If you're going out on June 24, make sure you wear waterproof clothes.
That's because, like most Christian countries, the Philippines celebrates that day as the Feast of St. John the Baptist (a.k.a. "San Juan Bautista"). And Filipinos celebrate it in a particular manner: By splashing passersby with water.
Of course, it's all in good fun. The act is supposed to commemorate the moment of your baptism, since — as you might've guessed — that's what San Juan Bautista is known for. Aside from that, there are other ways Filipinos remember the birth of the saint, as seen in these six places you'd want to drop by this Friday.
Aliaga, Nueva Ecija
No one really knows how the "Taong Putik Festival" (a.k.a. "Mud People Festival") came to be. Some say that, when early Ilocano settlers brought a figure of San Juan into a barangay, the poisonous snakes there suddenly disappeared. (Ever since, that barangay was known as "Bibiclat," after the Ilocano word for poisonous snake, or "biclat.") Others suggest that the figure saved the barangay's men from execution by the Japanese, who sought revenge for the death of 13 of their number.
At any rate, Aliaga's festival is possibly one of the most bizarre in the country. It involves devotees who dress themselves in mud, which in turn is covered by native materials like dried leaves and vines. The devotees then travel from one house to another, ask for alms and end their journey at the church plaza. There, they light candles to honor San Juan Bautista.
In Balayan, the "Parada ng Lechon" ("Parade of Roasted Pigs") is considered the highlight of the festivities. As the name suggests, lechon are paraded around town dressed in the most ridiculous costumes you can imagine, in accordance with the theme for that year. Those who carry the lechon also experience getting splashed with water (and beer!) by onlookers, before bringing their cargo to their destination and sharing a delicious, free meal for anyone who cares to take a bite.
Every June 23, Calumpit's residents hold the "Libad Festival," where they have a fluvial procession of boats carrying well-decorated pagodas along the Calumpit River. As you can imagine, there's an unspoken competition on who has the best-looking pagoda, and if you're one of the onlookers, expect to get splashed with river water for your trouble.
Province of Iloilo
With Badiangan, Banate, Dingle, Igbaras and Sara to choose from, Iloilo is one of the best places to stay this weekend. That's because all five hold festivals in honor of San Juan Bautista, which means there's five times the chance you'll be covered in copious amounts of water. (See what we mean about carrying waterproof clothes?)
Pola, Oriental Mindoro
According to local legend, a fisherman once found a statue of San Juan Bautista on the shore. That statue became Pola's patron saint, and is honored every year with the "Sab'uyan Festival." Here, devotees carry the statue via a colorful procession towards the spot where it was originally found. They then splash seawater onto each another chanting "Viva San Juan Bautista! (Long Live St. John the Baptist!). It's said that the seawater during this time brings health, happiness and luck, so don't miss out on it!
San Juan City, Metro Manila
From its name, you can already guess why June 24 is a significant day for the city's residents. Whenever that date rolls around, San Juan's residents observe the "Wattah! Wattah! Basaan Festival," where children and adults alike splash each other with water as early as 7 in the morning.
Luckily for those who want to stay dry, the City Ordinance stipulates that those who don't want to get drizzled may choose not to participate. Also, any potentially hazardous water-guzzling equipment — such as water pumps, water balloons and ice water — are strictly forbidden. The festival lasts until 12 noon, after which everyone can take their time to dry off until the next round of celebrations begins.
Other Tidbits About San Juan Bautista in the Philippines
- Outside the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, there's a life-sized sculpture of San Juan Bautista. At the base is this inscription: "Erected at Plaza Carriedo, let this statue be a reminder to all who come to this shrine of the God who calls them for repentance. Let this also be a sign and a witness to the unwavering faith of Filipinos who persevere in their devotion to our Blessed Lord Jesus the Nazarene since the 17th century."
- Incidentally, June 24 is also "Araw ng Maynila" (lit: "Day of Manila" or "Manila Day"), the date when the city was founded in 1571. This 2016, there's a "Balik-Tanaw sa Maynila" ("Looking Back on Manila") exhibit, which runs at the Baywalk along Roxas Boulevard from June 20 to 23.
As a people who are mostly Roman Catholics, Filipinos take the Feast of San Juan Bautista seriously (or not-so-seriously, depending on how you view the water-dousing thing). At any rate, check out at least one of the places above, and may San Juan Bautista bless you!