Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Organizers of Ecija’s “Taong Putik” Festival eyes Guinness Record

ALIAGA, Nueva Ecija – Organizers of Tuesday’s “Taong Putik” Festival are seeking another milestone : the event’s inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records (GBWR) for having the most number of people who bathed in mud in one single occasion.

          Father Carlos Padilla, parish priest of the St. John the Baptist Parish in Barangay Bibiclat which organized the festival, said the event is unique in itself and deserves to be recognized by appropriate world-renowned bodies such as the  GBWR.

          “It’s possible that we may apply it with Guinness. Anyway, it is something that is unique, a religious ritual involving mud people and devotees,” Padilla said.

Mayor Beth Vargas agreed, saying the event has distinguished itself from other events in the country. “But of course, we have to consult the organizers because as far as we know, they don’t want to commercialize the event,” she said.

The possible application of the “Taong Putik” Festival in the GBWR was raised after it drew 7,000 mud people and St. John devotees Tuesday which was covered by national media and wire agencies.

Every 24th of June, Bibiclat, a rustic barangay some 30 kilometers from Cabanatuan City, welcomes hundreds of tourists and devotees of St. John. They were welcomed by a uniquely-dressed group of devotees whose faces and bodies were smeared with mud and covered with dried banana leaves, a form of religious ritual of humility, penance and vow.

By turning themselves into mud people, participants emulate St. John the Baptist, who hid his role as the chosen one to baptize Jesus Christ by appearing in most biblical tales dressed like a beggar, wearing animal skin to deceive those who were after his head.

Among those who took part in Tuesday’ festival were elderlies and children as young as three years old.

Vargas said the oldest participant in the event is a centenarian whose name she could not recall.

Asked if the festival could also be declared as an international pilgrimage site, which is being lobbied by the city government of Manila in the case of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Padilla said the St. John parish has been declared a diocesan shrine of the Archdiocese of Cabanatuan and thus, is a pilgrimage site in itself.

He explained that a parish can be declared as a diocesan shrine when its patron saint is a miraculous patron. 

Vice Mayor Alfredo Domingo and his wife Leny, who go to Church in the morning said the event has enhanced the town’s image as tourist spot.

The patron saint, St. John the Baptist, is said to perform numerous miracles, including the healing of fatal diseases and ailments.

But the single biggest miracle associated with the patron saint was believed to have occurred sometime in 1944 shortly after a group of Japanese soldiers was ambushed by guerrilla rebels.

In retaliation, the Japanese officers ordered all the men of the community arrested and brought to the chapel grounds in Bibiclat.  Filipinos were about to be shot at noon when their relatives went to the church and prayed hard for their safety.

Suddenly, it rained hard and the Japanese officers - interpreting this as a sign of disapproval from heaven - ordered the execution stopped and set the men free.

The people then danced in jubilation and played in the mud. They attributed the miracle to St. John the Baptist.

As in rituals past, the festival starts before the crack of dawn at 4 am when participants wake up and go to the nearest rice paddies to smear mud on their bodies and wear the grass or dried leaves.

Then they walked around the community and begged for candles or money to buy candles, which they lit before praying.

House owners give them money or candles, believing that this gesture would be paid back with blessings.

Afterwards, they proceed to the church yard to hear Mass. The saint's statue is then paraded around the community, with the devotees carrying lit candles and roses, offering prayers before they wash themselves and join their families for the fiesta celebration later in the day. (Manny Galvez)

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