When we say Pampanga, probably the first thing that comes into your mind is food. It’s not surprising though as the province is hailed as the Culinary Capital of the Philippines. Here, you can have a taste at the famous sisig that forces you to cheat on your diet, the exotic Betute Tagak (Stuffed Frog) and Kamaru (fried crickets), and their smelly but tasty Buro (fermented rice.)
Looking past the sumptuous cuisine and delicacies, Pampanga is also a haven of various festivals and celebrations. Living in Pampanga will never be boring and dull with their bright dancing lights and colorful costumes.
Related Read: Pampanga: The Rising Real Estate Hotspot in Luzon
Explore the Wonderful Festivals in Pampanga Province
Giant Lantern Festival
Locally known as ‘Ligligan parul,’ the Giant Lantern Festival is an annual celebration of grandiose lights and huge lanterns during mid-December (Saturday before Christmas Eve) held annually at the City of San Fernando. The popularity of this festival earned the city’s moniker: The Christmas Capital of the Philippines.
According to Giant Lantern, a much simpler version of the tradition is held in Bacolor. It was only in 1904 when the first Ligligan Parul Competition was first held. However, some accounts claim that the lantern competitions actually started in 1908. The Giant Lantern Festival coincides with the celebration of simbang gabi (December 16-24), just right before gradually evolving as the years progresses, introducing larger lanterns with more intricate details.
The Giant Lantern Festival isn’t all about the big parols and bright lights. It also appreciates the hard work, patience, and skillful craftsmanship of the locals in making these giant lanterns. The big parols are initially made up of bamboo, which is then transformed into steel frames. The traditional and colorful papel de hapon turned into colored plastics that hug the steel frames. Other materials like capiz shells were also incorporated.
Today, the Giant Lantern Festival remains one of the popular attractions in the province and shines a glimmer of hope not only for the Kapampangans but for the tourists as well.
Another celebration held annually at San Fernando City is the Sinukwan Festival. Expert World Travel defines Sinukwan Festival as the ‘essence of Kapampangan spirit.’
It is a week-long celebration that takes place every second week of December. This celebration is mainly held to honor a Kapampangan go Aring Sinukwan– in which the name of the festival was derived.
Various attractions await every tourist visiting the town. One significant event you shouldn’t miss is the street dancing. Decked with colorful costumes, ornaments, and headdresses, participants dance to the tune of Atin ku Pong Singsing. It is a great opportunity to witness the grandiose of the Kapampangan culture and custom. Aside from that, colorful parades, photography competitions, beauty pageants, art exhibitions, and even cooking competitions are some to look forward to in the Sinukwan Festival.
Pyestang Tugak (Frog Festival)
Are you up for some exotic food? Head to the City of San Fernando and witness the Pyestang Tugak or Frog Festival. Held every October, it highlights one of the favorite pastimes of Kapampangans: catching frogs. This is due to the abundance of frogs in their vast rice fields and plains.
Frog Festival also showcases the Kapampangan’s unique way of catching frogs, which the locals call pamamaduas tugak. Of course, dishes featuring frogs as its main meat are also served. Here, you can delight your taste buds with Adobong Tugak, Tinolang Tugak, fried frogs stuffed with meat, and even frog burgers. What a spectacular and unique experience!
Other activities in the festival include street dancing with participants dressed in green and yellow costumes, colorful cartoon frog mascots, frog catching competitions, and even Frog Olympics.
Let’s take our journey to Bacolor, Pampanga, where we can witness the Makatapak Festival celebrated every November. Makatapak is roughly translated as ‘being barefooted.’ It is a famous re enactment of the struggle of the locals during the Mount Pinatubo eruption. During that time, the locals had to walk barefooted through the slippery lahar.
Today, the locals walk and dance barefoot in street parades and procession. Makatapak Festival is also considered as the Pilgrimage to the Past.
According to Sunstar, Duman Festival is one of the youngest festivals in Pampanga and is held at the town of Guagua. It only started in 2002 and originated from the Kapampangan traditions of pounding and winnowing rice unripe glutinous rice until it turns into the local green delicacy called ‘duman.’
Duman Festival features colorful street dances, parades, cooking competitions with glutinous rice as the main ingredient. Aside from duman, tourists and visitors can also try local dishes and buy native products at the Kapampangan market.
Part of the celebration of St. James the Great (Apung Tiago), the patron saint of Betis, Guagua, Dukit Festival is celebrated annually every December and is known to preserve the woodcarving culture in the country.
The festival showcases wood carving products which are mostly religious statues and furniture that visitors and tourists can purchase as souvenirs. Aside from street dancing, an on-the-spot woodcarving competition is also held which is participated by over 30 woodcarvers from various regions.
Caragan Festival is part of the month-long celebration of Mabalacat City’s fiesta held every month of February. This colorful festival primarily honors an Aeta Chieftain called Haring Caragan, who married a Mabalaquena named Laureana Tolentino. Together, they sowed the fertile forest full of balacat trees and established the Mabalacat, with Tolentino becoming the city’s first cabeza de barangay.
Caragan Festival, which will be called Balacat Festival starting 2023, showcases and appreciates the rich culture of Aetas. Various street dancing competitions with costumes inspired and made with indigenous materials are held to celebrate Aeta’s roots and history.
San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites
One of the provinces first formed during the Spanish colony, it’s no wonder why Pampanga is home to various religious rites. And probably the most famous of them all is the San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites in San Fernando City.
It is basically a re enactment of the Passion of the Christ, which is commonly done in the country during the Lenten Season. But what garnered the media and tourists’ attention is the staging of the Via Crucis or Way of the Cross where penitents are actually nailed to the cross.