ALIAGA, Nueva Ecija, June 25 (PNA) — People from all walks of life gathered Wednesday in Barangay Bibiclat here – some even before dawn break – either to join or witness how townsfolk and tourists dress themselves with mud and banana leaves, attend the masses and keep their vow to their patron St. John the Baptist.
Gladys Ferrer, 50, a resident of the village was hesitant to talk about her wishes that she believed John The Baptist has time and again helped fulfill through intercession.
“With my simple life, I had achieved a lot through the help of St. John the Baptist,” she said.
She quickly added though that on top of them is the best shape of health that her family, including her grandchildren, enjoy.
She started ‘Pagsa-San Juan’ now called Taong Putik Festival when she was just a toddler.
“My grandmother was my companion then. Now, my grandchildren are with me,” she said.
Win Javaluyas, chair of nearby Barangay San Juan and president of the town’s Association of Barangay Councils tried sporting Taong Putik for the first time.
“It was humbling, something you really can’t just explain,” he said.
“This is mud, a symbol of being humble, a symbol of humility,” he said.
Couple Danilo ang Rosa dela Cruz cited the act of begging, which every Taong Putik does before attending the mass, as the most humbling part of the tradition.
”No matter what is your status in life, the experience of begging and having this kind of religious devotion is unique,” Rosa said.
Rev. Fr. Elmer Montemayor, parish priest, urged the faithful to follow the “non-epal” attitude of John the Baptist, who is being believed by many people, even by those who did not easily believe in Jesus, but kept himself in the sideline.
”During his (John the Baptist) time, there were many who believed in him. Actually, there were others who do not to Jesus Christ. However, he said “ I am not the Christ.” John the Baptist was only in the background,” Montemayor said.
That was the greatest form of John’s spirituality, he said.
“St. John the Baptist was just in the background. What he did want is to lift up Christ and not himself. Let us emulate his good deeds especially now that there are some “epals,” he said.
But, Montemayor said it is not only politicians who do the “epal.”
”Also in each of us, there are some who want to be a bit famous,” he said.
He expressed that the country will move forward when people become God-centered.
The local devotion to St. John the Baptist heightened during the Japanese occupation in 1944, accounts of older residents showed.
When Japanese soldiers were to execute all men in Bibiclat to avenge the death of their compatriots, villagers went to the church and prayed hard for the lives of their relatives.
After a while, as the Filipinos were led to the firing squad, it rained so hard and some Japanese officers interpreted this as a sign of disapproval from heaven.
Since then, villagers have celebrated the feast of St. John by wearing banana leaves and vine and covering their bodies with mud early morning of June 24, the patron saint’s feast day.
By transforming themselves into mud people, participants said they are able to emulate St. John the Baptist, who appears in most biblical tales dressed like a beggar.
From the village’s rice field, groups of taong putik roam the village and ask for alms.
House owners give them money or candles, believing that this gesture would be compensated with blessings.
After this ritual, participants gather at the church yard to hear mass.
They light candles and offer prayers before washing themselves and join their families for the fiesta celebration later in the day. (PNA)