The whole year round Philippine fiestas of all kinds mark the Filipino calendar. Not only popular saints but also the most obscure ones are given a place for celebration. Why has this practice been imbedded in the Filipino culture?
To appease the gods—this was a key factor in ancient pagan worship in the Philippines. Mystical religious beliefs before the Spaniards came centered on worshipping gods believed to control certain aspects of life—livelihood, family, health, wealth, and others. To make life better, the belief said, regular ritual offerings to these gods had to be done. The gods seemed quickly angered by the smallest mistakes and vented wrath on livelihood and nature. The practice was somehow carried over into modern times so that one reason still used for Philippine fiestas is to stave off calamities and ill luck, aside from thanksgiving for good harvest, and ask lots of wishes.
A pledge. Philippine fiestas are like capital poured into investments. They have to be celebrated grandly to ensure good life ahead. The bigger money poured out for a Philippine fiesta the surer the return of investment (ROI). So, for a higher ROI a devotee should spend more to celebrate a fiesta. Smaller investments result to smaller yields.
If one wishes for more harvests from fields or the sea, or more luck in business or employment, or physical healing, or more rain, then one ought to dole out more quality meals in a fiesta celebration. If one’s really financially hard-up, then the alternative is to have active parts in the celebration—dance in the streets, help carry or pull a mounted statue, help in the fiesta preparations, or plain behave well throughout the celebration. And here’s the key to all these: the devotee has to pledge or promise to keep this going each annual Philippine fiesta.
Finally, Philippine fiestas have been “balik-bayan” incentives, or come-ons for expatriates, to visit or come back for good to the municipalities or cities celebrating them. Since pre-Hispanic times, Filipinos have been known to live in other countries. Later, they ventured to farther places like the US and Europe. Philippine fiestas lure them back to reminisce old times and be also celebrated in the community as overseas “heroes.”
Philippine fiestas are as many as there are sitios (districts) and barangays and cities and provinces in the Philippines. And they’re here to stay to keep Filipinos reaching out to the future as they stake out in the present while reminiscing the past.