F is for Fiesta

Bah! I totally forgot I was participating in PBP! Well, F is for fiesta, and what better time to write about fiestas than today, the 28th of May, as my hometown celebrates its 115th anniversary. It commemorates the Battle of Alapan, an historical battle that took place just a few days before the first Philippine Declaration of Independence.

In a more folk religious setting, though, our fiesta mainly celebrates the return of the Magdalena. She is the superstar of our fiesta. I mean, it’s good to remember what our valiant predecessors did for the country two or three generations ago, but people need something to hold on to that’s more “everyday”. This is where everyday folk figures such as Santa María Magdalena play an important role in the celebratory religion that is “Folk Catholicism” (the more inclusive, more fun-loving, participatory twin of “Church Catholicism”).

As with many other Christian saints, our Magdalena is not quite identical to her biblical counterpart as, here, her graces are strangely tied to agricultural fertility. Every year, the people of Alapan carry the Magdalena on their backs in a 7-hour processional dance called karakól, dancing all the way from her shrine in Kawit to the rice paddies of Alapan, in order for the Magdalena to usher in the rainy season and bless the fields. For a farming community, it’s no wonder why we love her so much.


She is quite heavy, so it takes heavy built men to carry her.


It is customary for the ladies to spray her dress with perfume as she did with Jesus in the Gospels.


Pretty deity, walking down the street…
Pretty deity, the kind I’d like to meet…


Soon, little rice babies shall spring here.


Kanluran (Tagalog for “west”) is where most of our farms are and is the place where the Magdalena dances last.


The sun will not set until the Magdalena comes to dance.


Tonight she rests for tomorrow is another 7-hour dance to her hometown.

Tomorrow, I shall upload a video of her dance. Wait and see!


One thought on “F is for Fiesta

  1. Pingback: Aba Ginoong Magdalena | Under Two Trees

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