#TravelPH - Exploring Nueva Ecija's Taong Putik Festival

June 24 is observed as the feast day of Saint John the Baptist and many regions in the Philippines celebrate it. The day offers an excuse to engage in revelry such as dousing water on unwary people.

But not in Aliaga, Nueva Ecija, in Barangay Bibiclat, where hundreds of devotees of the village's patron saint, John the Baptist, transform themselves into "mud people" -- literally "taong putik."  The locals call  the ritual Pagsa-San Juan. Outsiders call it the Taong Putik Festival, an event  -- an experience -- that has recently  caught  the attention and interest of the tourism sector.

Nobody knows exactly when the Taong Putik Festival started. One legend says the image of the patron saint which was brought to Bibiclat by early Ilocano settlers, helped in driving away poisonous snakes from the village. The name "Bibiclat" came from the Ilocano word "biclat" meaning snake.  Another legend says that when Japanese soldiers during World War II were about to execute all the men in the village in retaliation for the death of 13 fellow soldiers, it rained so hard that the male villagers had to be herded into the church to seek shelter. After a while, the Japanese soldiers had a change of mind and set their captives free. The residents attributed this to a miracle of Saint John the Baptist, and  vowed to pay homage to him on his feast day by wearing costumes patterned after his attire -- this time, using native materials. 

As early as 4:00 am, devotees prepared to join the procession. They went to the rice field to get some mud and placed it on their entire bodies and faces. After smearing mud, they wrapped themselves with dry leaves to hide their identity during the procession.

After the preparation, devotees proceed to the church for a thanksgiving mass followed by lighting of candles and procession. The mud signifies the sins people have committed and despite all that, God still loves His people no matter what. 

 Here are more photos from the trip!

TRIVIA: A Cinemalaya 2014 entry entitled ASINTADO which stars Aiko Melendez and Jake Vargas has been inspired to be shot during the said festival.

TRIVIA: There's a scene in Kris Aquino's horror film Sukob that has been shot in the same festival

Until my next adventure!

Team Nueva!

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