Monday, November 28, 2011

Meet the Giants of Angono: The Higantes Festival

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Lying 29.38 kilometers east of Manila is a former fishing town that is now well-known as the "Art Capital of the Philippines". It is the municipality of Angono, Rizal, home of the giants in Philippine arts and the colorful Higantes Festival.  

The Higantes Festival and the giants of Philippine Arts:
Carlos V. Francisco and Lucio San Pedro
Higantes  refer to six to twelve feet tall papier maché figures that are part of the grand parade in celebration of the feast of  Pope Clement I  (San Clemente). Thus, Higantes Festival is also known to the locals as  Pista ni San Clemente, who consider him as a patron of fishermen (In other countries, Saint Clement is recognized as a patron of blacksmiths). The colorful Higantes Festival is celebrated every year on the 22nd and 23rd of November with lots of merrymaking and dancing on the streets.

Higantes walking at the public market.
There are various stories on the origin of the Higantes Festival yet the most interesting story I have heard so far is that the festival started out as the people's form of protest against their Spanish landlords during the time that Angono was a hacienda. There is also a curious story on the consequences of cancelling the celebration of the Higantes Festival. Old folks say that one time, when the festival was cancelled due to lack of funds, an old man was found wandering around Angono, warning of inclement weather. When the old man was gone, the town suffered from heavy rains and floods.  It's believed that the old man was San Clemente. Since then, the people of Angono made sure that the festival will be celebrated every year.
Smaller higantes represent children.
Traditionally, the first day of the Higantes Festival features a parade of a family of giants. The giants resembled the Spanish landlords with tall noses and fair skin. The hands on waist symbolize the superiority of the landlords.  At present, these mammoths made of paper pulp either look like popular characters or  local officials, just like these:

The folks shouted "Mayor, Mayor! when
this giant arrived. Inset is the
real Mayor Calderon.
Children teasing the "Vice Mayor" to dance.  
Aside from the higantes, winners of the municipality's beauty pageant, representatives of local businesses and civil groups, local personalities, dance groups, and marching bands joined in the grand parade as well. On the second day, a mass and a fluvial procession in honor of San Clemente were held. The Basaan is also held on the second day, something that I am glad I missed as residents and local firemen splash or throw water on spectators and motorists.

Little Miss Angono joined the parade.
The Higantes Festival is not only a religious celebration but a showcase of Angono's artistry and heritage. I am glad I finally met the giants of Angono!

Want to see more photos of the festival?  See the Higantes Festival album on my Facebook page.

How to go to Angono, Rizal via public transport: 
Option 1: Take a van/FX to Angono from SM Megamall in Ortigas.
Option 2: Ride a jeepney or FX to Angono from Sta. Lucia East Mall or Robinson's Metro East.
Option 3: Ride a van/FX to Angono from Cubao. 


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