PAKIL FIESTA. The quiet town of Pakil in Laguna is home to a centuries-old healing ritual known as the Turumba. This street-dancing procession is held twice a year. First, during Pakil’s town fiesta on May 12 and second, on the feast day of the Our Lady of Sorrows every September 15.
A reenactment of the first Turumba is repeated every 15th of September to commemorate the founding of the town’s most important religious icon, the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores.
TURUMBA LEGEND. It was 1788 when some men went fishing on Laguna de Bay at the end of an unusual September storm. While rowing their bancas, the fishermen spotted an object bobbing against the tide. A group of fishermen were able to catch it with their net. Upon retrieving the object, they made several attempts to bring it to the church of Paete but the tide is drifting them away from the shore.
The object was settled on a wide flat rock in the lake shore of Pakil. As the curious town’s people gathered around the object, they found it to be a painting of the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores framed on a nine by eleven inch beaten silver. Some men folk tried to bring it to the church but was too heavy to lift not even the big woman named Marian-ga could move it off the rock.
HINDI MABUHAT! SUMAYAW NA LANG TAYO. The news about the wondrous icon reached the parish priest. That day being a Sunday, Padre Miguel Soriano instructed the altar boys, the choir, and those who came to hear the mass to assemble at the shore.
As the priest touched the painting, the people started jumping and clapping as an expression of joy. Padre Soriano found that the previously heavy painting has become light to carry as the towns people danced around the image. They continued dancing as they bring the painting to the church.
TURUMBA STREET DANCING. The original painting is kept in a chapel at the adjoining convent of San Pedro de Alacantara Church. During the annual procession, a statue of the Our Lady of Sorrows is taken down from the high altar of church and is brought to the narrow streets of Pakil on a silver anda carried by male devotees.
Stomping their feet and waving their arm in pointing gesture while chanting Turumba sa Birhen, the whole town participates in the dramatization of the first Turumba.
A HEALING DANCE. After the first Turumba, the dancing tradition continued as religious a parade for the sick. In a book by French surgeon Paul P. de la Gironier, he described the early Turumba as a procession celebrated yearly in the town of Pakil where all the sick and invalid take part in by dancing. In this manner, they believe, that they will get cured of their sufferings. Coming from places as far as 20 miles, the lame and sick who still have a little bit of strength plod themselves along to Pakil to participate in the fiesta. During the entire duration of the procession these unhappy ones dance assisted by helpers and shout Toromba la Virgen, la Virgen Toromba! It is a strange spectacle to see all these poor devils make superhuman efforts and incredible contortions until the Blessed Virgin is returned to the church. These unfortunate one at the end of their strength throw themselves to the ground gasping and rest motionless for hours. Those who are seriously ill often die of exhaustion, while others regain their health or get worst.
While the Turumba we see today is far from Gironier’s description, it retains its old two-step beat when healthy devotees act like sick men and women. National Artist Alejandro Roces explains that the turumba could be a blend of the words turo, to point and umbay, a hymn of grief. The act of pointing at the image and then patting another person are part of the Turumba ritual of transferring the healing powers of the religious icon to a person who needs healing.
EPILOGUE. The frenzied dancing and chanting continued until the silver anda bearing the antique image of the Virgin of Sorrow is carried back to the church.
This concludes the dramatization of the finding of the Virgin of Sorrow painting that made the people of Pakil dance for joy.
15 September 2015
Feast day of the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores.