The Philippine archipelago is composed of 7,107 islands located in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by its neighbors Taiwan in the north, Vietnam in the west, Indonesia in the south, and the vast Pacific Ocean in the east. It is home to more than 90 million Filipinos.
When asked for a word that best describes the Philippines, the answer would be Diversity. Phases of its tumultuous history are marked according to its colonizer: Spain, Japan, and the USA. This tropical country is filled with nature’s bounty for tourism and agriculture. The 7,107 islands is one of the world’s greatest example of multiple ethnicity and biodiversity.
This multitude of cultures and colors is reflected in the numerous festivals held each year. Being a colony of Spain for more than 300 years, majority of its festivals are of Folk-Christian character. An invigorating blend of native drumbeats and dance steps, and local cuisine all held in offering to a patron saint or the infant Jesus, the Santo Niño. Cebu’s Sinulog, Iloilo’s Dinagyang, and Bacolod’s Maskara are among the popular festivals attended by people from all over globe. Other festivals are ethno cultural, designed to preserve long cherished traditions, like Davao’s Kadayawan and General Santos’s Kalilangan festivals. Lastly, there are festivals celebrated as thanksgiving to nature’s bounty. Baguio’s Panagbenga, Gensan’s TunaFest, Kidapawan’s FruitFest, and Dagupan’s Bangus Festival are some of the country’s most renowned festivals giving thanks to bountiful harvest from the soil and sea.
A typical Filipino fiesta is a week-long celebration. It has an Opening Ceremony and a Culmination Program, with several events held in between including art competitions, sports tournaments, amusement rides for hire, street parties, and Mardi gras. An annual festival has a central theme or concept that makes each celebration unique and better than the one before.
Planning starts immediately after the closing ceremonies. Companies offering event and festival services submit their bids and concept designs for the next year’s celebration. Once the winning bid is awarded, a frenzy of activities ensue. The winning event and festival services group sends invitation to sports clubs, visual or performing arts associations, hobbyist clubs, civic organizations, amusement rides operators, and other interested parties to submit activity designs with funding requirements. All activity proposals are evaluated according to relevance to the theme, budget, and social impact. The approved activities are entered as the festival’s official roster of events. The roster, together with the summary of funding requirement is submitted to the local chief executive for final approval and grant of funding subsidy. Projected expenses not covered by the subsidy will be outsourced through sponsorships, usually in exchange for media mileage during the festival week. The months leading to the festival are series of coordination meetings, pictorials, sponsorship collection, materials printing, construction, and rehearsals.
Whether it is for religion, for culture, or for nature, every Philippine festival is a blur of people and activities. It is, at the bottom line, an economic enterprise.