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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Please click HERE to see more photos!