Ginger Paws Outdoors

The Kneeling Carabaos of Pulilan 2017

Hello, my dear readers! I am back once again for another festival experience in the Philippines!

The month of May is when fiestas and festivals are everywhere in the Philippines. As I have mentioned before on some of my previous post about festivals, most Filipinos celebrate the feast day of the patron saint of their town. It is the time to showcase their town’s products or specialty; like the CalacAtachara Festival of Batangas which proudly displays their appetizing pickled papaya. On the other hand, some towns celebrate everything about the patron saint; like the Angel Festival of San Rafael, Bulacan that commemorates the archangel, Saint Rafael.

The festival that I will talk about on this post is referring to the Saint of the laborers, Saint Isidore the Laborer. He is the patron saint of the farmers, and that’s the reason why towns feasting on this day showcased most of the produce from their farms.

Kneeling Carabao Festival 2017

Saint Isidore’s feast day (May 15th) gave me a bit of a headache. Since there were quite a few towns having the same patron saint, I needed to choose only one town. So, I picked Pulilan‘s Kneeling Carabao Festival (sadly, I missed the Pahiyas Festival in Quezon). However, the carabao festival didn’t disappoint me. I enjoyed the two-day happenings on the streets of Pulilan.

Carabao (for those who don’t know yet), is a domesticated water buffalo that helps the farmers of the Philippines. I would say that a carabao is a farmer’s best friend (at least for those who own one). The carabaos help their owners to cultivate the rice fields to get ready for planting. Aside from plowing, it could be used as a carriage of things, or humans (though they walk really slow). And just like cows, they could also produce tasty milk (tastier than cow’s milk, I’d say!).

I grew up on a farm, and I still remember that my grandfather had two adult carabaos. I even witnessed the time the mother carabao gave birth! My grandparents used to deliver carabao’s milk to houses every morning. There were also times that my grandma made sweet treats like yema and pastillas with it (I will discuss about it later on this post).

Unfortunately, due to the fast development of technology, the use of traditional farming techniques of Filipino farmers is declining and more and more farmers have chosen to use machines and automotive for farming. I have not seen many carabaos in use anymore, only in some very rural parts of the Philippines. That’s why I was surprised to see a lot of carabaos when I went to the festival! I never thought that there were still (somehow) a lot of farmers who have them as helpers.


Day One: The Kneeling Carabao Parade

The first day was very exciting! I would say that among all the festivals that I’ve been to while in the Philippines, this had the largest crowd. In fact, it was hard to walk on the side street because it was full of people waiting for the parade. The local government had to close the roads to give way to the participants and carabaos. There were also foreigners that were joyfully participating in the events!

Kneeling Carabao Festival 2017

Kneeling Carabao Festival 2017

This day was for the competition of the best carabao float. The floats were designed with different vegetables, fruits and even a whole nipa hut (cottage)! Some dressed their carabaos to make it more appealing to the public.

Kneeling Carabao Festival 2017

As a respect for Saint Isidore the Laborer, the carabaos kneel in front of the church during the parade. But one thing I noticed was; not all carabaos could kneel. There were only a few of them that were trained. And you would know it right away because they wear knee pads.

Kneeling Carabaos Festival 2017

Kneeling Carabao Festival 2017

Though I felt bad when the crowd was shouting “luhod!” as they were requesting for the owner to make their carabao to kneel. Gladly, the owners didn’t force the carabaos to do so. Actually, I thought that they might hit the creatures with a lash or stick as I have witnessed this in the past, but the owners only gave them a tap or pull on the leash and say aloud, “ho!”, the carabaos would then kneel. They were also given water and food while walking (which made the road stinky with massive poops) and there was a part that they were splashed with water to cool down.

Kneeling Carabao Festival 2017

Kneeling Carabao Festival 2017

The last part of the parade was a massive group of carabaos with their owners. Some had carts behind or just plainly tied to each other, guided by humans. I was amazed and glad to know that there are still a lot of them in my province. Though I was a bit careful because some of them went a little wild.

Kneeling Carabao Festival 2017


Day Two: The Street Dance Parade

What will be a festival if it does not have a street dance parade?

The second day was for the street dance competition participated by different schools within the town of Pulilan.

Kneeling Carabao Festival 2017

Just like the other street dance that I’ve been to, the competitors wore very colorful costumes and props while performing their energetic dance routines. In addition, each group has their own “goddess” that was dressed up in a beautiful gown and headdress. There was a showdown of dancers and goddesses at the end of the parade.

Kneeling Carabao Festival 2017

Though it was not as busy during the first day, the spectators still enjoyed watching those children dancing on the streets and doing their best to win the competition for best dance group. I really admired those participants that managed to perform under the mid-day sun wearing their outfits with one or two layers. Especially for those goddesses that were wearing their massive dresses and props and yet, still managed to do their dynamic dance moves!

Kneeling Carabao Festival 2017

Kneeling Carabao Festival 2017

Kneeling Carabao Festival 2017

Kneeling Carabao Festival 2017

Kneeling Carabao Festival 2017

Kneeling Carabao Festival 2017

Kneeling Carabao Festival 2017

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at this festival and seeing the many carabao , helping to bring back many long lost memories. These gentle giants have been a big part of Philippines’ culture and I am glad that there are farmers who still take care of these lovely creatures. Something that most of the kids in this generation would only know and see by the history books.


As I mentioned earlier on this post, my grandmother used to cook a delicious dessert made with the carabao’s milk. Made of purely carabao’s milk and sugar, this tasty treat made Bulacan famous for satisfying the sweet tooth!Β 

Bulacan's pastillas

Please click HERE to see more photos!

About Gracie Gill

A hobbyist photographer enjoying her life through arts, music, traveling and getting fit. A proud crazy cat lady.

26 thoughts on “The Kneeling Carabaos of Pulilan 2017

  1. Ali Rost

    I’ve loved reading your series about festivals in the Philippines. This one is really interesting to me because I live in Iowa and grew up on a farm. I would have really liked to see the street dance. Everybody’s costumes were incredible!

  2. Jana Carrero

    Thanks for sharing this interesting peek at the culture! I was also happy to see the kneeling carabao wearing knee pads haha and to hear they are taken care of throughout the procession πŸ™‚

  3. Katie

    What an experience! I must admit I feel uncomfortable about the carabaos – I wonder how they are trained behind closed doors. The dancing looks amazing though – so vibrant and colourful!

  4. Elizabeth O

    What a great festival! I am so impressed by the way they taught the Carabao to kneel down. It is moving.

  5. kathryn Maher

    Wow! I loved reading about the history of the carabao. They are very strong and majestic looking creatures. The costumes on the street dancers are really beautiful too.

  6. Danijela WorldGlimpses

    Love that second day with dancing, since it was a bit disturbing to see carabaos kneeling down and being painted all over. I know you said they are taken care of and that it is the custom and so on, but it was just a bit disturbing. Still, the dancing parade is lovely, would love to it see it sometime in person! πŸ™‚

  7. Nisha

    I loved this post! Looks like a colorful festival. That must have been an experience to watch a mother carabao giving birth! I understand if they cannot kneel down, one should not force them. Do Carabaos become violent sometime?

    And I’m drooling to see that dessert made with the carabao’s milk. We have similar dishes in our country too.

    1. Gracie Gill Post author

      Yes, there were incidents that they went violent, because sometimes they dont like seeing other carabaos or overwhelmed to see a lot of people. But it only happens to the carabaos that were not trained.

  8. Ami Bhat

    Such a colorful and vibrant festival. These are some interesting traditions, not so different from India. Loved day 2 – the parade reminded me of the Sao Jao festival of Goa. Cheers

  9. neha

    The people look pretty. But I don’t agree with the use of animals. There are similar festivals in my home, India too. And I would rather prefer that animals were not used there too.

  10. Nico

    I enjoyed reading this article, very interesting facts! Great pictures, It makes me want to go and discover Philipino’s culture πŸ™‚

  11. Alicia

    The colors are so bright! I like the fruit piece that lady is wearing around her head. But I wish they wouldn’t use the animals. Anyways..
    I nominated you for the Blogger Recognition Award. You deserve it πŸ™‚ I linked your blog to my post:

    Thanks for being amazing! And Giving such interesting content!
    Meow for now!
    Alicia & Rose from Stay at Home Cat Mom

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