“I baptize you with water to show that you have repented, but the one who will come after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. He is much greater than I am; and I am not good enough even to carry his sandals.” Matthew 3: 11
A lot of places across the country – and all over the world – celebrate June 24 as the feast day of Saint John the Baptist, the last prophet of the Old Testament and the first saint of the New Testament. Other than the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John the Baptist is the only saint whose birth is celebrated in the Christian liturgy; feasts of other saints are celebrated on the day of their death. He is a very important person in the Christian history because he cleansed and prepared the people for the coming of Jesus Christ by baptizing them in the Jordan River.
Here are some Philippine festivals held in honor of Saint John the Baptist:
Wattah! Wattah! San Juan Fiesta!
Since 2003, this lively event has been one of the most popular festivals in Metro Manila. Vehicles and passers-by will not be able to avoid being drenched on the streets and roads of San Juan City. The highlights of this festival are the “water motorcade” led by the city’s fire trucks, the “Santong Tao Parade” (Parade of Live Saints), a streetdance competition, and the traditional “basaan”, or the dousing of water on every pedestrian, driver, and commuter. It is believed that this practice brings good luck, well-being, and happiness.
Feast of Saint John the Baptist in Pola, Oriental Mindoro
The people of Pola, Oriental Mindoro reverently take St. John’s image from its niche in the church, carry it on a procession accompanied by a band, and set it on a beautifully decorated boat to the sea, where it was believed in a legend to have been found a long time ago. From the boat at sea to the procession on land where the image is carried around town, devotees in native costumes chant “Viva San Juan Bautista” while splashing water onto one another.
In Calumpit, Bulacan, the Libad Festival is celebrated on June 23-24 where the sacred image of St. John the Baptist is borne in a colorfully decorated barge escorted by several native boats representing every village of Calumpit as it roves along the cool waters of the town’s river while townsfolk watch along the riverbank and on the historical bridge dousing water to people as part of the fluvial procession.
Taong Putik Festival of Barangay Bibiclat in Aliaga, Nueva Ecija, is an unusual practice by the devotees of their patron saint where they completely cover their bodies with mud and adorn themselves with vines while roaming the streets asking from alms and offering them during a special church mass. It is an imitation of the act of John the Baptist who wore animal skin to deceive those who sought after him. These devotees are henceforth called “nagsa–San Juan” by the Aliaga townsfolk, who, after the mass, wash and dress up to partake of the feast offerings and merriment.
For those with hungry tummies, the people of Balayan, Batangas, share their unique celebration of St. John’s feastday with the Parada ng mga Lechon, or the parade of roasted pigs. Hundreds of lechons, the favorite centerpiece of every Filipino fiesta buffet, are colorfully dressed up and paraded around the town before being served for all to enjoy.
Meanwhile, down south in Cagawait, Surigao del Sur, the Kaliguan Festival is also held in honor of the same patron, highlighted by a beauty pageant in search for the Perlas ng Kaliguan, as well as beach dancing.
San Juan Hibok-Hibok
In Camiguin Island, the venues of San Juan Hibok-Hibok are the beaches of Cabua-an and Agohay where residents and visitors engage in watersports such as aqua palosebo, fluvial procession and the search for Miss Hibok-Hibokan beauty contest.