Holidays are typically associated with getting a vacation from the daily grind. But holidays are about more than that.
Holidays and celebrations in the Philippines have a deeper meaning. We don’t have the distinction of being one of Southeast Asia’s and the world’s countries with the most public holidays for nothing.
Whether you’re a Pinoy, a new expat, or a visitor to the Philippines, here’s everything you need to know about Philippine holidays and festivals.
What is the definition of a holiday?
A holiday is a day when work is prohibited by law or custom in order to commemorate or celebrate a certain event.
The word “holiday” stems from the Old English hāligdæg (hālig “holy” + dæg “day”), which means “holy day,” and has evolved from its Christian roots into a secular celebration.
It’s now synonymous with vacations and days off. During a holiday, most companies, government offices, schools, banks, and other facilities are closed.
A holiday is an opportunity for Filipinos to rest and unwind with their families.
Holidays in the Philippines are divided into several categories.
Regular and extraordinary non-working holidays are the two types of public holidays.Local holidays are recognized in the Philippines in distinct cities, municipalities, and provinces.
Regular holidays are days of religious, cultural, or historical significance that are recognized annually or as required by law across the United States. Except for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Eid’l Fitr, and Eid’l Adha, which have varying dates each year, the majority of them have set dates.
In the Philippines, there are 12 regular holidays:
- New Year’s Day – An important celebration among Filipinos, as they welcome the first day of the year with loved ones
- Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) – Commemoration of the Fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942 and the bravery of Filipino and American soldiers who fought during World War II
- Maundy Thursday – A Christian holiday commemorating the Thursday before Easter when Jesus Christ had the last supper with His disciples
- Good Friday – A Christian holiday for fasting and penance commemorating the Friday before Easter when Christ was crucified
- Labor Day – A tribute for Filipino workers and commemoration of the fight for workers’ rights
- Eid’l Fitr (Feast of Ramadan) – An Islamic holiday marking the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting
- Independence Day – Commemoration of Philippine independence from the Spanish rule on June 12, 1898
- Eid’l Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) – An Islamic holiday commemorating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son according to Allah’s orders
- National Heroes Day – Celebration in honor of all Filipino heroes who fought for the country’s freedom
- Bonifacio Day – Commemoration of the birth of Andres Bonifacio, a national hero and the Father of the Philippine Revolution
- Christmas Day – An important holiday for Filipino families, as they celebrate the birth of Christ
- Rizal Day – Death anniversary of Jose Rizal, the Philippine national hero, and commemoration of his life and works
Non-working (special) holidays
Special non-working days, like regular holidays, are marked by religious, cultural, or historical significance across the country. Some are commemorated as a result of customs, while others are declared as a result of legislation.
Every year in the Philippines, nine important non-working holidays are observed:
- Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year/Spring Festival) – The first day in the traditional Chinese calendar and most important holiday for the Chinese community in the Philippines
- EDSA People Power Revolution Anniversary – Commemoration of the peaceful demonstrations on February 25, 1986 that ended the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos
- Black Saturday – The final day of the Holy Week commemorating Christ lying in the tomb before His resurrection on Easter Sunday
- Ninoy Aquino Day – Death anniversary of former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and commemoration for his fight for democracy against the Marcos dictatorship
- All Saints’ Day – A celebration in honor of all Christian saints
- All Souls Day – A day for remembering deceased loved ones
- Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary – A celebration of the day when the Blessed Virgin Mary (the mother of Christ and Patroness of the Philippines) was conceived without sin
- Christmas Eve – The day before Christmas Day when Filipino families celebrate a midnight mass and a Noche Buena feast
- New Year’s Eve – The last day of the year when Filipinos greet the New Year with a midnight meal called Media Noche
Additional national holidays are observed.
Malacaang occasionally designates additional special non-working days in order to increase tourism and allow Filipinos to spend more time with their family.
This frequently occurs when a regular holiday falls on a weekend, such as New Year’s Day 2017, which happened on a Sunday, prompting the Palace to announce January 2nd as a special holiday.
Additionally, presidential proclamations are made to establish special non-working days for election days (presidential/midterm/Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections) so that Filipinos can exercise their right to vote.
Special non-working days have also been established in a number of cities, towns, and provinces across the country, allowing Filipinos to enjoy festivals and other significant events in their hometowns.
Special holidays have been created in some regions to allow locals to vote in local special elections or plebiscites, such as the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in Mindanao in January 2019.
Special non-working days are also declared in impacted areas for major events that may result in road closures and traffic rerouting.
Pope Francis’ visit to Metro Manila in January 2015 and the ASEAN Summit in the National Capital Region, Bulacan, and Pampanga in November 2017 are two examples.
Philippines’ Holiday Pay Regulations
Even if work is prohibited over the holidays, some employees may be obliged to report to work in malls, hospitals, BPO businesses, media outlets, and other places.
You are entitled to overtime pay if you are required to work on a holiday. You should still be paid your daily wage even if you don’t work on a regular holiday.
Employees must be paid on holidays, whether or not they report for work, according to the Philippine Labor Code. The salary for regular holidays differs from the remuneration for extraordinary non-working days.
Here’s a table you can use to figure out your holiday compensation.
|New Year’s Day
|Chinese New Year
|EDSA People Power Revolution Anniversary
|Araw ng Kagitingan
|Good Friday Regular
|Eid’l Fitr Regular
|Ninoy Aquino Day
|National Heroes Day
|All Saints’ Day
|All Souls Day
|Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary
|New Year’s Eve
Here, we fully support the relevance of vacations and their critical role in restoring body balance and guaranteeing long-term mental and physical health. Holidays provide you with the opportunity to unwind, recuperate, take a step back, and assess your personal life, needs, desires, and, why not, future projects. In essence, vacations are one of the finest, if not the best, ways to assure high productivity at work and school.
So, if you think you’re so important to your company that you can’t leave the workplace, think again! Instead, tell yourself that taking a few days off will allow you to escape stress while also allowing you to return 10 times more productive.