Discover the Philippines’ Travel Destinations & Festivals at Grand Central Terminal, May 9 to 12

From May 9 to 12, New York’s beaux-arts landmark Grand Central Terminal will provide the backdrop to showcase the 7,641 islands that make up the Philippines, which is promoting its vacation destinations, along with its captivating festivals!

Vibrant and full of life, year-round Philippine festivals, also known as fiestas, attract both domestic and international tourists for its grandeur, sense of community, and fun-filled atmosphere.

Although these festivals had religious origins, where predominantly Christian Filipinos honor their patron saints via festive communal events, these celebrations have become favorite attractions for their vibrant parades, pounding drums, electrifying dances, and elaborate costumes, which will surely bring out your most radiant smile.

When you get the chance to visit the Philippines, don’t miss these family-friendly festivals:

  • Sinulog Festival

Held on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City, the Sinulog Festival honors the Child Jesus. It also commemorates the Filipinos’ pagan past and their conversion into Christianity.

A local version of the Mardi Gras, the festival highlights a grand street parade where the participants and the spectators shout “Pit Señor!” (Santo Niño) while they dance two steps forward and one step backward to the sinulog rhythm.

The Sinulog Festival is also known for its lively street parties held on the night of the Sunday parade.

  • Moriones Festival

The Moriones Festival is a Holy Week tradition in West Marinduque, Philippines, where men and women wear Roman soldier brightly colored costumes and full head masks. They roam the streets to find Saint Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus Christ’s side with a spear. According to oral history, a drop of the crucified Christ’s blood miraculously healed Saint Longinus’ blind right eye, which made the latter convert into Christianity.

The participants would traditionally join the Moriones Festival as an act of penance or a way to thank for God’s outpouring of blessings.

  • MassKara Festival

The MassKara (multitude of faces) Festival is held every fourth Sunday of October in Bacolod City since the early ‘80s, which was conceived to lift up the spirits of the locals who were facing a sugar industry crisis at that time. The use of the festive masks symbolizes the locals’ resilient attitude.

The festival spotlights the MassKara Queen beauty pageant, an assortment of food festivals, street dance competitions, and sports events, and the highly-anticipated electric MassKara night parade.

  • Dinagyang Festival

Similar to the Sinulog Festival, the Dinagyang Festival, held every fourth Sunday of January in Iloilo City, also honors the Child Jesus. It also commemorates the arrival of early Malay settlers on the island of Panay.

“Dinagyang” is an Ilonggo word that means merry making or revelry.

  • Pahiyas Festival

Attended by at least six million visitors, the Pahiyas Festival, held every 15th of May in Lucban, Quezon, honors the patron saint of farmers, San Isidro Labrador. First held in the 16th century, the Pahiyas Festival is an annual thanksgiving celebration for a bountiful rice harvest.

The locals’ homes are decorated with fresh fruits, vegetables, and edible rice kipings, dried, leaf-shaped rice paste in different colors, which the visitors can feast on for free!

Learn more about the Philippines and its endearing festivals at the Explore Islands Philippines expo at Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall.

Speakers from the Philippine Department of Tourism will talk on May 9 to 10 about various tourism initiatives including beautiful destinations, students and millennial tours, diving tourism, cuisine, retirement, as well as Philippine arts, culture, and history.  The flagship carrier of the Philippines, Philippine Airlines, will also give a special presentation.

This special event will also celebrate arts and culture in the final two days, May 11 to 12, showcasing artists and artisans from the United States and the Philippines. The program will include presentations from the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Parangal Dance Company, Philippine martial artists, weavers, artisans, and fashion designers.

The Explore Islands Philippines expo, made possible by JS Productions Inc., the Philippine Department of Tourism, and the Philippine Tourism Promotions Board, is free to the public and is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. The venue can be easily accessed by the Pershing Square, 42nd Street entrance.

This article first appeared on BroadwayWorld.com.

Where To Next: Hijo Resorts Davao

Are you flying to the Philippines in the next few months? If you haven’t solidified your travel plans yet, consider a visit to Hijo Resorts Davao (Tagum City). More than just a beach trip, Hijo will give you and your family a really unique Filipino experience. You’ll be stepping away from the shopping malls and stepping into the world that many of our countrymen in the Davao region live every day.

A visit to Hijo has at least four components.

1. Beach

What is a resort in the Philippines without a beach, right? Just be ready for a black sand beach. It isn’t the largest or longest beach in the country, but there are tons of things to do! Banana boats, kayaks, and SCUBA divings just to name a few. Hijo has been working to preserve the marine life in the Davao Gulf, and it has recently installed bommies which have just started to grow coral and attract some of the Philippines’ best marine life.

2. Dining

While many Filipino dishes have made across international waters, there’s definitely more to our cuisine once you visit the different provinces. Hijo is home to The Spot, a Halal restaurant accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT). Be sure to try the dyampok, the traditional Kalagan, an ethnic group, way of cooking bananas, fried in a light batter and served with coconut sugar and roasted sesame seeds!

3. Tours

Hijo is situated inside a plantation, giving it the chance to offer tours no one else can. It offers two plantation tours, one to the coconut plantation and another to the banana plantation. You can learn about how both are grown and harvested. Think that’s boring? It really isn’t!

Apart from the plantations, you can take a mangrove boat tour. Mangrove forests are endangered, and Davao is home to a large chunk of what’s left in the world.  The boat tour will take you through the Madaum river, where the Kalagan tribe still lives.

4. Tagum

Unlike other cities in the Philippines, Tagum is full of parks. You can rent a bike, take a ride, have a picnic, or just enjoy some of the Philippine plants. The botanical garden, which is not quite full of flowers as it grows a variety of Philippine trees,  is a lovely spot to visit if you like strolling through the greenery.–Rachel Davis

Where To Eat In Madrid

Madrid, the capital city of Spain, has long been one of my dearest travel destinations.  Having spent a good amount of time there the past six years, I’ve found and discovered some favorite places and restaurants.  In a week-long trip this past autumn, I created a list of my top five.  While the extent of my culinary expertise really only comes from being a self-professed foodie brought up by self-professed foodies as well, if you ever take a trip to Madrid, I believe these places are worth visiting.

1. Posada de la Villa

In Cava Baja, a trendy part of town, a part full of bars and little restos, there is an old asador (grill house) called Posada de la Villa. Its oven has been roasting lamb since 1642. (Take that, Lombardi’s!)  And the lamb?  It’s out of this world!  But start your meal with some padrones (roasted Spanish peppers that are eaten whole, and they’re not spicy!) and choose among the many other classics it has on the menu.  Just don’t skip the lamb!

2. La Ardosa

Every visit I have ever made to Madrid included a visit to this bar (sometimes several visits to this bar!).  This place opens relatively early for a Spanish watering hole, and it is famous for its tortilla de patata (potato omelet).  Even Anthony Bourdain has nothing but praises for this dish.  Be sure to go early.  I’d once arrived at 9 p.m. (early for a Spanish night out) and they’d already run out and stopped cooking tortilla.  Should that happen, their other tapas are great, too.  My other go-to is the morcilla de foie.

3. Casa Salvador

Known for its bull soup, having once been frequented by bullfighters, the restaurant is nothing but Spanish charm.  Despite being known for its meat, I really enjoy its merluza (hake).  In a restaurant like this, you can’t go wrong. So order what you wish and savor every bite!

4. Barril de Las Letras

It was a real toss-up between this and La Barraca—another famous paella restaurant—because what is a trip to Spain without paella, right?  But since La Barraca makes it to many food lists, I thought to include this place instead.  La Barraca is another great restaurant for Spanish classics! Enjoy its giant sangrias on a lazy Spanish afternoon.

Note: If you really want out-of –this-world paella, and if you have the time, drive down to Alicante and look for a restaurant called Mi Casa.  Its paella is different, very thin and really incredibly delicious.

5. Valor vs. San Gines

This comes down to chocolate.  It really does.  Both churrerias are great places to visit.  Valor churros are big, puffy, and airy.  San Gines churros are what you might recognize: skinny, ridged, and crunchy.  Both are good so it really comes down to chocolate.  I, personally am a fan of Valor chocolate, which is thicker and more chocolatey (does that make sense?), but I know some people love San Gines through and through.  So if you have the time, try both!

One of the best things about Spain is the ability to take the simplest ingredients and make them out-of-this-world.  That is one of the defining traits of each of these restaurants, and perhaps what I love most about Spanish cuisine.–Rachel Davis