Philippine Fiestas - Your Guide to Festivals, Beauty Pageants, and Parades

Philippine fiestas, or festivals as they are sometimes called, are part of the Filipino culture, a culture that has been handed down for centuries. And yet this culture is as diverse as the 7,107 islands that make up the Philippines.

Here you will find fiestas all year round - every region, province, and city has its own based on local customs. It could be a celebration of Christmas, a feast in honor of a patron saint, a parade to express religious fervor, or a dance to commemorate some historic event. Whatever the reason, a festival is the common tie that binds that region together - a time to rejoice in friendship, and to celebrate with enthusiasm and excitement.

Fiestas can vary widely in what they include - anything from trade fairs and food fests to beauty pageants and parades. But all include street dancing with people dressed in colorful costumes, their faces or whole bodies painted, all dancing and chanting to the beat of drums.

Some fiestas are held nationwide; others are held in only one city or province. Here are three typical fiestas:

1. The Sinulog Festival is held on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City and is the city's grandest festival. It is a prayer-dance celebration in honor of the Sto. Nino, the Holy Child. The prayer-dance is synchronized to the beat of drums while people hold the image of Sto. Nino and shout their petitions in the belief that the Sto. Nino will grant their wishes.

2. The Feast of the Black Nazarene is held each year on the 9th of January in Quiapo, Manila. The Black Nazarene statue is carried from the Quiapo Church by barefooted men yelling, "Viva Senor!" while people in the crowd reach out and try to touch the statue. The original statue, made from a dark hardwood, arrived on a galleon ship from Mexico in 1606 and is now kept in the Saint John the Baptist Church in Quiapo.

3. The Flores de Mayo, or Flowers of May, is a nationwide fiesta held to celebrate the end of the dry season and the coming of the rain that is expected to water the crops and thus bring a bountiful harvest. Filipinos give praise to the Blessed Mother while decorating church altars and aisles with beautiful flowers. But the beauty lies not only in the flowers -- beautiful maidens participate in this colorful parade under bamboo arcs decorated with local flowers.