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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Blanco‘s painting Fiesta ng Angono.
-Feast day of San Clemente, 2010