May 15 is an auspicious time for farmers and those in the traditional agriculture industries, as far as Catholic Filipinos are concerned. It is the feast day of St Isidore the Laborer, or San Isidro Labrador as we come to know him. His feast day is marked with celebrations of which the Pahiyas in Lucban is one of the well known festivities. In Bulacan, the town of Pulilan has been celebrating the Kneeling Carabaos Festival but on the eve of the saint’s feast.
The Kneeling Carabao Festival
The town has been celebrating this for several years already, although not as grand or as popular as the Pahiyas, but it’s unique in its own right. The Kneeling Carabaos Festival is, first and foremost, a harvest festival, giving thanks to the San Isidro for the bountiful fruits of the land but honoring also the ever reliable and the farmer’s best friend, the carabao. These unwavering tillers of the land comes from different neighboring municipalities and provinces and assemble at the highway in different fineries. Some are colorfully painted with their carts bedecked in agricultural produce and multihued buntings.
There are carts bearing a local beauty or an image of the saint while a small contingent of dancers follow. Once the parade starts, the carabaos slowly trudge down the highway to the cheers of locals and visitors lining the streets. As they pass, people shout luhod (kneel) and some owners oblige by letting the animals kneel. I was told that as early as they are young, these animals are already trained to kneel. When the do pass the town church, these animals then kneel infront to the cheers of the people. As this is also a contest, judges are nearby.
The following day, May 15, there’s another parade. This time a street dancing competition participated by the different public high and elementary schools of Pulilan as part of the Kneeling Carabaos Festival. The town is particularly proud that they commissioned a specific tune and music and a choreography apt for the festival. Just like the previous day, the different contingents assembled at the same spot, which is just before the bend at the highway entering the poblacion.
From there, they sashay and dance along the road, executing some dance steps. The final showdown happens at the rather small plaza in front of the church. Most of the contingents have colorful traditional wear that evokes farm life. This is so unlike other festivals wherein the costumes are so outlandish and even extremely designed to the point of becoming hilarious.
I love the Kneeling Carabaos Festival of Pulilan. It’s small and colorful without being too outlandish. The street dancing is true to its theme without overtly outlandhish costumes. And It’s way closer to Metro Manila than other festival. What’s more, Pulilan is an interesting town that one can visit with its own share of beautiful heritage houses, resorts, food and wall art that celebrate the carabao.
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