Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Town Centre's Fiesta
7-8-9 of February 2007
(Edited, January 2014)

Written in: Poblacion, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, PHILIPPINES
Composition: Impromptu
Previous Post: Our Old Jeep

Almost every town or barangay in the Philippines celebrates a festival called a Fiesta. While some of these are in celebration of a pre-colonial past, most are in commemoration or in honour of a Christian Patron Saint.


For Santa Maria's town centre, the Poblacion, the Fiesta is in honour of the Sta. Maria de Immaculada Conception (St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception? I guess?). This is a 3 day celebration, usually falling on the first full week of February. Now this is NOT a fiesta involving the whole town but rather, just the town centre - every other barangay has a fiesta to commemorate their own patron saint. However, being the Town Capitol, pretty much the whole town comes out to the festivities.

Like the Fiestas I remember from my childhood, there were many events, contests, concerts, and parades held all in the name of the patron saint.


I was a bit disappointed that my relatives didn't really give this event as much interest as I did. My cousins and my childhood friends have now gotten all too used, if not tired, of this annual event. I think this too was the beginning of them getting comfortable with me. The thing about 'Filipino hospitality' is that while you will be shown a good time as a visitor, it inevitably requires special effort to do so, and any effort takes energy to sustain for long. Maybe I was overstaying my welcome. Or perhaps I had just become 'one of them' in their view. They probably started thinking, "We hate this, you'll probably hate this too." This I couldn't get since, the whole town centre undergoes a complete makeover!


The most obvious is the visual transformation. Tassels and fiesta banderitas adorn the streets, and every homeowner will make it a point to dress up their house one way or another - perhaps recycling some decorations from the previous Pasko - to augment the glorious buffet that they will offer as a feast. Throughout this period, their houses will be open to anyone, invited or not, wanting to partake in the feast.

Filipinos may pride themselves with celebrating the longest and most festive Christmas, but Christmas actually is not the most festive celebration of the year - that distinction belongs to the Fiestas.

In fact, Fiestas have something big that Christmas does not: Perya. The English translation is "Fair" or "Fairgrounds", "Carnival" and it's pretty much exactly like that. In Sta. Maria, this makeshift Carnival (peryaan) is erected on an empty field across from the Palengke.  Here is a beautiful Canon produced film about Perya. (2014 addition)

And I never got to sample it all over again, all because no one I know would go with me. I never got to see this aspect of Filipino Culture which I had been missing after a ten year absence. It could be that I've told them about the Stampede in Calgary, and they probably think that their Carnival rides, games, and sideshow attractions pale in comparison to ours. "Oh, Randy, you've seen bigger and better things, why waste your time with our rinky dink Perya." And it's probably true that it is 'rinky dink'. But I would not dare belittle the Perya. It's cultural immersion. It's research. It's really getting to know a country. When I say "I want to experience everything" I mean it.

But, I suppose my friends and relatives do have their reasons for regarding this event as an inconvenience. For instance, because almost everyone would be downtown, celebrating, the whole Poblacion turns into a crowded traffic nightmare. Not only that, this is when the swindlers ( manlolokos, and manggaganchos), street side con-artists come out. Add to that the pickpockets and other petty thieves. (This is also why it's not wise to go alone to a Perya)

So if the first Sta. Maria Town Centre Fiesta that I celebrated in a decade was a bit scaled down, compared to previous years, it was because I couldn't get anyone to go experience it with me.

Still, I managed to catch a few glimpses of one of the special events.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-bSKN-Fz7DwU/UsyxaQ6KgxI/AAAAAAAAAnc/Kp20hZCIvDs/s1600/IMG_0126.JPGDuring one water delivery with Cousin Jojo, we got caught in the middle of a Marching Band battle.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-lF9l3IAVgwU/UsyxW9NxxdI/AAAAAAAAAnM/CY4zpVB9yYU/s1600/IMG_0124.JPGWe were dropping off a few gallons of his purified, "AquaJelz" brand, water to a preferred customer who lived downtown. We could already hear the bands, but paid no mind. But as we turned into our usual route out, we were surprised to find ourselves right smack in the middle of it all. I promptly climbed out and took some photos.


The next day, with my Uncle Tito, I managed to make a few rounds through a few households - sampling the delicious Filipino food on offer as a feast.


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