May 31 is a very important date in the calendar of the people of Alitagtag in the province of Batangas. They have the feast of Tapusan which literally means the end and it is celebrated in honor of the Holy Cross on the last day of May.
The Hermano Mayor, for the most part volunteers and come from the wealthier and more prominent families in town and cannot pass the opportunity for its prestige. He foots the bill for various fiesta features, from church decoration, church choir, meals at open house tables for the whole day of festivities. At times, he can go into deep debt to provide something extravagant for the feast since it can be hiya, (a shame of not living up to the standard of one’s community) to have a small party. Besides feeding his guests at home, there is also the ‘takeaway’ custom of sending guests home with extra food from the feast table.
The Hermana will have a big gathering at her house starting late morning. She will serve lunch and dinner and snacks in between the day and everybody in the town is invited. The hermana is also in charge for the big procession called “Santacruzan” (Festival of the Holy Cross) at night with floats, band and “Reyna Elena”. There is a contest on who has the best float. The floats are made by each “buklod” or village in secrecy so the other area will not know what the design is. Nobody can spy because everybody knows each other in the whole town and no person from another area is allowed in the area where the float is being made. After lunch, the ladies are frantically busy making the floral arrangements that the young ladies will hold at the parade. Young girls from 5 to 15 dress up in fancy long gowns to be in the parade. You have to be invited by the Hermana to be in the parade. The Hermana will be at the end of the parade, just in front of the float. Young children who are not in fancy clothes will tow the rope attached to the float. The young girls with fancy gowns will be inside the rope holding the floral arrangement with her consort holding a candle. The float is made to sit on top of a jeepney and driven slowly down the road, about one kilometer west of the ‘buklod” and one kilometer east of the “buklod”. Some “buklods” are more ambitious and will do two miles each way.
In Alitagtag, there is only one road in town, running east to west. Spectators usually go to the middle of the town to catch a glimpse of all eight floats, one for each village or “buklod”. Everybody in the parade walks slowly as they say the rosary. The band will be playing behind the float after each decade of the rosary. It is a very moving and festive experience. The whole town is aglow with lights. The floats are always fabulous and garner ohs and ahs from the crowd.
“Tapusan” is a day in May that everybody is looking forward to.
To learn more about customs and traditions of the Filipino people, get a copy of “Bahala Na (Come What May)” available in paperback and kindle at www.amazon.com/author/rosalindarmorgan.
“Bahala Na (Come What May): A WWII story of Faith, Love, Courage, Determination and Survival” is a historical fiction, a travelogue and a love story immersed in all the customs and traditions of the Filipino people.