The Angono Town Fiesta: An Introspection by Someone Who's Born and Raised There

Thursday, November 26, 2015

higantes festival

The memory of the recently concluded fiesta is still fresh on my mind. The air smelling faintly of menudo as I rode my pink bicycle on the street gallery of Doña Aurora. Barely half across the tamang panahon bridge, a good sir had dumped a scoop of water down my back, somewhat soiling the extra set of clothes I was carrying inside my rucksack. It was still quite early but I was already soaked. I even found myself negotiating with a pitcher-wielding teen shortly before I made the turn from the main thoroughfare. No surprise there. I knew the drill. That day, after all, was a cultural event where basaan is a treasured tradition.
I've been told I take the basaan a little too seriously
angono town fiesta
That awkward moment when kids have better "weapons" than you
angono higantes festival
Tubig! Tubig!
I grew up fascinated and involved in the concept of fiestas in general and the Higantes Festival in particular. I participated in the whole affair of Angono's town fiesta as young as the age of nine, playing an indigenous instrument called gabbang for my elementary school's marching band. Of late, the higantes are flashier; the preparations much grander; and the activities stretch all November, but essentially, it had just about the same brouhaha as it had back when I was in grade school.
filipino fiesta
It had lovely majorettes and colorful marching bands then, still does
angono higantes
Every year, I participate in this event and I still get giddy over the higantes
On the surface, Angono's fiesta appears just like your typical Filipino fete. Colorful streamers line the streets, fiesta paraphernalia are festooned all over town, and a general sense of joviality just palpable in the air. To an onlooker, there are the commonplace parades and processions, complete with religious images and several musical ensembles, highlighting the event. And just like a typical Filipino fiesta, said onlooker is required to attend any of the parties thrown in almost all of the houses in the vicinity.
angono fluvial procession
The makeshift pagoda which will carry the image of the town's patron saint San Clemente across Laguna de Bay to the other side of town
religious parade
No to gender roles. Women heave the image of San Isidro de Labrador during the fluvial procession
But, for someone who grew up immersed in this tradition, it is difficult to cast aside the nuisances and subtle transformations of this local custom. For instance, the plain motley pennants I knew from back then are now imprinted with the logo of whichever establishment is responsible for putting them up. The higantes which, not only are now made out of more resilient fiber glass instead of papier-mache, have also been relegated to being a medium for blatant advertising. From these crude details to arguably irrelevant activities such as concerts (sponsored by liquor companies no less), it's hard to deny the entire affair had become, dare I say it, commercialized.

Don't get me wrong. I am all for sponsorships and partnerships with commercial establishments. In fact, I appreciate that local businesses are taking part and showing support to the activity. My concern is the association that people, especially those of the younger generations, are unconsciously forming all because of the byproducts of these partnerships.

The meaning behind the celebration appears to get lost somewhere in the mishmash of party-drinking and letting loose. I stood cringing as I watched boys in ridiculous costumes perform equally ridiculous stunts; recoiled at a group of men proffering shots of Red Horse to the parading crowd, including teachers chaperoning students; and almost got caught in the middle of a brewing riot – all during the fluvial procession.
pinoy fiesta
Disrespectful or all in good fun? This is one of the eternal conundrum of the town fiesta
filipino fiesta
There is a thin line between being entertaining and being ridiculous. I must admit, this one was quite entertaining
I am used to the elaborate celebration and I don't profess to be an expert on fiestas and cultures. I hadn't experienced the simple and frugal gathering older residents are nostalgic for. I'm not suggesting that things are necessarily good or bad. I don't claim that I fully understand the roots of this age-old tradition (although I have been reading up). But what I am is someone who had found ways to enjoy the fiesta come what may. I am someone who has a strong concept of how these types of celebrations should be conducted but believes it's better to let others be and just have fun. As long as no one is harmed – in every sense of the word – and people's lives are uplifted one way or another, I say "to each his own." And though, each year, the clamor gets louder and louder, and the merriment more and more over-the-top, I see in this no drastic change – only an inevitable evolution. But at the end of the day, all these are thrown outside the window, for all that we're looking for is just a really really good time.
angono fiesta 2015
And a possible case of pneumonia

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