Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Parada ng Lechon 2013 - a Playful Filipino Twist on St. John's Day

(WARNING:  If you're a big fan of might not want to read this.  I have spared you some of the more vivid descriptions of the food part of the celebration but if you don't like pictures of animal heads on sticks, this might not be the post for you.  Consider yourself warned.)

And this is why I think I'm gonna love it here.  Leave it to our wacky country hosts to spin an otherwise solemn liturgical celebration into a rip roarin', eatin', and drinkin' parade party.

Traditionally, St. John's Day (always on June 24) is observed throughout the country with some sort of water dousing ritual.  In Balayan, they take it to the extreme.  You have not been "blessed", if you haven't been soaked with freezing cold water apparently.  Turns out we were blessed.....A LOT.  It's basically a free for all water fight, pitting the parade participants against the spectators and NO ONE IS SAFE.  Grandmas, babies, old men with canes - all were victims AND perps!  It was a freakin' hoot!

What's with the dressed up pigs you ask?   Well, believe it or not, there's an explanation for that too! The pig is a cornerstone of any Filipino festival, tradition, or large gathering -- it seems that it ain't a party until porky shows up.  Parada ng Lechon is an opportunity to showcase the piggies and basically give thanks for the bounty of crunchy succulent goody they always bestow.  Or at least, that's what I got out of it.  So, the Balayan townspeople (local businesses mainly) dress up their pig mascot in a slew of different outfits, parade it through town, and then have a huge feast at the end. The pigs are often torn to shreds by the end of the parade.  I am told that parade goers of years gone by would "steal" pieces of the pig while in route to their destination and that the vendors would protect their pigs with barbed wire etc.  These days, it appears, sharing is caring.  We had several "floats" rip off pieces of pig and try to hand them to us.  I graciously bowed out because, well, I don't know there's something not terribly appetizing about a soggy pig, half eaten by strangers.  Call me crazy...
Before we really knew what we were getting into
Everyone has the day off to celebrate St. John's day - even students.
Next time we'll bring an obscene-sized super soaker but for 2013, all we had were plastic buckets and cans of beer.  
But when the buckets are filled with ice cold water, it's somehow still a "win".
As has been the case on a daily basis, the locals were FASCINATED by Z.  This kid dumped a bucket of water on his head and then did an impression of M.J.
Never one to be left out, I begged the M.J. impersonator to get in a pic with me.   He of course, poured water down the back of my shirt while doing so which I think is a fair trade, you?

These kids KNOW when a picture is being taken.  This was on our way out and look at them!  It's like they're doing a teenage version of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

Iron Man piggy
Wonderwoman Piggy - pretty sure those are authentic pigs feet she has for hands. The plastic wrapping over her head isn't meant to be morbid by the way.  There's just so much water flying around that parade participants wrap their pigs in plastic to protect them.  Maybe that seems silly to you or me but not to folks who eat every part of the pig.  They waste NOTHING and I'm sure Wonderwoman's pretty little face went to a good digestive cause later in the day.
A ridiculously cute moment.  Probably one of my favorite pictures....ever.

And in case you didn't think the party was really bumpin, check this out (and we weren't even on the main parade route).  All this and we're told this year's celebration was tame by comparison.  Apparently when the holiday falls on the weekend, it's a party that could hang with Mardi Gras.