Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tugging the Line for Apong Iru

Today a former officemate, Precy Valenzuela, invited me again to experience the Apalit town fiesta. I obliged not only because I wanted to see and chat with Precy again but also witness the highlight of the Apalit festivities. Once a year the town's people would fetch the image of Apong Iru, or St. Peter, from his shrine downstream in the Pampanga River, and mount it on a waterborne float called pagoda. Apo Iru's pagoda will be tugged by his chosen knights. They swim the extent of the Pampanga River from almost the Calumpit Bulacan area to upstream Apalit, Pampanga. Then again after 3 days they repeat the task by bringing Apong Iru back to his shrine. I could only imagine that the task is excrutiating and tiring. But it is the Apalit resident's panata or sacrifice, to keep their tradition alive and kicking. And it is quite a sight to see.

This year I only got to see the trip back. Early in the morning they mount the Apong Iru image back to his pagoda and around noon, one by one the knights dove into the murky river water. Then with all their might the heaved and heaved and inch by inch the pagoda glided across the water. As if the weight of the water barge was not enough load to pull. Scores of devotees have also taken their choiced spots aboard the vessel, while escort boats encircle the pagoda's path.

Making the fluvial parade livelier are the spectators by the river bank shores, waving their guava branches at Apong Iru while the pagoda passes. It is also a tradition to do this and keep the guava leaves as a doubly effective medicine for stomach aches (probably because of Apo Iru's blessing). Though guava or bayabas (Psidium guajava) is not a Philippine native tree, it has been used by many pinoys as herbal and folkloric medicine.

To the Apalit people, Viva Apong Iru!

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