Pulilan Kneeling Carabao Festival: Celebrating a Bountiful Harvest

(Pulilan, Bulacan Philippines) If I were to name one thing that I love the most about our home country the Philippines, it would be the fact that every town/city has its own fiesta. Filipinos are known to be among the happiest people in the world, and the fact that we have all these various fiestas is but one proof of our joyous personality.

Kneeling Carabao Festival 2018 of Pulilan, Bulacan
Kneeling Carabao Festival 2018 of Pulilan, Bulacan

But besides the blissful implication of fiestas, what I love so much about these little celebrations is that they tell a lot about the story of one place. This is something that I especially appreciated when I was invited to experience the Kneeling Carabao Festival of Pulilan, Bulacan last May 14 to 15.


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About Pulilan

Pulilan is a first class municipality in the province of Bulacan. Though now a bustling urban, Pulilan was once a little rural town whose residents were engaged in agriculture as their primary source of income.

Pista ng Bayan ng Pulilan - San Isidro Labrador
Pista ng Bayan ng Pulilan – San Isidro Labrador

Today, most of the municipality is reliant on agriculture, still, but its economy is progressively growing due to the increasing number of commercial and industrial establishments.

About the Kneeling Carabao Festival of Pulilan

The part I appreciate the most about the Kneeling Carabao Festival of Pulilan is that it is directly connected to the history of the municipality. This fiesta is celebrated every May 14 and 15 to honor their patron saint, San Isidro Labrador, and as thanks to the year’s bountiful harvest.

Kneeling Carabao Festival
Kneeling Carabao Festival

San Isidro Labrador was a resident of the municipality, or so the story goes. San Isidro was a Labrador, or a laborer, like most people in Pulilan in the olden days, who was a hired farmhand. His miraculous hard work that was observed by his landlord was associated to the act of an angel, and he was thus declared as the locality’s patron saint of farmers.

Kneeling Carabao Festival 2018 Parade
Kneeling Carabao Festival 2018 Parade

The festival celebrates and honors San Isidro the Laborer by parading colorfully clothed carabaos (kalabaw or water buffalo), the farmer’s trustee in the field, and then letting them kneel in front of Labrador Parish Church per tradition.

Barangay Paltao Pulilan Festival Float
Barangay Paltao Pulilan Festival Float

These were what I experienced last May 14 and 15. It was a small and festive occasion that ties the entire history and culture of Pulilan together like the garlands that they wore on the carabaos. The carabaos were shaved for the occasion, which involved more than just parading.

courtesy visit at the office of Mayor Maritz Ochoa Montejo
courtesy visit at the office of Mayor Maritz Ochoa Montejo

During the festival, we had a courtesy visit at the office of Mayor Maritz Ochoa Montejo. She warmly welcomed us, bloggers and fellow travel writers from various local publications. The festival organizers also hosted lunch after our short interview with the town mayor.

After our lunch, we proceeded to the media platform located at Pulilan’s highway to get an amazing view of the grand parade.

Brightly Painted Carabao at the 2018 Kneeling Carabao Fest
Brightly Painted Carabao at the 2018 Kneeling Carabao Fest

The parade was anything but ordinary. It was around 2 or 3 PM that time, the sun was blazing hot, but standing amongst all those people was such a wonderful feeling.

The Kneeling Carabao Festival 2018’s theme is “Lakas ng Pulilan”—and surely, each of the 19 barangays in the municipality daringly and proudly exhibited their respective floats in the grand parade, alongside their representative carabaos in their funky costumes.

Pulilan Carabao Festival Float Parade
Pulilan Carabao Festival Float Parade

Although commonly referred to as “beasts of burden”, the carabaos of Pulilan were nowhere near “beasts”. Instead, they were beautiful creatures, and during the parade, their trainers walked side by side with them while the carabaos displayed their respective barangay’s products.

There were also a handful of sponsored floats alongside the 19 contenders from the Pulilan barangays. There must have been 30 floats in overall.

Kneeling Carabao in front of festivalgoers
Kneeling Carabao in front of festivalgoers

The grand parade of the floats and kneeling carabaos was the highlight of the first day.

On our second day, we witnessed the Street Dancing Competition, which started in the afternoon. The contenders paraded around the main roads and proceeded to Poblacion, where they had their dance showdown.

Kneeling Carabao Festival Street Dance Parade
Kneeling Carabao Festival Street Dance Parade

The costumes were dazzling. There was one barangay that had their girls in heavy-looking dresses and headdresses, and their lead dancer carried a flower arc at her back. One wore a striking white-and-gold gown with gigantic, circular wings. It was amazing how they maintained their grace and danced beautifully.

Continget for the Carabao Festival Queen of Pulilan
Continget for the Carabao Festival Queen of Pulilan

I felt bad for the judges—all of the participants were so good, it must have been hard choosing who gets the first prize! The showdown proved that much. The only thing that needs to be improved is the crowd control, It’s a bit hard to take photos from our platform unless I really join the crowd who are mostly blocking the view.

Street Dance Parade - Kneeling Carabao Festival 2018
Street Dance Parade – Kneeling Carabao Festival 2018
Festival Dancer in Pulilan Bulacan
Festival Dancer in Pulilan Bulacan
Kneeling Carabao Fest Streetdance Competition
Kneeling Carabao Fest Streetdance Competition

Later that evening, a medley concert was held in the Plaza. The evening was fun-filled, colorful, and celebratory.

I was fortunate to be invited to such an event. Bulacan is just a few hours from Manila and it was an amazing experience to see the diversity in culture but at the same time the unity of people. Although we all come from different places, at the end of the day, we can all appreciate the hardworking carabaos and have a toast to a year of bountiful harvest.

*Some festival photos courtesy of YMV & Associates

Kneeling Carabao Festival Details:

Where: Pulilan, Bulacan
When: May 14 – 15, 2018
Facebook: /CarabaoFestival
Twitter: @carabaofestival

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