Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The merry month of May in the Philippines

Note.  This photo-essay appeared in 09-15 May 2014 issue of the FilAm Star, 'the newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America' published weekly in San Francisco. This author/blogger is the Special News/Photo Correspondent of the paper in the Philippines. 

The “May Day” of international workers is simply Labor Day in the calendar of official holidays in the Philippines. It’s Mayo Uno to the militant labor groups, which, as expected, converged near the  Mendiola Peace Arch to “express disappointment” with the Benigno Aquino III government on various labor-related issues, the state of our economy, and RP-US relations following the state visit of Barack Obama and the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

While there was no fiesta on Mendiola to open the month of May, there were no banners, streamers and a PNoy Aquino effigy to burn in many places around the archipelago celebrating May 1 in honor of their patron saint, St. Joseph the Worker.  It so happened that in 1955, according to Roman Catholic accounts, Pope Pius XII instituted this date as feast day of the saint in response to the “May Day” celebrations of the Communists.

Joseph the Worker is more associated with carpentry; hence, in Notre Dame Village in Cotabato City, his feast day is called Duyog Panday, and in Lonoy, Jagna, Bohol, their celebration is a Pandayan Festival, panday being the local term for carpenter.

The other laborer in the Roman Catholic pantheon of saints is San Isidro Labrador, which translates to San Isidro the Farmer, who is honored on May 15.  He is the patron saint of harvest.

The colorful celebration of the town folks of Lucban, Quezon is popularly known as Pahiyas. As their gesture of thanksgiving for rich harvests, they decorate the facades of their houses with “kiping”, multi-colored rice paste confections shaped like leaves, together with vegetables, fruits, flowers and even handicrafts. Other Quezon towns that celebrate the harvest festival on May 15 are Tayabas, Sariaya, Gumaca and Tiaong. 

In Pulilan, Bulacan, San Isidro is honored with a parade of carabaos decorated with garlands and led to kneel in front of the town church.  In Angono, Rizal, their festival parade has carabaos pulling carts laden with local products. 

Elsewhere in the archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, several towns and cities have festivities in May revolving around crop harvests or locally manufactured products.

A roving fiesta goer may have started in Agoo, La Union on May 1 partaking in the Dinengdeng Feastival, dinengdeng being the Ilocano term for the mix of vegetables in a broth seasoned with fish sauce.  From there, he can move around the country for the taste of other products. Marilao, Bulacan celebrates the luyang dilaw (yellow ginger) on May 2, while Sinait, Ilocos Sur gets hot on bawang (garlic) on May 3.  Bountiful harvests of coconut and bangus are reasons for the folks of Pinamungajan, Cebu to host their Pamuhuan Festival on May 4. Naguilian, La Union toasts with their native wine, the basi, on May 7.  It’s saging (banana) in Lazi, Siquijor on May 10, lubi (coconut) in Maria, Siquijor on May 21 and in Gingoog City on May 22.  He can go for higanteng alimango (giant mud crabs) in Calauag, Quezon on May 25 during their Katang Festival, and possibly end the month with helpings of rosquillos, one of Cebu’s primary baked delicacies, in Liloan, Cebu on May 29.  These are just some of the gustatory festivals spread across the country during the month. 

May is also associated with Marian festivities.   There’s the Flores de Mayo that involves floral offerings to Mary during the month.

On May 1, the town folks of Baras, Rizal have their Troamba Festival in honor of the Nuestra Señora de Turumba.  It’s the Pastores Festival in Gapan City, Nueva Ecija for their patron saint, the Nuestra Señora dela Virgen Divina Pastora.

In our coastal barangay of La Paz in San Narciso, Zambales, the first Saturday of the month is the fixed day to honor the Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje.  This year’s religious celebrations included processions of Marian images and that of San Sebastian, the town’s patron saint, borne on bancas or motor boats at sea early in the morning, and on decorated carrozas around the barangay in the early evening. The peryahan at the beach front, boat racing competition in the morning, the civic parade in the afternoon, and whole day feasts were all in the fiesta program for visitors to enjoy.

The Turumba Festival 2014 of Pakil, Laguna in honor of the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Turumba (Mahal na Birhen ng Hapis) is spread on various dates from April 11 to September 14.  This month, there’s the Fiestang Biyernes of May 9, the Fiesta Pakilena of May 12, the Fiestang Linggo of May 18, the Fiestang Pag-akyat of May 30, and the Ahunan sa Pingas of May 31.  This year is the 226th anniversary of the finding of the picture of Our Lady in Laguna Lake on September 15 , 1788.

One of the most popular religious events during the month is in Obando, Bulacan where three patron saints are celebrated through song and dance:  the Obando Fertility Rites on May 17-19. 

Tradition has the men asking for the help of San Pascual de Baylon in their search for a wife, the girls praying for a life-time partner through Santa Clara, and childless couples praying for the intercession of Our Lady of Salambao to have a child.  The Our Lady is also the patroness of fishermen, hence, her help is sought for Obando’s principal industry, fishing.

The Santacruzan may have started in several parts of the country.  Through the years, this has veered to almost a parade of local town beauties, and gays, in many places nationwide.  There are several Santacruzans marked out for foreign tourists in the More Fun in the Philippines calendar of the Department of Tourism.

It may be hot in May, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from fiesta hopping.

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