When: Every third Sunday of January; in 2016, this falls on January 17
Where: Cebu City
What: Formerly a solemn commemoration of the Santo Niño’s miraculous rediscovery in 1565, the Sinology has evolved into the Philippines’ biggest street party. Even if you give the Grand Parade a miss, the side streets radiating out from Gen. Maxilom Avenue swarm with tourists taking free tequila shots from locals; from every corner, face-painted partygoers greet one and all with a hearty “Pit Senyor!”
Philippine Balloon Fiesta
When: February 11-14, 2016
What: The Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta celebrates “everything that flies”. Beyond the colorful hot-air balloons, there are also aerobatic shows, parachuting exhibitions and kite flying competitions.
When: All throughout February, when Baguio’s weather is at its crispest and most pleasant.
What: Taking its name from the Kankana-ey word for “blooming season”, Panagbenga celebrates Baguio’s botanical riches with this month-long flower festival. Come for the parades, concerts, street parties and pageants.
When: March 4-6, 2016
Where: Mount Malasimbo, Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro
What: A music festival that puts Filipino-flavored world music center stage. Watch the likes of Grace Nono, Joey Ayala and Up Dharma Down rock the Oriental Mindoro mountainside.
When: March 20-27, 2016
What: A traditional Holy Week festival that features men in Roman costumes and masks re-enacting the sad tale of Longinus the centurion, who was said to have wounded Jesus on the cross. It’s an amazing bit of folk theater: the masked anonymity encourages the actors to engage in horseplay as they seek Longinus in the streets.
When: May 15, 2016
Where: Lucban, Quezon
What: To honor San Isidro Labrador, patron saint of farmers, the Lucbanons festoon their houses with the products of their trade: longganisa (sausages), handicrafts and kiping (rice wafers). Enjoy small-town Pinoy hospitality as you visit houses and eat from their groaning tables of food.
When: August 15-21, 2016
Where: Davao City
What: A harvest festival that highlights Davao’s four native tribes — and gives an excuse to gorge on the city’s amazing cuisine. The week-long celebrations are a great way to explore Davao’s fruit stands — just in time for mangosteen and durian to come into season!
This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of Smile magazine.