Philippine Tourism: Festivals

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been writing a series of articles about tourism in the Philippines, and how to increase the number of people who are visiting the country.  Today, I’d like to look at festivals in the Philippines.  The Philippines, more than any other country that I know of, has a lot of Festivals.

Not only does every City have at least a couple of festivals per year, but every small town, even part of towns (Barangays or Barrios) have their own festivals.  Most of the festivals in the Philippines have some sort of cultural aspect to them.  The festivals are not just for fun (although there is plenty of that to be had at a festival), but they are in commemoration to some historical event or cultural aspect from the area where the festival is celebrated.

General Santos City's 2010 Tuna Festival
General Santos City's 2010 Tuna Festival

For example, here in the Davao City there are two major festivals each year, Araw ng Dabaw is held in March and The Kadayawan Festival is held in August.  Araw ng Dabaw literally means “the Day of Davao” which is a celebration of the Charter Day of the City.  Kadayawan loosely means “harvest” and August is a time when almost every fruit is “in season” so Kadayawan is a Harvest Festival of the bounty of fruits in the area.  Both festivals include a lot of tradition of different ethnic groups in and around Davao, and thus the festivals are really culturally significant.  Of course, in addition to the “big two” local festivals, there are dozens of smaller festivals and celebrations in the barrios and barangays of Davao City.

Because the festivals of the Philippines are so many, and also steeped with cultural significance, I really believe that these festivals could draw in a lot of tourists.  Not only could foreign tourists enjoy learning about the culture of the Philippines, they could also really enjoy the merriment that surrounds such festivals.  For anybody who does not think that such festivals can draw tourism, just take a look at Mardi Gras in New Orleans or in Rio, both places have a huge influx of tourism for the festivals.  I used to live in the New Orleans area, for about 10 years, and I know what happens at Mardi Gras.  There are so many tourists that hotel rooms are full, even if they are 3 or 4 hours from New Orleans!  Of course, because of the distance involved, it would be more difficult to draw visitors to the Philippines, but even if it only draws 10% or 20% of the visitors that New Orleans gets, you are talking about a major impact.

Most Philippine Festivals have a strong Cultural Theme
Most Philippine Festivals have a strong Cultural Theme

So, what is holding the tourism back at this point?  Well, festival planning is handled much differently in the Philippines than it is in New Orleans or other areas in the Western World.  In New Orleans, when Mardi Gras ended and tourists were ready to head home, they were already handing out fliers for “next year’s Mardi Gras”.  Hotels would be taking bookings for rooms a year in advance.  While checking out from your room you could reserve a room for next year.  The even for the following year had already been planned out.  The dates of next year’s event were already known.  Here in the Philippines, it’s a bit different.  Much of the festival planning is started only a month or so before the festival is to occur!  Sometimes I get e-mails from people who want to attend Kadayawan in August, they e-mail me in January or February saying that they need to plan their vacation travel in August, and can I please give them the dates for this year’s Kadayawan.  Well, I have to tell them, regrettably, that there are not any dates yet, because the Festival has not been planned or scheduled yet.

This is very unfortunate, because in order to arrange International travel, you need advance planning.  People need to schedule their vacation from work months in advance.  If they don’t know when the festival is, there is no way they can plan to attend, because there is not enough lead time to make arrangements for vacation time and travel reservations.

When I lived in General Santos City in 2000 through 2002 I did some work with some of the Festival Organizing Committees there.  I always urged them to start planning festivals at least 8 or 9 months in advance, preferably a year or more in advance, but I never could really get anybody to believe me that this was an important thing to do.  I believe, though, that this is one of the really key factors to making Festivals in the Philippines an International draw.  Of course, we all know that time is a lot different in the Philippines than in the West… it is less important here, which is why “Philippine Time” even exists.  But, if the country wants to draw the tourists from abroad, it is an important shift that must take place.

I do believe that the country has a lot to offer with it’s thousands of festivals.  I suspect that there is no day that goes by during the year when there is not a festival going on in some part of the country.  The key is, though, to get the word out to the world, and get it out early enough that people can come and enjoy themselves at a Philippine Festival!

Post Author: MindanaoBob (1354 Posts)

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur who is based in Davao. Bob is an American who has lived permanently in Mindanao since May 2000. Here in Mindanao, Bob has resided in General Santos City, and now in Davao City. Bob is the owner of this website and many others.

Investigation in the Philippines


  1. Dan says

    Bob..I think the Philipines has more festivals than any other country out there. But I also think that because of how they do things they probably will never plan things much in addvance. I belive it is just in their culture not to do that. As you have said before they run on Fillipino time there so I think it would be hard for them to plan 2 far in addvance when using Fillipino time. I think as you said it would be a great idea for them do more promoting and also to promote their festivals much more in addvance, but really do not ever see that happening there. I really belive the average Fillipino really does not care if that many tourists come to their festivals, as long as they are having fun on their time frame is probably all the really matters to the average Fillipino..

    • says

      Hi Dan – For the most part I agree with you. I think there is still opportunity, though. If like one big festival per region was slated for more advanced planning, that could still offer effective tourism assistance for the country. For example, I think that Sinulog in Cebu is already doing a much better job of advanced planning for their festival. If you spread this out to maybe the top 50 big festivals in the country, it could make a huge impact for the Philippines.

      • Dan says

        Bob..You are right, it would be lovley if the Fillipino People could understand how much it would do for all of them as a whole, if they would promote all of their country in a better and more productive way. After all…people that come to vist… bring money with them…if they did it right, think of all the jobs that would need to be filled and a lot of Fillipinos could have a nice job if they so desired. Some how they just need to change their mind set on a few things and I belive things for a lot of people there could be one heck of a lot better…I quess time will tell…From all the photos shown on your site over the years and photos from other sites the Philipines is one beautifull place. So…all I can say its a shame in a way that they do not promote it in a better way to attract more vistitors and their fore in the long run, be helping every one in their country out. Any way another nice post by you Bob.

      • John says

        Bob, Here’s a major holdup.
        So, you just flew into Manila, from somewhere in the world. Then what? How do you get to the city, or baragnay that is having the festival? Catch a cab, with your luggage to the bus station? Hire a van, or walk? What about the lack of hotels in the provinces where the festivals are being held?
        That’s asking people who know noone in the Phillipines, and have never walked through the airport, through customs, and then out the door into the nightmare that may await them outside. And that’s just the loading curb.

        • says

          I don’t think that is a major hold up, John. The same thing happens in any city. If you go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, when you arrive at the airport you have to get around and such. I am not talking about the tiny festivals in places that are small and hard to get to, but bigger festivals in the major cities like Manila, Cebu, Davao, CdO, and others. Transportation to these places is readily available. They are easy to get to. Sure, there are things to iron out, but that is everywhere in the world.

          • says

            Logistical problems for the tourists about where to go next and how to get there are probably the least of all worries. Events planners can post welcoming committees at the arrival gate at the airport carrying signs like, “Mardi Gras”, if that’s where you’re going and the committee will have vans to transport you to the hotel, or to your connecting flight. When my wife and I arrived at Ft. Lauderdale airport for a Southern Caribbean cruise recently, we didn’t have to go through the hassle of asking people where is or how to get to the pier where Holland America Line was docked. There was someone at the airport holding up a sign that says, Holland America Line. We were ushered into a waiting van that charged a lot less than did the long line of taxis waiting outside.

            Now, if you were going to the Party Island, for example, and you landed at NAIA, Boss and I will make sure that your connecting flight to the nearest airport and water taxi fares are all free. The charges are all built-in to the cost of the vacation package to the Party Island, you see – air fare, hotel, and meals. You just make sure you bring a lot of money to spend on the island, that, btw, could be the venue for future America’s Cup, if Boss can convince Bruce Allen and Larry Ellison to park their super yachts at the island. (This is written with a straight face, folks!)

            • says

              Hi John – Regarding your “straight face” remark… I agree. Honestly, I feel that this is very doable. It would be expensive, yes. But, I think it could be done successfully. I personally do not feel that the country would do it or even consider it. But, I think that it could be a huge success. No joke, no bull.

              • says

                OK, then, could Gary (he has a market-oriented mind) draft a proposal package in the name of “Maharlika LLC” and present it via the DoT to the following investors:

                1. Donald Trump for his hotel complex, casino, and auditorium to host boxing and other major international events.

                2. Tiger Woods to build a golf course.

                3. George Sy, Lucio Tan, the Philippine government and international investors to build the infrastructure.

                4. Bruce Allen and Larry Ellison to bring America’s Cup events on the island.

                5. Oprah might be interested; Gary, make sure she gets a copy of the proposal package.

  2. Gary says

    This could be done on a local level. If someone in just one city/town/province could take the lead, plan and really promote their festival – it could really benefit their area. There could be some be bureaucratic hurdles, but if you could just set the opening and closing dates, that would be enough to start early promotion.

    The last update I saw to the Gensan Tuna Fest is “37003220-Tunafest-Schedule-as-of-Sep-3-2010-2.xls”, the first event was Sep 1 😛

    • says

      Hi Gary – My thinking exactly! It doesn’t take much effort to set some dates so that it can start getting some early publicity. Perhaps serious planning can start like 6 months in advance or so. Right now, though, planning is right at the last minute. There is no way that a foreign visitor can plan their vacation time, get proper reservations and such when the planning is not done in advance.

      • Gary says

        Even if someone just happened to be in town during the Tuna Festival, they could see banners and such around town, and could stumble onto a number of events, but I don’t recall seeing a website listed on any of the posters where you could view the full schedule.

          • queeniebee says

            Hi Bob and Gary, I think that the Baguio Flower Festival that I’ve always wanted to attend is sucessful because it’s held on the same date every year. The festival also centers on garden shows and workshops along with the big festival parade. I’ve read that the day after the festival, many festival planners are back to work, brainstorming and planning next years festival.
            On a related note, now that I think of it, how about a big orchid festival in a city each year. Think of all the plant lovers and orchid fanatics that might be drawn to such an event. Now, I’m not sure if customs would let them carry home purchased orchids, but it’s idea for a tourist draw.

            • says

              Hi queenie – I have seen that Baguio floral festival on TV, but have yet to visit. It does look nice. I was unaware that it was held on the same date every year, but I think that is a good move. For an Orchid Festival, Davao would be a natural for that, since it is the City of Orchids, and home to the famous Waling Waling Orchid, which is quite rare.

              • Mark G. says

                We went to the Panagbenga flower festival in Baguio this year and because it is the whole month of February it’s easy to plan ahead. There are many websites that cover the festival and the schedule was on line, too. The Microtel did raise thier prices 50% over the stated price on the web because of the festival though. The week we were there was also the PMA homecoming with all the pageantry associated with such an event. I’ve been looking for possible retirement locations based on climate and Baguio seemed to fit the bill, The Flower Festival was just enough to put it over the top as far as a must see destination. Unfortunately the only way I found out about the festival was because I was actively scouring the web. If it was promoted properly that one month could probably finance the whole year for the local economy.

              • says

                Hi Mark – I really agree! With having fixed dates and everything, promoting the festival should be quite easy. It could really be a boon for Baguio and bring throngs of tourists!

  3. queeniebee says

    Hi Bob, One thing that you didn’t mention was the strong religious aspect of many of these festivals, and that could be a draw to tourists. For example for Sinulog Cebu, I think that along with the colorful pageantry, there is the strong religious significance of Santo Ninyo that draws faithful there each year. To go along with that, maybe tourism could promote tours of the many beautiful old churches in an area, along with a festival that might also be taking place locally. Devout tourists go to retreats and tours to Rome and the Holy Land and other places, and although it wouldn’t be on that level, maybe religious festivals could be touted to potential religious centered tourists abroad.
    I know that in the past I’ve seen tour packages offered in Phil-AM magazines for religious tours led by charismatic priests, catering to Balik Bayans. Maybe American and European church groups could be encouraged to visit as tourists. I know that the Benedictine Monastery in Carmen, Cebu seems to draw a certain amount of tourists each year.
    Just a thought..

    • says

      Hi Queenie – I agree with you that the religious aspect could indeed draw tourists. I didn’t really go into that, because while many festivals have religious overtones, many also do not. For example, the two big festivals here in Davao have no religious side to them. But, it’s a good thought.

      One thing you said that I think should have some additional talk is when you said:

      I’ve seen tour packages offered in Phil-AM magazines for religious tours

      This is a big problem with the way the country promotes tourism. They advertise to Filipinos abroad in places like Phil-Am magazines, Filipino TV stations and such. If you stop and think about it, these Filipinos already know about the Philippines, and most of them will be coming here to visit their families and such regardless of advertisements. However, the people that they need to advertise to are people who know nothing about the Philippines. Those are the people who would not be coming here anyway, and if you can get a few of them to respond to the ad, then you are getting an increase in tourists!

        • says

          You are right Boss. The Kadayawan is a harvest festival, and thus Thanksgiving is really a big part of the theme every year! It’s a great festival that Davao is very proud of.

      • Jade says

        Just thought I’d toss this in. Daisy and I are both Catholic. We were both raised in the religion. We are now married, but not in the Catholic Church. (too many obstacles in the process) we are casual Catholics, not much church going, but we do have faith and pray every night, and when crisis’ occur. Sound familiar? We love the festivals, and participate too.

          • Mark G. says

            If Sinulog was promoted as the Filipino Mardi Gras I think the tourists would flock to it just like Rio but the religious aspect may get in the way of the serious partying. Mardi Gras is a pre-Lenten celebration and should be a natural fit in the Philippines I think.

            • says

              Hi Mark – Yeah, I think that because Sinulog is such a religiously based festival, tying it to serious drinking/partying could present a problem. There are other festivals that could fill the bill, though! Mardi Gras is a natural fit, because that kind of atmosphere fits in well with Filipino Culture, and also Mardi Gras is world renowned! This year, the GenSan Tuna Festival started events that they called “GenSan Mardi Gras” maybe they are the first to catch on, and if the theme catches on, we might be witnessing a birth of a big thing for the Philippines!

  4. Boss says

    One thing you can say about the Festivals in the Philippines is that they are fantastic, very enjoyable spectacles, been to the Davao one, the Cebu one, Cagayan De Oro one, the Iligan one which just finished and they are so much fun, the colour, the dancing the noise and the crowds just awesome atmosphere. I enjoy the Cebu ones the most. We travel around the country to attend the festivals. We enjoyed the Lanzones festival as well, it was in Camiguin if I recall correctly, been to a few now lost track. I noticed they are getting better all the time.
    We also attend the Barangay ones as well which are not so lavish but fun all the same.
    Strangely enough the festivals are well organised, entertaining, imaginative and high energy, if they could translate that energy and organisation in their daily lives, what a super country this could be.
    Well worth coming to see, highly recommend it.

    • says

      I agree, Boss.. some of the festivals in the Philippines, particularly the larger ones, are really world class. It is something that could attract tourists from all over the world if properly promoted!

  5. Paul Thompson says

    The answer could be for each Region to band together and add their large festivals to the schedules. Promote the heck out of them, and see what happens. I attend 6 sometimes 7 festivals every year and find them to be nothing but enjoyable. But three or four big ones, I would quickly add to my list, and make the trips to attend. Puerto Rico has a yearly festival in every town, but the big one in San Juan, would bring in the tourist every year, as the whole island joined in for that one. It might work here!

    • says

      Hi Paul – I don’t see a downside to trying… they are having the festivals anyway, so the only additional costs would be promotion, and that could be done cheaply through the Internet particularly, and also free publicity. Lots of newspapers and magazines will run articles for free to promote such events. No reason not to try!

    • Boss says

      Great idea Paul !! The Festivale Of The Philippines, combining the festival talents of the three regions of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao could easily rival the Mardi Gras of Brazil and Australia. Get the best festival talent teams from the 3 regions for the main Event, the lead up to the main event can be small local cultural displays and shows, traditional dancing from all parts of the Philippines or even beauty contests ( their good at that )!

      Pick the cleanest Island in the country must be one somewhere, make it a 5 day long event with the regional showdown on a Saturday. Get PAL and a few other airlines on board, build a few new hotels, promote the stuffing out of it and offer some great prizes for the contestants. The Island can be called Festivale Island and when not used for the main Event can be a tourist Island dedicated solely for the tourists, buy some white sand, provided things like snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, sailing, pleasure cruisers, jet skiing, canoeing, mountain climbing, mountain biking, cart racing, dental clinic tours, real massage and spa resorts, mini malls for shopping, night clubs, bars you know the things foreigners like.

      Run the Festivale Island professionally, put your best food places there, put your best people there, find the prettiest women in the Philippines if you have to and it would be a hit. Man I gotta feeling…..

        • Boss says

          You know something Paul I know I could do it, even if it killed me, it would be worth it. The Philippines is a gold mine ready to be unlocked.

          • Paul Thompson says

            Due to the very large population of Australian, American, and Europeans living in the Subic area, we have a one week Beach Bash Festival in February every, and it is open to all. Tourist flock every year to the area in February to attend. Why, because it is always on time, well run, and lots of fun for all, it’s child and family friendly. And the beer is never warm. Local or international food is available and always good. The down side is, the parade is a tad hokey!

            • Randy W. says

              Hey Paul

              Did you say cold beer. Well i know at least one festival i’ll be attending when i’m living in bataan. Thanks for the info brother. Maybe we can drink a few cold ones at that festival in the future. be safe

              • Paul Thompson says

                The “Beach Bash”, at one time was held in July years ago as a 4th of July calibration, which tended to leave out locals, Europeans, and our friends from the land of OZ Down Under. The other reason was it will rain a lot in July and wash out the fun. The VFW, Fleet Reserve Association, and the American Legion got together with restaurant and beach resort owners, along with local government and moved it to February. This allowed everyone to feel it was their festival, and not just one group of people. It is well set up, with lots of fun and events every day. The food both local and international is always good, and the locals know that warm beer won’t sell, so ICE has become a mainstay. With every faction involved, no one feels left out and the fun is infectious. (In a good way,) ( lol)

      • says

        Hi Boss- What a wonderful vision! I think your ideas are great and could be a real boon for the Philippines. A “Party Island” where there is revelry all the time!

        • Boss says

          “Party Island” wouldn’t the international youth love that idea, a place for everyone to have a great time. People are sick of being stressed in the west they want a good time.

          I am sure a national lottery could fund the infrastructure for the Island and then some encouraging tax breaks for overseas firms to invest in buildings. When that’s done you personally invite the US and European celebs to check it out. Invite MGM to make a movie on the Island and then personally target the largest companies in China, US, Japan, Korea. Get Samsung to fit out the TVs, Sanyo for the Fridges, Carrier for the Aircons and so on. Look for companies with huge numbers of employees and go for it.

          Love it Sir Bob. Funny how one idea from Paul could start a revolution???
          It is all possible, there are no problems just undiscovered solutions!

            • Boss says

              Look I agree, it may come to Zero, but I loved talking about it.

              To succeed in anything you need vision, good planning and a lot of energy and a belief in what your doing. Is there anyone out there that believes in the Philippines? I do. Never give up.

            • queeniebee says

              Hi Bob, Party Island? Mardi Gras maybe I could see, but a party island could get really ugly, really fast. That kind of tourist attraction isn’t what the Philippines needs. IMHO

              • says

                Ha ha.. the party island idea is really Boss’ idea, not mine. I think it has it’s merits, though! It if got too wild and ugly, then I would probably say we would have to think twice! Of course, by then it may be too late!

  6. says

    Hi Bob !
    I recently got this post from Davao Hive

    ” Centered on Peace, Unity, and Economic Prosperity, citizens of Davao should promote the city and the region as one dynamic land, rising in the midst of false skepticisms and criticisims! ONE PEOPLE, ONE LAND, ONE DAVAO! ”

    And I replied with something similar to your current topic ,

    ONE PEOPLE, ONE LAND, ONE DAVAO is a great concept but this wonderful City is missing out on the tourist $$$ big time ! .

    I think Davao City needs to take some of the criticisms on board before it even starts to become a tourist destination , take for example the beautiful Island of Samal which is very close to Davao but most of it’s best beaches are only accessible to those who can pay to enter the resorts that have fenced ‘their’ section of the beach , maybe it would be better if all of the beaches had public access and those that wished to use the facilities of the resorts could enter and choose to do so ! .

    Davao City has an International Airport capable of accepting Airplanes as big as the 747 Jumbo jet but no direct flights from any major hub airport like Bangkok or Kuala Lumpa for example , sometimes the waiting time in Manila can put off prospective Foreign tourists from coming this far south .

    Take a look at Bangkok airport and see the vast amount of travelers that are arriving and departing from other Asian Countries , and I am not just talking about western tourists many Asian tourists are now traveling to other destinations within Asia for recreational purposes , this is a huge market that Davao could and should tap in to .

    One of the major plus points for Foreign visitor to not only Davao but the Philippines as a whole is the ease of entering the Country with a 21 day VOA (Visa on arrival) and the option and ease of extending to 59 days which for the Western traveler is a real treasure and could be promoted as such .

    As I said earlier bringing in more tourists from other countries would bring the tourist $$$ thus creating more wealth , jobs and opportunities for the People of Davao , look around you and count how many foreign tourists you see in one day or one week even and ask yourselves this question ‘what can Davao do to attract more’.

    Proper promotion of the Fiesta’s here would be another string in the ‘Davao bow’ but in general I think the whole area of tourism in this country needs some serious attention if it is ever to become an international player , Do they have a minister for tourism ? maybe one for each area would be a good idea , who would then be responsible for the promotion of his city or town .

    • Thomad Gil says

      Tom you hit it on the head but this is due 100% to the ineptness of Philippine Governemt. Remember that at one time Thailand and the Philippines were on even par in their economy and then Thailand gradually blew the doors off the Philippines. This is again part of the coulture of this country. Thailand is a peceful Buddist country (even with the recent red shirt challenges) and the Philippines is a country run by the Catholic church. Get rid of the Church and you will get rid of most of the problems of the Philippines.

      And on the Samal beach thing, my understanding is by law there must be a beach access every 100 meters in the Philippines and that all beaches are public.

    • says

      Hi Tom – I guess that every city deserves some criticism, but I do think that Davao is doing a lot of things right too. As you say, though the criticism has to come with the praise, and must be acted upon.

      The fact that major International Flights do not come to Davao is the fault of Manila. The national Government does not allow the flights to go to other cities. There is no “Open Skies” policy in the Philippines, and airlines can only go where they are allowed by the national Government to go. Many of us have spoken against this, myself included. But, it certainly is not the fault of Davao.

      Without a doubt, Tom, tourism in the Philippines needs a lot of attention. That is why I am writing a series of articles about it. Indeed, there is somebody in charge of tourism, as I wrote just 2 weeks ago, that is Secretary of Tourism, Alberto Lim.

  7. Thomad Gil says

    Perhaps in the bigger cities they could be considered an attraction (a very minor one at that) but for the many and yes I say many Barangays I have spoken too they feel it is a complete waste of money in a country that can ill afford it especially for small town fiesta. The money for these events come from the barangays, towns, cities and that keeps the money from going where it is really needed for good. I suppose one could make the argument that its aids in the sale of food and alcohol but again according to the Barangays we spoken to the cost is way to high to the town or barangay itself. It is just an excuse for people to forget the misery they live in and to get drunk a couple of times a year.
    A good attraction to lure people to the Philippines would be to
    1. protect the environment so people have nice reefs to dive on or mountains to climb on.
    2. Fix the roads
    3. Improve the schools
    4. solve the muslim problem
    5. improve taxi’s
    6. Improve air quality

    and of course many other things. No one comes (or would come) to the Philippines to see these events. Once you seen one you’ve seen them all and I have seen the best of the best.

    • says

      Hi Thomad – I agree that the things you list are needed. But, tourism can help pay for those improvements too! I guess it’s another one of those “chicken or egg” arguments! 😉

  8. Bob New York says

    In reading so much about tourism promotion to me it appears that a very high percentage of it is geared towards domestic tourism instead of international. The only festival I am familiar with is the Iligan Dyandi Festival which I think is a month long event in September. Although I have never been to it, the pics and video put on the internet make it seem like such a colorful and festive event.

    Instead of a 21 day passport only entrance requirement, would it hurt if they extended it to be for 30 or 31 days ? This could encourage people to spend another week, spend more money and it could then include the time for a month long festival event.

    And yes, for many people planning an international vacation it just can not be done at the drop of a hat or on the spur of the moment.

    • says

      Hi Bob – I would personally have no problem if they extended the visas to 30 days or any length really. However, most Festivals are just 4 or 5 days, maybe 1 week. Sometimes a few activities will extend outside the “official” festival period, though.

    • Boss says

      I think a one month long time frame for a national high energy event would be too long, most of the intensity would be lost and international travellers can easily find two weeks in their busy schedules for a 5 day event.
      Also large event spread over a small area keeps the energy flowing and will have the feel of a “local” occasion. Good to have a number of small parties as people like to party hop from place to another place, in other words keep the entertainment venues close to each other.
      I know why you want a free 31 day visa Bob New York so you can spend more time in Jollibee lol. Crafty devil lol.

        • Bob New York says

          You just never know what is going to attract the attention of a potential Tourist to give them the desire to actually visit The Philippines. After a couple of years of websurfing Iligan City and Northern Mindanao, it was when I saw a pic of Jollibee Tibanga in Iligan that was the clincher for me, the very next day after seeing that I was on the phone to my travel agent !

          The difference in a 21 day Visa and a 30 Day visa, now just how much more money would tourists spend in that amount of time ? For me that would come out to at least 50 more Yum Burgers, 20 Jolli Hot Dogs, 15 Jolli-Swirl Sundaes plus Hotel acomodations and taxi or jeepney rides. Maybe a bit of Fine Dining too ! LOL

  9. says

    Here’s a compilation of major fiestas in the Philippines (Christian & Muslim):

    January 1 New Year’s Day Nationwide
    6 Three King’s Pageant Sta. Cruz, Marinduque
    9 Feast of the Black Nazarene Quiapo, Metro Manila
    3rd weekend Ati-Atihan Kalibo, Aklan
    Appey (Harvest Festival) Bontoc, Mt. Province
    Binirayan Manerway (Rain Dance Festival) San Jose, Antique
    10 Sto. Niño de Cebu Cebu City

    February 1-7 Armadahan Regatta Laguna de Bay
    2 Feast of Our Lady of Candelaria Jaro, Iloilo
    11 Feast of Our Lady of Rosary Kanlaon, Quezon City
    Variable Hari Raya Radj Muslim Communities
    Chinese New Year Chinatown, Metro Manila
    24-25 Bale Zamboanga Festival Zamboanga

    March 10-16 Araw ng Dabaw Davao City
    Variable Holy Week Nationwide
    Lenten Week Moriones Festival Boac, Marinduque
    Variable Baguio Summer Festival Baguio City
    25 Sinulog Festival Ilog, Negros Occidental

    April 9 Bataan Day Nationwide
    Variable Feast of Virgen de Turumba Pakil, Laguna

    May 1 Labor Day Nationwide
    6 Fall of Corregidor Corregidor,Bataan
    7-8 International Sea Fair Balangit, Bataan
    14-15 Carabao Festival Pulilan, Bulacan
    15 Feast of San Isidro Labrador Sariaya Lucban, Quezon
    15-17 Obando Festival Obando, Bulacan
    1-31 Santacruzan Various places
    1-31 Flores de Mayo Various places
    1-31 Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace & Good Voyage Antipolo, Rizal
    Variable Moro-moros San Dionisio Paranaque, Metro, Manila

    Variable Pista ng Kruz Obando, Bulacan
    12 Independence Day Nationwide
    24 Halaran Festival San Juan (water dousing) Roxas City, Capiz
    San Juan, Metro Manila
    27 Our Lady of Perpetual Help Baclaran, Metro Manila
    29 Fluvial parade in honor of St. Peter Apalit, Pampanga
    Variable Maolod en Nabih Muslim communities
    Last Friday Feast of the Sacred Heart Lucban, Quezon

    July 1-30 Harvest Festival Mt. Province
    4 Fil-American Friendship Day Nationwide
    1st Sunday Pagoda sa Wawa Bocaue, Bulacan
    29 Fluvial Festival for St. Martha Pateros, Metro Manila

    August 19 Lucban Town Fiesta Lucban, Quezon
    Variable Lesles Festival (planting rites) Bontoc, Mt. Province
    Fagfagto Festival (planting rites) Bontoc, Mt. Province
    Sumbali (Aeta festival) Bayombong, Nueva Ecija

    Variable Sunduan Paranaque, Metro Manila
    3rd Sunday Peñafrancia Festival Naga City, Camarines Sur
    21 Thanksgiving Day Nationwide

    October 3 Feast of Our Lady of Solitude Porta Vaga, Cavite
    2nd Sunday La Naval de Manila Quezon City
    19 Turumba (fertility rites) Pakil, Laguna
    Last Sunday Feast of Christ the King Metro Manila

    November 1 All Saint’s Day (Catholic Feast) Nationwide
    2 All Soul’s Day Nationwide
    Variable Hari Raya Pusasa Muslim communities

    December 16 Start of Misa de Gallo Catholic towns and cities
    24 Maytinis (re-enactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for room in Jerusalem) Kawit, Cavite
    16-25 Simbang Gabi (Midnight Mass, Catholic) Nationwide
    Lantern Festival San Fernando, Pampanga
    Last Sunday Bota de Flores Ermita, Manila

    ***The carabao and the Obando fertility festivals held in the month of May, both in Bulacan, are worth seeing, so are the Santacruzan and the Flores de Mayo, held nationwide throughout the month of May. The downside to the month of May is, it is a rainy month.

    • says

      Hi John – it looks like you only listed “fixed date” festivals. For example, the grand festival of Davao is Kadayawan, but it is not in your list. Aray ng Dabaw is on your list, but it is not anywhere near the size of Kadayawan. Where is GenSan’s Tuna Festival, it is a huge event. But, it’s not “fixed date” and thus could not be on your list. Kaamulan is a huge ethnic festival in Bukidnon, it’s March, but the actual date varies. This reiterates exactly the problem I am talking about. Thanks for sharing, though.

      • says

        Hi Bob

        Kadayawan is faily new right? It’s not listed because I compiled that list about 9 years ago from a reference source. Apparently, the source didn’t know about GenSan’s Tuna Festival either. Sorry.

        • says

          Kadayawan started in 1986, so it is 24 years old now. Basically, what I am pointing out is that while there are lists like yours, and the one that kikas-head posted, the country is doing a poor job of promoting the world class festivals of the Philippines. There are hundreds, probably over a thousand festivals here, and yet, most of them get relatively zero publicity outside of their local media area. It should not be up to people like you to gather a list like that… rather, the government should be out there promoting the heck out of this.

          • says

            If you keep pounding on this subject matter, Bob, you just might catch the attention of Secretary Lim and hire you as an adviser! His advisers are probably not thinking outside the box as you do…

            • says

              Thanks, John, I consider that to be a big compliment! Truth is, there is nothing I would love more than helping the Philippines gain a bigger market share in tourism. That does not necessarily mean I’m looking for a job… but who knows! There are lots of roles that I believe I could play, and I would be open to doing so, under the right conditions.

              • Gary says

                Personally I think entrepreneurs working with local govt’s could promote their festivals better than the nat’l govt, but that’s my bias and it’s really not slanted towards RP, it’s my market oriented leanings. Once just one locale got the ball rolling and show that it can be done, I really think festivals could draw. I think this idea could be a winner.

              • says

                I would agree with you, Gary. But since the festivals are mainly government funded/sponsored events, there needs to be money from somewhere to fund the promotion. Perhaps there is a way to make the festivals set up in a way that entrepreneurs can make some money and push them strongly.

  10. says

    Hi Luanne – Most of the festivals don’t always fall on the same date. They are near the same date, but not exact. For something like Araw ng Dabaw, if the festival is celebrating a specific event like the City Charter, then it is always the same date. For other festivals like Kadayaway, it is around a certain time of the month, but not the same date. It is set up so that it is always like a Thursday through Sunday or something… and the exact week may even differ.

  11. Mark G. says

    Mardi Gras still gets my vote. It’s well known; has a semi-religious theme and is already popular around the world. Tie it in to a few Fiestas being held around the same time and promoting it becomes a bit easier I think. Boss’s Festival Island idea is stupendous if they could only pull it off. A promoter from Tokyo could probably do it well, sorry to say.

    • Gary says

      The party island sounds great – I’m there (maybe 15 years ago haha). But I think that’s a totally separate idea. It’s kind of manufactured, and it takes startup capital, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a cool idea, but festivals are organic, and already exist. It’s part of the culture, and each one is unique. I really think some assertive / pioneering locals could capitalize on this with relatively low marketing costs.

    • says

      Ha ha… I personally would disagree that Mardi Gras has a semi-religious theme! I used to live near New Orleans… the big theme was always – “Lent is coming… let’s get all of our sinning out of the way before lent gets here!” Ha ha… I guess that is somewhat related to religion, but not in a religious way! 😆

  12. PaulB says

    As you recall I am working in Oman and tourism is now an area of expansion, especially as the oil runs out.

    Muscat has one festival in January ( The date also varies!), and although it has events showing cultures from all over the world the main attraction for the women is the shopping lots of stalls with goods from China, India etc.

    But Oman is getting more tourism exposure through hosting sporting events like motor rallying, cycling, football (soccer) and this December they host the Asian Beach Games.

    I often wondered that if you combined a festival with sport and shopping then truly you will have an event that people wish to visit!

    • Gary says

      hmmm, Gensan Tuna Fest? SM Mall opens in 2011, that’ll bring four malls within a few sq km. There’s lots of vendor stalls at the oval plaza during the fest, including local fruits and arts / crafts. They could expand I guess to include int’l fare.

      Sports? Well this year they had:
      Motorbike Competition, Beach Volleyball Competition, Cheer Dance Competition, National Skim Boarding Competition, XC Mountain Bike Challenge, Motorcross Competition, Mountain Bike Downhill Challenge, bancera races, Tuna CookFest (ok not sport), GENBODIS Bodybuilding Competition. If Gensan could get some international tourist draw, they could attract even higher levels of competition.

      In addition there were the Mardi Gras, parades, foam street parties, beauty pageants, concerts, fireworks… A bit different than some of the traditional fiestas, but Gensan is a “new” city.

      The problem again, the schedule of events were not well promoted, even locally.

    • says

      Hi PaulB – I think you have a good idea to tie in the shopping. Most of the festivals here try to tie in shopping, but it is more low end stuff. I remember in GenSan they always brought in “shopping booths” along the streets during festivals. But, it is low end stuff – cheap clothes, trinkets and such, very cheap. Here in Davao, during Kadayawan they have shopping too, for example, there is a big field behind SM where plant/flower vendors come and display plants for sale.

  13. chris says

    Hi bob i think that this is a great idea , what you say about organizing is very true just take the olympics although on a much grander scale they give them heaps fof lead time to prepare so as you say as soon as one festival is finished or finalized preparations for the next must begin so as to keep ahead and not faulter if problems are encountered ,i missed the kadywan festival when i was there last i booked and hed to leave a week before it started not realizing the timing but there were more pressing matters at hand at that time anyhow,the thing is davoa has some great places to visit it is a shame that there is a tarnish on mindanao if only that could be lifted and the area promoted as a tourist destination think of the rewards bob for all who live there ,maybe one day

  14. ProfDon says

    Sorry, as usual I have a more pessemistic view about scheduling. to my mind it is not just “Philippine time” that causes the late scheduling. There are two other factors: 1. The convenience of the one(s) at the top: mayor, governor, head of tourism. The exact dates of the festivals are set late so that these folks are not inconvenienced by having to be in town at a bad time. 2. The ability of those on top to “order” those at the bottom. When finally the top boy/girl decides on the convenient dates, he/she just orders everyone below him/her to hop to it: schools change their schedules, vacations of employees are changes, hotels are told to have promos, businesses are told what days will be holidays, and so on – and everyone says “Yes boss.” So there is no apparent cost to leaving the decision so late, except of course for internaional and even domestic tourists. So it’s not a matter of education, it’s a matter of attitude, and that is hard to change.

    Bob, I was one of those asking you about the dates for the Kadayawan festival. When you could not give them to me, I block booked for three weeks at a hotel and then canceled for the days when I was not going to be there. Can’t do this with airlines, however. As I remember it, the Kadayawan Festival website finally gave specific dates about six WEEKS before the event. To the extent that my two points above are correct, this situation will not change until and unless the ones at the top are willing to forego their perogatives of scheduling at their own convenience and “ordering” others to follow. Any chance of this?

    • Dan says

      Hi..I really do not think the Fillpinos will be to willing to do any thing that creates a inconvenience, even more so when it come to their Festivals. I belive on the most part they feel that they like things just how they are and have been for many years and will resist the idea of someone trying to change how they do things…

    • says

      I don’t know, Don… I am not so pessimistic. I guess I am an optimist. Firstly, the Mayor is virtually always in town. Governors don’t necessarily attend, because for example, for Davao, the City is not really part of the Province, and I’ve never heard of the Gov. of Davao del Sur Province attending the Kadayawan. Also, I’ve never really heard of the Sec. of DoT attending many festivals either. I think proper planning is something that can happen.

  15. says

    The party island may not be a bad idea. It is a different ballgame, a year-round attraction that doesn’t have to be tied in with a religious festival, but if a cultural festival or some international events like the Miss Universe pageant can be held there, so much the better. The idea is to put the Philippines on the world’s tourism map, tied-in or not with festivals. Donald Trump is good at this type of thing. He can put up his hotel complex there complete with a casino, boutiques, restaurants and a huge auditorium that can house sporting events like boxing, Vegas/Atlantic City style, in exchange for tax breaks(?).

    The “island” would have to be located in close proximity to either one of the 3 major cities, i.e., Manila, Cebu, and Davao for obvious reasons, and would be served by water taxis to ferry tourists to neighboring islands’ minor resorts and cultural attractions and back to the party island, which would be the nucleus of the party island complex.

    Tiger Woods built a world-class golf course on a desert, why not on the party island? Building the infrastructure for something of this magnitude would require serious money and the participation of a conglomeration of rich Filipinos like George Sy, the Philippine government, and international investors like Donald Trump and Tiger Woods. Lucio Tan should have a huge interest in this as it would greatly benefit his PAL. Plant the seed and leave it to the Filipinos to do the rest – they are known for their ingenuity!

    • says

      Hi John – there is a beauty pageant that, I believe, is always held in the Philippines. It’s something like “Miss Earth” or some environmental sounding thing.. I forget the exact name. That could be at Party Island!

  16. Saviour says

    There are some exciting and practical ideas here. Pauls idea to have a National Festival must surely be a winner, the Philippines are experts at that. I love Bosses Party Island concept would put the Philippinas on the map. Maybe Mactan Island could be a starting point for a national festival if a dedicated Island is too much effort for the Government. The basic infrastructure is there hotels airport, central to the country, easy to get to and can have the events as boss says close together and with careful development could be a huge success.
    John Rs idea to team up with Donald Trump, Tiger and Oprah is a powerhouse idea also have an Americas Cup race is a real coup. Go with the best.
    Yes a Tokyo businessman would give his right arm for the opportunity agreed.
    I think this country needs an entertainment hub and dedicated tourist Island not just some lame boring islands that we have now, problem I found is you seen one Island here in the Philippines you seen them all.

      • says

        Someone out there in the Philippine government is bound to notice what’s being talked about in LiP, Bob, if you keep pounding away. I think the “party island” concept may be gaining momentum; thus, if I may propose putting a face to it in the person of none other than the runner-up to the reigning Miss Universe, Venus Raj, as the personal emissary of the stakeholders (whoever they may be), herein referred to as, if I may propose, “Maharlika LLC, both as a marketing strategy and for the purpose of enlisting potential international investors through personal visits. (I can almost see Donald Trump receiving Vanessa Raj in his plush Manhattan office with much anticipation).

        As the personal emissary, Venus’ chief responsibility is to promote and develop Philippine tourism under the auspices of the DoT (but not necessarily as a DoT employee), specially with respect to the generic “party island” concept, herein referred to as, if I may propose, “Maharlika Island” (Maharlika = nobility).

        To carry out this responsibility, it is imperative of Venus to – (1) establish personal and professional relationships with officials in both the national and local levels of the Chamber of Commerce in North American and European countries as well as in the major cities with the end purpose of putting the Philippines on the world tourism map; (2) lobby the major cruise lines of the world with the end purpose of their including a route to the Maharlika Island in their respective itineraries; (3) develop competitive vacation packages for the foreign tourist in conjunction with incentives and discounts that may be offered by PAL and the major hotels; (4) lead a media advertising blitz to be funded by investors to highlight the beauty of the Philippines, while downplaying security issues; (5) as the lead salesperson for Maharlika Island, to develop sound marketing strategies to ensure that Maharlika Island remains at the forefront of Asian tourism; and (6) serve as the spokesperson for and the DoT liaison with Maharlika LLC and Maharlika Island on matters regarding publicity and promotion of Maharlika Island.

  17. James Fox says

    I see a lot of good positive ideas here. What concerns me is that no one is addressing the international bad press that the RP got over the last year. I’m referring to the events that caused a lot of concern over the possible loss of tourism. I think something that would go a long way toward renewing interest in travel there would be, for starters, a spectacular story spread around the world of the “Frog March” of all the perpetrators of the massacre in Maguindanao — a march to prison to start serving the maximum sentence possible. The people who can afford to travel far on vacation want to know that justice is served there and that those who commit heinous acts can’t buy their freedom. Once this happens, the job of interesting people in festivals will be much easier. JMHO.

    • says

      Hi James – Thanks for sharing your opinion. I understand that we are all entitled to our opinions, and they are all valid. To me, I don’t agree with yours, but there is nothing wrong with that.

      Firstly, the “bad press” that the Philippines has gotten has been going on for decades, not just the last year. What happened in Maguindanao was terrible, but I don’t see how or why it would affect, for example, a festival in Baguio or even Cagayan de Oro City. There is no march to prison to report in the press, because the trial has not even taken place, so that is not something that can be done.

      Getting positive things going, like promoting festivals, in my opinion, is the best thing the Philippines can do at this time, IMHO.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, though.

  18. queeniebee says

    With all due respect Bob, The Miss Earth Pagaent is an environmentally themed pagaent. Where in the Philippine Islands would such a venue be welcomed? Do you think that the Filipino people would benefit from an Island full of clueless foreign tourists ravaging some hapless Island’s residents and resources for their own entertainment, just because they are spending money and that gives them the right to do so?
    Promoting beautiful beaches in the Philippines, without sacrificing the the inhabitants’ culture and surroundings, make a lot more sense to me.

    • says

      Hi queenie – It sounds like you are mad at me… if so, I am not sure why. Yes, Miss Earth is an environmental themed pageant, if I somehow implied that it was something else, I apologize. It kind of sounds to me like you are envisioning “Party Island” much differently than I am. I am just talking about lots of festivals, maybe a theme park for the kids, that sort of thing. I never said that people who are visiting have the right to ravage the island or anything like that. Not sure why you seem to attribute such an attitude to me, because I have nothing of the nature in mind.

      • queeniebee says

        Hi Bob, No I’m not mad at you, and I’m so sorry that I came across that way. I just felt that I could put my feelings better to you, and be better understood, than others that I might get more impatient with. I was just picturing a Party Island as something like many of the Carribean Islands tolerate where tourists take over and the locals become fringe dwellers, out of sight and out of mind to the happy tourists who bask in the happy tropical atmosphere.

        Let me be the first to say that I don’t know what the answer to attracting tourism, but I do know what I don’t like to see. I guess I’m just old fashioned, and just get nervous I guess when I see too much foreign influence in the Philippines, and would rather that the government and the people best decide what works for their area.

        I think that maybe the way to go, as others have said, would be for regional governments to have more say in what works for their areas. They would know best what to capitalize on.
        Folks, believe it or not my husband and I travel the direct flights on Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong exclusively, besides returning OFWs we see many tourists coming to Cebu.We observe tourists from many Asian countries, and many European countries. We see sun-seekers, well-heeled types, some pretty sloppy back-packer types, and many in between. Cebu tourism seems to be successful because they have been able to capitalize on the many dive sites and beaches that Mactan Island has to offer. The city’s highlights have been a draw for many, as well as other island areas. Sinulog every year, is world class, as you say.
        Every area in the Philippines has potential, and highlighting the strengths of each is a slow process that will have to happen, in order to attract the amount tourists neede to make a difference. I’m just siting Cebu tourism as an example of an area that has some success so far in these areas…

        • says

          OK, queenie, I understand. I thought you were ticked at me for some reason! 😉

          I think that there could be some great benefits to a “Party Island” type of thing. But, I would want it geared to more family friendly things. Others may disagree.

  19. AlexB says

    Hi Bob,

    Frustrating isn’t it? When there’s so much to see , do, experience in the country, the people tasked to tell the world about it, don’t really know what to do. The tourism department should professionalize their regional tourist offices like a proper destination and event management agency or train them how to organize, coordinate, promote their destinations and events. (Having met a few of them, I think they absolutely have no clue.) Have you seen the tourism website lately? They can start with that.


    • says

      Hi Alex – It is frustrating when sometimes just a regular person like you or me seems to have a lot more passion for the place than the people from the DoT do. It’s their job to promote the country, and also as citizens of the Philippines, it should be a matter of pride. Sometimes, though, it seems that they don’t care much.

    • Jade says

      It appears to me, theirs is a myopic perception. What to them appears to be common and ordinary is really to outsiders/tourists; exotic and exciting.

  20. AlexB says

    May I add, how many of the readers here heard of El Dia de Galleon? A replica, Galleon Andalucia came from Spain, visited Manila and Cebu, now in Panglao I believe. No fanfare. It’s such an important part of Filipino Spanish history. They could have a real fiesta in these ports.


  21. Jade says

    This is not specifically on topic, but for now it’s close enough:
    Philippines makes the World’s Most Romantic Islands lisy on Yahoo Travel

    Pamalican Island, The Philippines

    “You’ll find only one resort here—Amanpulo, set on its own private island southwest of Manila with just 40 secluded pitched-roof traditional villas, strung along a pristine beach with sand so white it’s blinding. Beachcombers can navigate the entire island on foot in less than two hours, keeping their eyes out for baby sharks, kingfishers, and sea turtles, which lay their eggs here between March and October.”

    I’ll repost it again whe you do the article in Beaches and Islands – but I couldn’t hold off otherwise I’d forget.


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