Walking under the Baluartes

May 16, 2011 Travel

Baluartes, traditionally fortifications for defensive purposes, take on a different role in Gumaca—one of the country's oldest towns. Here, baluartes are not constructed for defense but rather to shower the people with the bounties of the land.

Welcome to Gumaca's "Araña at Baluarte," a vibrant celebration of the feast of St. Isidore the Farmer, standing out as one of the grandest, most colorful, and genuinely sincere fiestas I have encountered.

The festivities kick off on Saturday evening with "Yupakan" and "Gimikan," featuring a competition for the best yubak (local delicacies) and a lively street dance. 

The celebration transforms into a mobile party, with attendees hopping from one baluarte to the next to savor the finest yubak offerings and enjoy the spirited performances by the youth.

Yubaks are local delicacies made of banana (saba) or cassava, mashed with peanut butter, milk, coconut and sugar. District 1 had the best.

And while guests taste each barangay's yubak, the barangays also showcased their best 'Showtime' moves beneath their respective baluartes.

Barangay Rizal emerged victorious in the dance competition. Dressed as scarecrows, their dancers seamlessly blended a touch of modernity into their performance, earning them the top spot.

Amidst the myriad of events taking place, it was impossible to overlook the cornucopia of colors adorning the baluartes.

The "arañas" are chandeliers crafted from an array of fruits and vegetables.

I was told that there would be more to see on the following day, May 15. They indeed had more in store, as I observed when I took another round of the baluartes the morning after. There were additional decorations

more colors

more gimmicks

more delicacies to sample

and more welcoming smiles.

District 2 secured the first place with their intricately designed baluarte, impressing the judges.

The consistent winner, Villa Nava, clinched the second place and surprised the crowd with their puppets, reminiscent of those seen at COD and Greenhills during Christmas, but with a distinctly Filipino touch

The third place was secured by the baluarte of District 6, inspired by a town icon—the Fort San Diego, constructed in the 18th century to deter sea pirates.

At 2:00 PM, the traditional 'pamamasyal' took place, with local officials and other townspeople strolling the baluartes in turn-of-the-century costumes. They were accompanied by the candidates for Ms. Araña

Afterward, a mass was conducted, followed by the highly anticipated procession. Once the image of St. Isidore had passed, the arañas were set free, and the revelers eagerly awaited, armed with their sacks.

I was eager to participate in the festivities, but I felt I couldn't match the skills of those experienced participants. Fortunately, the mayor graciously designated one baluarte for the media guests. Now, it was our turn

What truly left a lasting impression was the opportunity to meet the farmers responsible for cultivating these products. Witnessing their pride in their produce made me equally proud of these hardworking individuals.

I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Gumaca LGU and Tito Randy Urlanda for inviting us to partake in their celebration.

What truly stands out for me is the genuine effort to honor the saint without overshadowing the festivities with excessive banners and advertisements, as can sometimes be the case in other celebrations.

Here's another stroll under the baluartes with the remaining 17 participants.

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  1. The last time I experience this myself was 35 years ago so I was so excited to read your blog and you narrated it so well ... brought back a lot of my childhood memories, I actually got emotional :) Thank you so much for sharing. Your pictures are so vivid ... love them all !!