4 all-out celebrations happening in the Philippines this January

Photo: Edgar Alan Zeta-Yap


Where Iloilo City

When 26–28 January

What to expect Based on the Ati-Atihan, this event has soot-covered tribal warriors — in costumes inspired by the indigenous Panay cultures — dancing to lively beats and choreography

What to cheer “Hala bira”, which means to “dispense all means”, is a call for all-out celebration


Where Tondo, Manila

When 19–21 January

What to expect Devotees parade images of the Santo Niño dressed in a variety of costumes — both modern and traditional — while beating drums and reveling in
the mood

What to cheer “Viva Señor Santo Niño!” is a Spanish cheer, which means “Long Live the Holy Child Jesus!”


Where Kalibo, Aklan

When 19–21 January

What to expect Rooted in the exchange between the aboriginal Ati people and the first Malay settlers, the festival features tribal dancers in flamboyant costumes

What to cheer “Hala bira! Pwera pasma!” is an invocation to spare merrymakers from illness


Where Cebu City

When 19–21 January

What to expect It’s the biggest festival in terms of attendance, and the big highlights here involve a fluvial parade, solemn procession and all-day street dancing by contingents from across Visayas and Mindanao

What to cheer “Pit Senyor!” is a shortened version of the Cebuano phrase sangpit sa Senyor, a plead for aid from Santo Niño

Surviving Sinulog

The Sinulog Festival is one of the country’s biggest celebrations — last year’s festivities drew an estimated 1.5 million people. Navigating the weekend may prove overwhelming, so we’ve gathered some useful tips for first-timers:

“Accommodations fill up months in advance. For last-minute bookings, search for hotels online but get on the phone to confirm your reservations.” – Jilly Enriquez, dance teacher at Cebu Salsa Club

“Be prepared to get wet — from water guns brandished by the hordes of people in the streets, booze being passed around or even an unexpected downpour. Carry your personal effects in a dry bag — and to be doubly equipped, you can throw in a quick-dry towel.” – Johnn Mendoza, freediving instructor

“Mobile networks often get jammed due to the influx of people to the city, and coordinating things with family and friends may prove challenging. Draft a detailed itinerary for the days when you’re out, and set rendezvous points as a precautionary measure.” – Doyzkie Buenaviaje, travel and style blogger at doyzkie.com

“Missed Sunday’s grand parade? Fret not — you can still catch the repeat performances of the winning contingents the following day at the Cebu City Sports Center. Arrive early to get the best seats on the grandstand.” – Anna Helen Zeta-Yap, musician with Silingan ni Felicity 

All The Rave 

While rooted in solemn religious veneration, Sinulog also has a celebratory mood that spills into other types of festivities. Here are three events that party animals won’t want to miss:

  1. LifeDance, a prominent local dance music event, is a Sinulog-affiliated gathering that features Filipino and international DJs and awe-inspiring pyrotechnics in an outdoor setting.
  2. Invasion, another big dance music gathering, is a top-class, traveling production that plays out in conjunction with major cultural festivals in the Philippines. In Sinulog Invasion 2018, the music program is to be headlined by popular local and international artists.
  3. Plus63, a music and arts festival, gathers both big-time and emerging personalities from the music, visual arts and culinary spheres, to inspire, nourish and entertain Sinulog celebrants.

Festival Checklist

  1. Don light, cool and brightly colored clothing.
  2. Wear comfy, covered shoes that can help you withstand hours of walking.
  3. Wear sunglasses and/or wide-brimmed hats to shield yourself from the harmful rays of the sun.
  4. Keep your wallet, mobile phone and other important personal items in a waterproof pouch.
  5. Spruce up your outfit with face paint, a whistle necklace and a funky headdress.

This article first appeared in the January 2018 issue of Smile magazine.

Written by

Edgar Alan Zeta Yap

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