Higantes Festival

Higantes Festival

WET AND WILD FIESTA. The history of fiestas runs deep in the Philippines and the lakeshore town of Angono is no exception. As in most towns that sit on the coast of Laguna de Bay, linking merriment and thanksgiving by being drenched is not unusual, for Angono traditionally thrives at the harvest of largest lake in the country.

When we arrived in Angono on a sunny weekday morning to witness its annual fiesta, the narrow street in front of the town plaza was already swollen with revelers. Spectators who had been pressing towards the procession path, thus making the street narrower were all dripping wet as they relentlessly splattered water on each other and on those unsuspecting guests who later realized that have become part of the wet and wild Higantes Festival.

Higantes Festival Angono

Higantes Festival Rizal

ARTSY PROTEST. The fishing and farming town of Angono was once ruled by a Spanish landlord. Concerned with the costs and the loss revenue from fiestas, he banned all celebrations except the feast day of San Clemente on the 23rd of November.

As a form of protest against their stingy landlord and to make the non-working holiday more festive, the townspeople created enormous and colorful effigies of their Spanish landlord and his family whose hands are high up on their waist. They fashioned the giants’ heads from papier mache while the bodies were made from bamboo sticks and yards of colorful clothing.

Higantes Festival family

Higantes Festival poilitical protest

POLITICAL EFFIGIES. When the first higantes paraded on the streets of Angono centuries ago, it consisted of three figures, the father, the mother and the son until in 1987 when the late Perdigon Vocalan initiated of having a Higantes Festival to be participated by all 13 barangays in Angono.

In front of the Angono municipal hall, we saw several higantes decorated with symbolic representations of each barangay and effigies representing political personalities.

Higantes Festival parehadoras

UNINHIBITED REVELERS. The higantes were part of the procession marching alongside with the throngs of uninhibited revelers, armies of brass bands and baton twirlers, and joyful groups of women and young girls called Parehadoras, who were dressed in their chosen theme holding paddles and wearing wooden clogs or bakya.

BENEDICTION. Procession participants were of varying degree of wetness after having had to dodge or receive buckets of water and showers from hoses aimed at them by residents along the procession route.

Like light touches of holy water during benediction, Angono folks believe that showers along the procession route means double or even infinite blessings.

Higantes Festival San Clemente Angono

Higantes Festival Viva San Clemente

VIVA SAN CLEMENTE. At around ten in morning, the image of San Clemente in glorious papal vestment carried on an anda by male devotees made its appearance under the canopy of red and yellow banderitas on its way to the lakeshore in Barangay San Vicente.

Higantes Festival San Clemente

SAN CLEMENTE. Pope Clement I was the fourth pontiff after St. Peter. He was  martyred by being thrown into the sea tied on an anchor. In Angono, St. Clement’s feast day is celebrated with a fluvial procession in Laguna Lake.

Higantes Festival Virgin Mary

FLUVIAL PROCESSION. By the time we reached Wawa Park in Barangay San Vicente, we witnessed a joyful festival by the lakeshore with dripping revelers, swimmers, boats, the National Coastguard and a decorated pagoda.

The pagoda is a structure fashioned from intricately tied bamboo poles mounted on a large raft and decorated with colorful banners and buntings.

Higantes Festival Pagoda sa Wawa

PAGODA SA WAWA. Both spectators and the reverent townspeople have filled the nearby watchtower and were already crowding by the lakeshore. Organizers also made sure to limit the number of passengers boarding the pagoda to avoid accidents.

By the time the procession carrying the  images of St. Clement and the Blessed Mother arrived, the devotees began shouting Viva San Clemente! The gleeful pandemonium climaxed when the holy images were successfully brought up to the pagoda.

Higantes Festival Pagoda

EPILOGUE.  The tugboat started up and the Pagoda slowly began to move across Laguna de Bay towards the lakeside in Barangay Poblacion Ibaba. It was only then when I realized that I am witnessing an idealized and bucolic scene from Jose Blancos painting Fiesta ng Angono.

-Feast day of San Clemente, 2010


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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. i’m verifying stories in paete that the higantes were actually from paete, borrowed after the Salibanda (the basaan fiesta in january) but used to start their own festival. it seems logical, it uses giant paper mache made from paete and there’s also the basaan, again, borrowed from the Salibanda 😛

  2. Good Afternoon! Can I just ask who first initiated this festival?

  3. Hello sir. Is it going to be next Wed, the 23rd? What time does the festival start? I’m from QC and I’m planning to go there next week. Where should I alight to watch the “parade”, if I take the public transportation from Shaw or Cubao to Angono? Thanks! =)

    • It’s a whole morning event. I suggest you make it to Angono’s plaza around 9 am. The procession to Wawa park will start around that time but the crowd has start assembling earlier that 9. bring water-proof gear.

  4. hello sir Im john from Cavite. I want to learn more about this festival! im from events and allied services please contact me on my number sir 09175687030

  5. Hi TOF, I don’t see any text going along with this post. Could you please tell us the significance of the giants, and other interesting photos? I’ve never heard of this festival..

    • Hello queeniebee, been excited to post the pictures the same day we covered the event. Essay will follow shortly… still composing. In brief, Higantes Festival is a folk religious festival in honor of the town’s patron San Clemente. The celebration started when the town of Angono was still under a landlord who prohibited the townspeople from celebrating fiesta, assigning only the feast of St. Clement (November 23). To make the most out of single day fiesta, they came up with the Higantes Festival. Giant effigies of their landlord were paraded around town. The festivities end with a fluvial procession in Laguna de Bay.

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