May is Fiesta Time in Batangas

In the month of May, town fiestas are very common in Batangas and different barrios celebrate their own respective fiestas.  Alitagtag was probably the only town in Batangas or maybe in the Philippines that celebrated two fiestas, one on May 3 and another one on May 7.  May 3 was the feast day of the Holy Cross in Binukalan in Alitagtag.  It was also the town fiesta of the neighboring town of Bauan.  May 7 is the big town fiesta in Alitagtag.

In the olden days, preparation was undertaken to really go all out to impress everyone.  Every house in town started preparing for the big day starting on May 4.  The people work hard to make their homes presentable, cleaning and scrubbing floors and windows, putting new curtains on the windows and have the whole house in a festive mood.  Streets were decorated with bamboo arches and brightly colored paper streamers.  The town plaza had vendors selling toys, trinkets and food.  There were ferris wheels, carousel and other entertainment on the plaza near the church.

Batanguenos love to eat and they are great cooks and fiestas around the towns showcase their expertise in cooking delicious meals.  Preparation for making suman was scheduled to have the ingredients for the recipes bought and be ready on May 4.  Banana leaves were picked to be used in cooking suman.  Suman is a desert or snack whose ingredients are malagkit na bigas, (a special sticky rice), coconut milk and brown sugar, salt and wrapped in banana leaves.  It was mixed and then steamed to perfection.  This desert was cooked on May 5.

On May 6, a pig was slaughtered.  For several months before the feast, every house had one pig that they fattened and designated for the fiesta.  If you could not afford to have a pig, you would ask one of your relatives if you could share their pig.  All parts of the pig were cooked into different recipes.

Lechon (roasted pig) was an important dish for fiesta or big events as turkey on Thanksgiving Day in the United States or ham for Christmas in European countries. Chicken was also cooked on the same day. Another food specialty that was cooked on May 6 was called kalderetang kambing which was essentially stewed goat’s meat. Pancit which is a kind of noodle recipe was cooked on the eve of the feast.

Besides food, there were also some local fiesta games in Alitagtag. Palo Sebo was a traditional game played at fiesta time. Pabitin was another popular game with children in many fiestas. In some towns, prominent members of the community organized a ball for charity. By tradition, the Rigodon dance opened the ball.

On the eve and day of the fiesta, marching bands went around the town, making the day joyous and really festive. On the night of the fiesta, there was a big procession with carroza, a float carrying the image of the patron saint starting from the church and went through the barrios and back to church.

For more info on town fiesta and other customs and traditions, get your copy of the book “BAHALA NA (Come What May): A WWII Story of Love, Faith, Courage, Determination and Survival”.  Besides untold eyewitness account of the war in the Philippines, the book depicts the customs, traditions and way of life little known to people outside the Philippines.

“BAHALA NA (Come What May) is available at in paperback and Kindle.

Copyright©2013 Rosalinda Morgan