Rainy days cannot beat the festive hearts of the Filipinos. Across the archipelago, we continue to celebrate a series of festivities throughout the month of June. St. John the Baptist leads other patron saints on festival commemoration mostly culminating with street-dancing parades and religious processions. There are ethnic and cultural celebrations which vary from thanksgiving for a good harvest and for their rich heritage, founding anniversary of cities or municipalities, environment-related events as well as the celebrations of Philippine Independence and the birthday of our national hero.
“In spite of the rainy days, Filipinos find ways to celebrate joyously through these festivals. Moreover, the Philippines is a large archipelago of 7, 107 tropical islands spread out over a wide area such that when it rains in one or two regions the other fifteen regions of the country are not affected and it’s still sunny and bright. So it’s on with the show of Philippine culture and traditions through these festivals,” says Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim.
Homage to patron saints
There are many places across the country that celebrates June 24 as the feast of one of the most important personages of the New Testament, St. John the Baptist. The City of San Juan with its Wattah! Wattah! San Juan Fiesta is the one of most popular festivals in Metro Manila. It is a weeklong culminating event side by side with their celebration of cityhood on June 17. There are cultural shows, live concerts highlighted by a street-dancing competition and the traditional “basaan,” or the dousing of water on every passer-by, the whole day which they do with good humor believing that the practice brings good luck, well-being and happiness. This annual celebration also features a resplendent procession of the saint’s images on gaily-decorated carriages highlighted by joyful water-dousing.
The people of Pola, Oriental Mindoro reverently take St. John’s image from its niche in the church, carry it on a procession accompanied by a band, and set it on a beautifully decorated boat to the sea -- where it was believed in a legend to have been found a long time ago. From the boat at sea to the procession on land where the image is carried around town, devotees in native costumes chant “Viva San Juan Bautista” while splashing water to one another.
In Calumpit town of Bulacan, the Libad Festival is celebrated on June 23 -24 where the sacred image of St. John the Baptist is borne in a colorfully decorated barge escorted by several native boats representing every village of Calumpit as it roves along the cool waters of the town’s river while townsfolk watch along the riverbank and on the historical bridge dousing water to people as part of the fluvial procession.
Taong Putik Festival of Barangay Bibiclat in Aliaga, Nueva Ecija is an unusual practice by the devotees of their patron saint where they completely cover their bodies with mud and adorn themselves with vines while roaming the streets asking from alms and offering them during a special church mass. It is an imitation of the act of John the Baptist who wears animal skin to deceive those who sought after him. These devotees are henceforth called “nagsa–San Juan” by the Aliaga townsfolk, who after the mass, wash and dress up to partake of the feast offerings and merriment.
For those with hungry tummies, the people of Balayan in Batangas share their unique celebration of St. John’s feastday with the Parada ng mga Lechon, or the parade of roasted pigs. Hundreds of lechons, the favorite centerpiece of every Filipino fiesta buffet, are colorfully dressed up and paraded around the town before being served for all to enjoy.
Meanwhile, down south in Cagawait, Surigao del Sur, the Kaliguan Festival is also held in honor of the same patron highlighted by a beauty pageant in search for the Perlas ng Kaliguan as well as beach dancing. In Camiguin Island, the venues of San Juan Hibok-Hibok are the beaches of Cabua-an and Agohay where residents and visitors engage in watersports such as aqua palosebo, fluvial procession and the search for Miss Hibok-Hibokan beauty contest.
In Cavite City, the Regada Water Festival on June 24 has sprinklers installed at the city’s main streets so that revelers get a shower in public. Surprisingly, it is in honor of their patron saint, Nuestra Señora de Porta Vaga, and not St. John the Baptist. This festival showcases what is best and unique among Caviteños.
The feast of the Nuestra Señora de Piat in Cagayan Valley is celebrated during the Piat Sambali Festival every June 23-30 in Piat town which is 41 kilometers away from the province’s capital of Tuguegarao City. The Sambali is a war dance of ethnic groups which depicts their unity and conversion to Christianity through the intercession of Our Lady of Piat, whose miraculous image is enshrined at the Basilica Minore of Piat -- one of the major pilgrimage sites in the Philippines. This festival coincides with Aggao nac Cagayan on June 24-29 for the commemoration of the civil government of Cagayan which was established on June 29, 1583.
The feast of Saints Peter and Paul is celebrated in Apalit, Pampanga -- known as the Philippines’ culinary capital. On June 28, the grand fluvial procession of the antique ivory image of Apung Iru, as St. Peter the Apostle is reverently called by the Kapampangans, begins when the image, sitting on an elaborately decorated papal throne, is brought out of its shrine at Capalanagan to Sulipan escorted by several gaily-decorated native boats. The festival culminates on June 30 when it is returned to Capalangan via the wide Pampanga River. Along the way, thousands of devotees line up the riverbanks chanting and waving palm leaves and flowers. Others swim in the river as a sign of cleansing their sins and for more blessings.
Biniray Festival of Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro honors Saints Peter and Paul as a way of thanksgiving for blessings from the sea. From the early morning of June 29, a flotilla of intricately decorated native boats encircles Bulalacao Bay. Then, there is the streetdancing by schoolchildren in indigenous costumes during the day to the procession with songs and dances by the townsfolk that ends at the church by twilight. Folk Catholicism is manifested in these fiestas marked by pompous religious processions of gaily-decorated carriages or native boats, happy chants, fervent prayers, native songs and, strangely enough for some, by water-dousing revelers.
Events on the environment, founding and products
The whole month of June is Philippine Environment Month. Palaweños in the capital city of Puerto Princesa celebrate Pista Y Ang Kagueban on June 17-23. Amidst massive tree planting activities, the city commemorates its love for nature through the live performances of its many eco-friendly artists featured in parades and concerts.
During the Kaniyog’n Festival, the people of Brooke’s Point along the southeastern side of Palawan zero in on their coconut plantations for never-ending thanksgiving to the coconut, their most important means of sustenance. The diverse products derived from the coconut, the ‘tree of life,’ are promoted in trade fairs, cultural and contemporary shows, sports events and beauty pageants. Interestingly, it is in the waters of Brooke’s Point where the Pearl of Lao Tzu was found. This pearl is the world’s biggest measuring at 9.45 inches in diameter and weighing 14.1 pounds. It was appraised at US$ 93 million in 2007.
It is Arbor Day in the Philippine Cordilleras where government agencies lead the celebration with partners like the Baguio and La Trinidad Regreening Movements. Several areas like the most important Busol Watershed are adopted for massive tree planting activities in line with environmental conservation.
While June 15 and 18 are the respective foundation days for La Trinidad and Benguet, June 16 is the Matagoan Festival in Tabuk, Kalinga where the eight sub-ethnic groups of the Tabuk – Biga, Tobog, Dallac, Malbong, Naneng, Gaddang, Guilayon, Colminga – showcases their cultural practices and strengthening of Bodong ties through native songs and dances amidst the importance of environmental conservation.
In Bicol, June 16-21 is Tabak Festival in Tabaco City and June 20-29 is Oyange Kaugman Festival in Polangui town both in Albay which are the same time for the Pili Festival of Sorsogon City. June 11-12 is the Ginubat Festival of Gubat, Sorsogon province. Through these festivals, Bicolanos indigenously pay tribute to their major products like the bolo, pili and root crops.
Creatively choreographed street-dancing based on the town’s legends, indigenous rituals and folk beliefs together with agricultural fairs and environmentally-themed concerts highlight thanksgiving celebrations in the Visayas. The Masulog Festival is celebrated every June 13 in Sibulan, Oriental Negros; Katigbawan Festival on June 15-17 in Catigbian, Bohol; Pintos Festival on June 16 in Bogo and Palawod Festival every June 29 in scenic Bantayan, both in Cebu province; Lingganay Festival on June 18 in Alang-Alang, Leyte; and the Bagulan Festival the next day in Paranas, Samar.
Adjacent to these events is the Dorong Festival on June 14-19 in Kapatagan, Digos City. It is a weeklong thanksgiving feast of the ethnic group Bagobos who celebrate the event with different activities such as mountain biking, motorcross and mountain-climbing to clean up the environment and to plant new trees, especially along the slopes of the majestic Mt. Apo, the highest peak in the Philippines. Other activities include cultural and ritual presentations with street-dancing, agro-tourism fair, farmers congress and livelihood seminars. The festival aims to replenish the environment as well as promote respect and appreciation for the Bagobo’s cultural beliefs and native handicrafts.
Indigenous culture and socioeconomic progress will be showcased during the foundation aniversaries of the towns of Magsaysay, Kiblawan and Matanao, all in Davao del Sur, on June 17, 18 and 22, respectively. Very third week of June is the Araw ng Sarangani also in Davao del Sur while June 18 is for the town of Carmen in Davao del Norte. June 2-7 is the City of Valencia’s Anlaw Ta Panglibatuhan in Bukidnon, June 12-18 is inclusive for the twin provinces of Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur, June 16 is Adlaw sa Iligan -- the City of Majestic Waterfalls -- in Lanao del Norte, and June 21 is Araw ng Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur.
The White Water Tubing Congress will be held in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur on June 28. This is an advocacy on river preservation and culminates with a competition on white water tubing using inflated tires which float with the amazing rapids of Sibulan River.
In Davao Oriental, the Bonsai Festival will commence on June 12 and Mango Festival on June 18 both in San Isidro town while Boston will celebrate its town fiesta with the Pabulig Festival on June 18-19. June 22 is an annual tree planting event as part of the provincial government’s Scenic Highways Program.
During the Pujada Bay Festival every June 20-24, the local government of Mati, Davao Oriental presents a weeklong thanksgiving celebration at the breathtaking Pujada Bay, through native boat races, a float parade, a fisherfolk’s day, coastal management conference and the Bay’s extreme challenge, among others. One of the Mati’s fantastic attractions and considered the one of the richest bays in Southeast Asia, Pujada Bay has 15,700 species of sea creatures such as lobsters, sea cows, hammerhead sharks, blue whales, manta rays, and different kinds of turtles.
It will likewise be a festive month in Compostela Valley. Simultaneously, the Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help will on the third Saturday of June while June 17 until the last Saturday of the month in Maco, Compostela Valley is the Kaimonan Festival. “Kaimonan” is a native Mansaka term for thanksgiving. Town fiestas of Montevista and San Antonio in New Bataan, Compostela Valley will be celebrated on June 8 and 13, respectively. The Municipality of Kaputian District on the Samal Island, Davao del Norte has its White Nights Festival, a sunrise to sunset celebration of its founding day on June 18.
For a taste of the Filipino Muslim culture, indulge in the Pakaradyan Festival held in Malapatan, Sarangani on June 21. The festival is a showcase of food and delicacies of the rich Muslim culture as a festival highlight including one of their famous delicacies, tinagtag, a special kind of rice crispy.
On the same day of June 24, the City of Manila, the capital of the Philippines, observes its Foundation Day. Manila, the hub of the thriving metropolitan area, commemorates its founding way back in the year 1571 by the Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. A special non-working holiday for city workers and students, the day features a film festival and firework display.
The month of June is the best time to travel to Leyte for more excitement and experience one of the Philippines’ finest cultural festivals! In Tacloban City, the Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival literally paints life with more color through variety shows, cultural presentations, talent competitions, musical concerts, beauty and photo contests, native sailboat regatta, tours and exhibits, marching bands, baratillos, tiangges or native flea markets, and a balikbayan nostalgia night.
Leyte’s biggest festival has thousands of pintados, or cultural street-dancers, in full body paint parade the city thoroughfares. The Pintados–Kasadyaan Festival is a merry-making event that showcases the traditional body painting of symbols and designs of the ancient Filipinos. The body paints serve as adornments with the designs having stories about folklore and legends. This yearly and high-spirited event continues the tale of the conversion to Christianity of Leyte’s present-day descendants who have developed great love for their patron Señor Sto Niño, the Holy Child Jesus Christ, with the Ritual Dance Presentation and the “Pagrayhak” Grand Parade highlights on June 27. Two days after the big festival on June 29, Tacloban City stages the Sangyaw Festival and the Balyu-an Rites to focus on the religious procession and cultural activities in honor of Sto. Niño de Leyte. This month-long celebration culminates with the city fiesta of Tacloban on June 30.
Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary
Amidst blissful weddings and blushing June brides, this year is the nationwide celebration of the 150th birthday of Dr. Jose Protacio Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, who was born on June 19, 1861 in Calamba, Laguna where a civic parade features the hero’s life. In Rizal province, founding anniversary is a month-long celebration through street dancing, basketball exhibition, art contest, trade fair, quiz bee, beauty and talent contests, civic parade and ballroom dancing for senior citizens. Zamboanga del Norte’s Dapitan City starts its tribute to Rizal through the Hudyaka Festival showcasing the province’s best on May 22 to its charter day celebration on June 22 with fitting activities as the first ‘Shrine City’ of the Philippines culminating with the observance of Rizal’s arrival and exile there on July 17.
The nationwide sesquicentennial celebration of the birth of the national hero is being led by National Historic Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) with the Department of Tourism. With its theme “Rizal: Haligi ng Bayan,” the NCHP have prepared a full blast of activities throughout the country for the whole month including the Lakbay Jose Rizal @ 150 Heritage Trail and an international photo contest on Rizal Monuments, Parks and Plazas. These year-long programs will relive the life of the pride of the Malayan race, Gatpuno Jose Rizal - the Great Malayan.
Through Rizal’s writings and subsequently with his execution on December 30, 1896 by the Spanish colonizers, the Filipinos were awakened, moved to revolt and fought for freedom. Finally, on the 12th of June 1898, the country’s independence was declared.
The 113th year of Philippine Independence will be commemorated in the different historical sites throughout the country. In Kawit, Cavite, a reenactment of the historic proclamation of Philippine Independence will be held. Further down south in Panabo City, Davao del Norte, the country’s liberation from foreign rule as well as celebration of living heroes will be witnessed with military honors and historical tribute.
Summer vacation may be over for many. June will once again be a busy month for students as they troop back to school. But this does not stop Filipinos from being festive for many special reasons. Indeed, Filipinos love fiestas and June is still a time to truly experience some unique Filipino traditions and the diverse culture of the Philippines like no other month of the year.