I caught the end of the 9 Emperor Gods Festival

Categories abroad, Places
A devotee who has abstained from meat during the 9 day festival. On the last day, some of these devotees do self mutilation, for this man, he pierced his cheeks. They move in a peculiar manner, sort of in a trance and followers will come near them to ask for blessings.
Drummer boy on a large drum beating to excite the crowd

If not for the taxi driver who informed me that he cannot go into one of the major streets because it was closed for a major festival, I wouldn’t have caught the end of the 9 Emperor Gods Festival in Alor Setar as the deities were being processioned and led to the river as they go back to the heavens via the river. Think about it. Travel as discovery and it was those moments wherein I can readily say I was at the right time at the right place.

According to beliefs, the nine emperor gods will go down via the waterways on the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar and for the next nine days, devotees will be celebrating and praying before they are then led back to the river. Devotees will shun meat and invoke the gods to possess their bodies that’s why during the last day procession, these men and some women are in trance, with some even piercing their cheeks, and the faithful believe that to be touched or given a token like candies, flower, fruit or water is a blessing.

I was supposed to check out the night market beside Darul Aman Stadium but when he mentioned a religious procession, my ears stood up and asked him to drive me to the nearest point to the event. It was unexpected and I had a great fun! Fun in a way that I discovered something new, a peek at how Taoist Chinese, a minority in Kedah, practice their beliefs and faith as well as being able to shoot this festival.

Check this short photo essay.

A Lion dance performed at the start of the processional.
The onlookers
A sculpture of one of the gods oing to their platform at a coffeeshop
Youth balancing a very long bamboo pole where their group’s flag is attached. There were several of these along the processional route
One of the devotees who the faithful believes that one of the emperor god’s spirit has entered into
One of the processional carts during a stopover.
Gong wielding men that they sound off from time to time.
The last processional cart with followers all dressed in white. Paper dolls and lanters decorated the float
Paper effigies on paper horse, part of the procession.
A follower supplicating to a devotee where an emperor god has entered into his body

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Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications.

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces.

I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

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