthur (1953). The dramatic festivals of Athens (2nd ed.). Oxford: At the Clarendon Press. ISBN 0198142587. 
  4. ^Picard, David; Robinson, Mike (2006). "Remaking Worlds: Festivals, Tourism and Change". In David Picard and Mike Robinson. Festivals, Tourism and Social Change. Channel View Publications. pp. 1–3. ISBN 978-1-84541-267-8. 
  5. ^ ab"festival, adj. and n.". OED Online. March 2014. Oxford University Press. Accessed April 16, 2014.
  6. ^festival (adj.) at the Middle English Dictionary. Accessed April 16, 2014.
  7. ^"feast, n.". OED Online. March 2014. Oxford University Press. Accessed April 16, 2014.
  8. ^"feast, v.". OED Online. March 2014. Oxford University Press. Accessed April 16, 2014.
  9. ^Berrett, LaMar C.; Ogden D. Kelly (1996). Discovering the world of the Bible (3rd ed., rev. ed.). Provo, Utah: Grandin Book Co. p. 289. ISBN 0-910523-52-5. 
  10. ^See for example: List of festivals in Australia; Bangladesh; Canada; China; Colombia; Costa Rica; Fiji; India; Indonesia; Iran; Japan; Laos; Morocco; Nepal; Pakistan; Philippines; Romania; Tunisia; Turkey; United Kingdom; United States; Vietnam.
  11. ^Ancient Egyptian festivals could be either religious or political.Bleeker, C. J. (1967 [1968]). Egyptian festivals. Enactments of religious renewal. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill. 
  12. ^"Heb-Sed (Egyptian feast)". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  13. ^Gerson, Ruth (1996). Traditional festivals in Thailand. Kuala Lumpur; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9676531111. 
  14. ^Roy, Christian (2005). "Sikh Vaisakhi: Anniversary of the Pure". Traditional Festivals, Vol. 2 [M – Z]: A Multicultural Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 480. ISBN 978-1-57607-089-5. 
  15. ^See List of music festivals.
  16. ^Some such as such as Cúirt International Festival of Literature started as a poetry festival and then broadened in scope.
  17. ^Hyslop, Leah (21 November 2013). "Beaujolais Nouveau day: 10 facts about the wine". The Telegraph. 
  18. ^Haine, W. Scott (2006). Culture and Customs of France. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 103. ISBN 978-0-313-32892-3. 
  19. ^Bunson, Margaret (2009). "Nile festivals". Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. Infobase Publishing. p. 278. ISBN 978-1-4381-0997-8. 
  20. ^"Press release – Dree festival". Directorate of Information, Govt of Arunachal Pradesh. 5 July 2004. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  21. ^ Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Heortology". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 
  22. ^Robert Parker: Athenian Religion

Further reading[edit]

  • Ian Yeoman, ed. (2004). Festival and events management: an international arts and culture perspective (1st ed., repr. ed.). Amsterdam: Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann. ISBN 9780750658720. 

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Festivals at Wikimedia Commons
  • The dictionary definition of Festival at Wiktionary
Village Feast. Facsimile of a woodcut of the Sandrin ou Verd Galant, facetious work end of 16th century (edition of 1609)
A Festival at Antwerp, 17th century

View Sinulog Festival 2013 schedule

In the Cebuano dialect, the word sulog, where Sinulog comes from, describes the motion of water. This flowing movement is mirrored in the Sinulog dance which characterizes the festival.

The central theme of the Sinulog festival is the child Jesus, more popularly known as the Santo Niño.

The festival is held annually to pay tribute to the Santo Niño, which most people consider as the patron saint of Cebu. Tourists, both local and foreign, flock to the city of Cebu every third Sunday of January to witness this one of a kind event. Streets are packed with viewers and performers alike, dancing to the blare of trumpets, the beating of drums and the sweet, melancholic sound of native metallic gongs. This celebration of dance is to signify the acceptance of the people of the Christian faith and the shedding of their pagan beliefs. While the main celebration is held in Cebu city, there are also smaller, similar festivities in the surrounding provinces. While smaller in scale, the mini festivities are just as impressive.

The celebration of dance that ensues during the festival has evolved into a large-scale contest which is one of the main attractions for the tourists. The much awaited contest is held at the Cebu City Sports Complex to accommodate the large number of dance troops as well as the thousands of spectators, most of which came from a long way just to bear witness to the enchanting Sinulog dance.

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Apart from the dancing, another highlight of the event is the food to be had. Streets are peppered with food stalls and hawkers that entice you to sample their unique and indigenous wares. Not to be discounted are the numerous “Cebu lechon” stalls that the city is also famous for. Various trade fairs are also held during the festival to promote other quality export products from the city such as its world famous dried mangoes. The trade fairs also display indigenous goods that are not food such as hand-woven baskets and bags.

Although originally intended to be a festivity to enhance one’s religiousness, the Sinulog festival has transformed to one of the most awaited happenings in the country for several other reasons. Families are excited to witness the parades and spend quality time with each other while younger people save up to be able to come to Cebu because it is said that no night life in any other district could match the fervor and bliss that could be had in the city during Sinulog.

If you are in the Philippines during the time of the festival it would be a crying shame to miss it. In fact, the festival itself is enough reason to come to Cebu and the Philippines in general. It is that good. To appreciate more the essence of the festival, a comprehensive walk through follows. It will take you on a ride starting with the history and origin of the festival to how it is being celebrated today. Several key events are also highlighted in order for you not take note of and not miss. Since there will be a lot of magnificent affairs, it would be advisable to make an itinerary or schedule for your stay in Cebu.


Cebu, which was known as Zubu before the colonization of the Philippines by Spain, was much alike the rest of the provinces in the country: an island inhabited by people with pagan beliefs who survived mainly by trading with nearby areas. Although the official patron saint of Cebu is the Lady of Guadalupe, most natives prefer to pay tribute to the Santo Niño. Research indicates that the first ever Santo Niño figure was requested by Ferdinand Magellan himself. The explorer hailing from Portugal presented the Santo Niño to wife of Rajah Jumabon, Cebu’s chieftain and figurehead at the time. The figure came to be regarded as a sign the conversion of the local pagans to Christianity and was also seen as a gesture of the Spaniards to extend friendship and camaraderie to the inhabitants of Cebu.

This iconic representation of friendship and religion was kept in the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño and San Nicholas de Tolentino Church, on open display for the public to view at their pleasure. To sustain the Cebuano’s’ devotion and dedication to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño and San Nicholas de Tolentino Church, they came up with an annual festival which would prove to be one of the most colorful and extravagant celebrations that the entire country could be proud of.

Being one of the first towns that the Spaniards converted to Christianity, Cebu had the privilege of experiencing the advantages and comforts of a civilized setting. The conversion also brought about a transformation of the city from a normal trading port to one of the primary religious centers of the country. Cebu boasts of its own Roman Catholic Archdiocese and numerous churches prominent in Philippines history. Aside from the two mentioned above (Basilica Minore del Santo Niño and San Nicholas de Tolentino Church), the city is also home to the following churches: Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, San Carlos Church, San Jose Recoletos Church, Sacred Heart Church and the Santo Rosario Parish Church.

Aside from these famous tourist destinations of a religious nature, landmarks such as Magellan’s Cross could also be found in the city. The massive cross is said to have been installed by Magellan himself upon his arrival on Cebu’s shores way back in 1521, yet another symbol of Cebu’s fast growth both in terms of religion and development as a city.


Sinulog started off as a way of the local population to adapt to the sudden change in their religion. The natives of Cebu danced to the beat of the drum and sung prayers to give thanks and bequest boons from the Child Jesus or Santo Niño. People making prayer requests shout their petitions and their own names in hopes of distinguishing their appeals and making the Santo Niño hear them. The rite is usually done on the Monday after the feast of Santo Niño.

Sinug Dancing

Sinug dancing or the art of the dance of Sinulog is no easy feat and requires years of practice under strict mentors. The dance ritual is meant to be a prayer and is performed in front of or in the presence of the Child Jesus or Santo Niño. It is believed that the motions and intonations of the chanting were derived from the previous practices of the pagans which were made to imitate the nature of water, whose Cebuano translation is sug. After many centuries, the Sinug dance is now synonymous to Sinulog and people refer to the dance and the festival using the same word. The dance most people are familiar with which they identify as Sinulog is similar to a Mardi gras dance step, stomping about and chanting while simultaneously bobbing a replica of the Santo Niño to the beat of the music.

While several people say that the dance and the festival has been in place even before the arrival of Christianity to the country, historical research suggests that the Sinug dance originated from the apparition of the Santo Niño to Rajah Jumabon’s adviser, Baladhay. It was said that while Baladhay was suffering from a grievous illness and he was brought to a chapel to seek help. After a short while, Baladhay was heard shouting after awakening from a brief nap brought about by the exhaustion he was feeling due to the sickness. When asked what was wrong, he said that he was woken up by the Santo Niño. To add to the oddity of the situation, no one could explain why Baladhay was dancing, trying to mimic the motion of water. Thus is the root of the Sinulog dance being practiced today.

Fluvial Procession

Days before the grand celebration, the Santo Niño is paraded around to visit its “parents” located in various parishes scattered about the city. To mark this occasion, a fluvial procession is done and is a big event that loyal practitioners and devotees look forward to. They brave the intense heat and go with the Santo Niño in its journey and follow it until the whole ritual is over. The procession starts in the Basilica in Cebu city where the Santo Niño usually is housed and is transported to the Saint Joseph Parish in nearby Mandaue City. The icon is to stay there for a couple of days to spend some time with its foster father before the main event. During the Santo Niño’s stay in the church, people from far and near visit and perform vigils since it has been said that vigils and prayer requests done during this time have a higher probability of turning out well.

After the Saint Joseph Parish, the icon is brought out to one of the islands of Lapu-Lapu where it is supposedly visiting its mother. The Santo Niño is moved between locations early in the morning while placed in a glass case adorned with flowers and is brought ashore riding a galleon or huge boat to reenact the arrival of the Spaniards to the shores of the beaches of Cebu. The head galleon is followed by an assortment of smaller boats and accompanied by beating drums, blaring trumpets, loud horns and sirens, grand fireworks and the cries and petitions of the devotees riding the boats.

A recent addition to the procession has been the showering of flower petals from the sky by helicopters provided by the Mactan Air Base. The sight of the petals floating down and the melancholia brought about by the music and chanting are a spectacle that can be seen nowhere else and should be in everyone’s bucket list. The fluvial journey ends when the boats dock at the Cebu City Wharf. The icon is then transported back to its original home at the Basilica. The ceremony is concluded by the reenactment of the Christianization of the pagan residents of pre-Hispanic Cebu.

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The Final Procession and Parade

The journey of the icon back to the Basilica from the wharf is called the final procession and is attended by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from all over the country. The attendees carry lighted candles and rosaries. The final procession is the responsibility of the local chapter of the order of the Augustinians. In this event, the candle vendors in the Basilica play a major role by performing the traditional Sinug dance and chanting age-old songs that have been forgotten by many but have been passed down carefully from generation to generation in several choice families. As they dance their way towards the final destination, they also lead the rosary in several languages and dialects which are answered in turn by the attendees. Upon reaching the Basilica, a pontifical mass is held with the Cardinal presiding over the rites.

The Cardinal is assisted by several high-ranking bishops from nearby areas. After the mass, the Sinug dance is again performed but this time by petitioners who are in dire need of answered prayers. Many will attest to the miracles that have resulted from the sinug dance while holding a candle in your hand. After the dancing everybody ends the night on a joyful note by watching the grand parade and having a good time.

The procession is a very significant part of the Sinulog festival. Many people can relate to the process and reignite their religious flames by reinforcing their faith and making them remember the importance of religion in their lives.

The Grand Parade

The main focus of the festival, the grand parade transforms the normal, humdrum streets of Cebu to alleys bursting with life and color. Vibrant sounds and delicious aromas will assault your senses and you will be hard-pressed to not let go and enjoy yourself. The parade has also become a venue to showcase several talents of the local population where they could win prestige as well as cash prizes. From floats to dance troops the parade has it all. And since it is several hours long, you can enjoy the view while munching on succulent local cuisine which is made available throughout the entire route of the parade.

The floats are the main attractions of the parade and entrants compete intensely to win the much coveted title of best float for the festival. Large trucks are decorated with garish colors and unique themes to portray the Sinulog in each entrant’s own way. It is not uncommon for floats to showboat famous actors and actresses from the country, much to the crowd’s delight. The stakes of the competition of the floats have also skyrocketed the past decades as it has also become a setting for big time commercial advertisements since hundreds of thousands of people flock to the festival just to witness the beautiful creations.

Another huge part of the parade are the street performances by the participating teams sporting dancers decked in the most vivid colors, executing tribal dance step that also entices the crowd to dance along with them. Men are dressed as Spanish soldiers in uniform coupled with the decorative headgear of the native warriors while women wear native floral dresses that accentuate their exotic beauty and allure. The dances follow the traditional Sinulog step which is two steps forward and one step back. The troops who display the best costume and most accurate choreography are crowned as the winners of the street performance contest.

Local baranggays also join in the fun by constructing giant reproduction of colorful people using paper mache. These huge props are called Higantes which literally translates to Giants in the English language. The characters portrayed in the form of these Higantes range from the traditional Spanish soldiers to modern day pop culture icons such as Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers. The Higante competition has risen to very high levels as the years passed and is now as much awaited as the famous floats. The walking enormous puppets are a delightful spectacle for viewers young and old.

Pageants and Other Contests

Various beauty pageants are also made to coincide with the Sinulog festival in hopes of capturing a much bigger audience. Most prominent of these pageants is the Miss Cebu pageant which presents to the entire world the renowned Cebuana beauty of the region’s women. While Filipinas have a reputation to be the most alluring and exotic in the world, Cebuanas are said to be the best of the Filipinas. Most foreigners eagerly await the coronation of the winners of the pageant every time they come for the Sinulog festival.

A recent competition started during the Sinulog festival is the Sinulog Idol. The singing competition patterned after the famous hit reality show, American Idol. The contest is a joint venture between the government of Cebu City, Sinulog Foundation Inc., Center for Pop Music Philippines and Soundtraxx Productions Studio. The competition is started a few days before the grand celebration so that the finale coincides with the main attraction of the festival. This new attraction proved to be a big hit proved by the increased number of both aspiring entrants and viewers alike.

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Sinulog Festival 2013 Schedule

Sinulog Festival 2013 opening day is January 10th (Thursday). Usually, the most interesting events start a few days before the Grand Parade.

January 18, 2013 (Friday)
4:00AMWalk with Mary (Area) Fuente Osmeña-Sto. Niño
9:00AMSolidarity Meeting
(All Competing Contingent/Floats/Higante/Puppeteers)
Cebu City Sports Center Gym
6:00PMSinulog Dance Crew and Music fest Grand Finals, Cebu City Sports Center
7:30PMSinulog Festival Queen 2013, Cebu City Sports Center
8:00PMCebu Popular Music Festival, Cebu Coliseum
January 19, 2013 (Saturday)
6:00AMFluvial Procession of the Miraculous Image of Sto. Niño
9:00AMRe-enactment of the Baptism of Queen Juana and Rajah Humabon Basilica del Sto.Niño
2:00PMSolemn Procession of the Miraculous Image of Sto. Niño
7:00PMSinulog Fireworks Competition at SM City Cebu
7:00PMStreet party at Fuente Osmeña and Plaza Independencia
8:00PMKasadya Nite Mardi Gras at Ayala Center Cebu
9:00PMMusic fest Grand Finals
January 20, 2013 (Sunday), Sinulog Grand Street Dance Parade
4:00AMMañanita Mass at Basilica del Sto. Niño
6:00AMPontifical Mass with His Eminence Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal
9:00AMSinulog Grand Parade Carousel
7:00PMGrand Finale and Grand Fireworks, Cebu City Sports Center
7:30PMStreet Party Bands, Fuente Osmeña
January 21, 2013 (Monday)
1:00PMAwarding Ceremonies, Cebu City Sports Center
January 25, 2013 (Friday)
4:00AMHUBO Mass Ritual at Basilica del Sto. Niño
January 26, 2012 (Saturday)
1:00 PMScreening of Finalists Short Film/Video Documentary Contest
1:00 PMSinulog 2013 Photo Contest Winners Exhibits
6:00PMAwarding Ceremonies Photo Contest and Video Documentary Contest at SM City Cebu