Culture and festivals in Manila thrive to this day. Through the centuries, the Philippines took on many influences both from the East and the West, and as a result, the country became a melting pot of colorful and interesting cultures and festivals. The Spaniards made the most impact since they ruled Manila and the country for 300 years. They brought what is arguably the Filipino people’s most cherished piece of culture – the faith of Roman Catholicism. Majority of the culture and festivals in Manila are hinged on this national religion.
The biggest and most anticipated street parade and religious procession in Manila is the Feast of the Black Nazarene, which happens yearly on January 9. The statue of a brown-skinned Christ carrying a cross is transported from Rizal Park to Quaipo church. The procession is painstakingly slow as millions of devotees flock to see, touch and kiss the image, which is believed to have miraculous powers. Days before January 9, the City of Manila anticipates the mass of religious devotees and prepares cordons, ambulances and security. Only in the years 2010 and 2011 were there no records of death due to stampede or massive crowding. There were, however, a number of injuries and theft. This religious festivity causes massive traffic in affected areas as well.
Another popular festival is the Ati-Atihan. It is a Mardi Gras celebration involving dancers covered in charcoal. They dance and make noise in honor of the image of the Santo Niño or the infant Jesus. The leader of the Ati-Atihan carries and waves around the image as they sing and dance in the streets. Ati-Atihan in Manila is a replica of the real festival that happens in the province of Iloilo.
Besides the Spanish, the Chinese and their culture also have a profound impact on Manila.
Chinatown is located at the heart of Manila in Ongpin Street, Binondo. The most important Chinese festival, which the entire country celebrates, is the Chinese New Year. A month after fireworks crack for the Western New Year in January, the Chinese-Filipino community celebrates their New Year. It is a grand celebration that used to be recognized only by the Chinese and Chinese-Filipinos, whose presence in Manila’s business and financial districts cannot be denied. Today, even Filipinos without the tiniest drop of Chinese blood in their veins recognize the celebration of the Chinese New Year. As part of the celebration, Chinese-Filipinos hand over Chinese moon cakes to each other, to neighbors, relatives, and friends. The celebrations, parades, feasting and fireworks center on the Binondo area.
The fourth most popular and well-received festival is the “Flores de Mayo” or Flowers of May. This is a colorful festival of flowers and beautiful maidens in honor of the Virgin Mary, yet another Catholic festivity. The highlight of the festival is the Santa Cruzan procession wherein the beautiful maidens in long white gowns and their escorts march around Manila.
Besides these four, there are tons of other celebrations including non-religious ones.
Culture and festivals in Manila are indispensible to the way of life for a people who love to have fun and exercise their religious beliefs with passion.