Tuesday, April 26, 2011

CARABAO CARROZA: Iloilo Province’ Oldest Festival Celebrates its 39th Year

photo by Leo Solinap

The annual celebration of CARABAO-CARROZA Festival in Pavia, Iloilo truly reflects the culture of the Ilonggos.

For 39 years the festival has drawn hundreds of visitors from hundreds of miles away to this progressive town, 10 kilometers just outside the city and popularly known as the Regional Agro-Industrial Center (RAIC) of Western Visayas.

Despite the proliferation of hand tractors, carabaos are still the farmer’s work animal. And because of that, it has been, for many years, our country’s national symbol. Even with these innovations, many farming communities in Iloilo still depend on domesticated animals, used as a draft animal since the ancient times.

Slow and restful, the Carabao has been domesticated in the Philippines since the pre-Hispanic times, helping farmers plow the fields and with loads of several tons, transport them and their produce to the market.

The holding of various carabao-related activities such as parades and races does not only promote its significance as a national animal, but also help in their preservation. According to research, carabaos are dwindling in number and are already vanishing. The Laguna-based Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) noted that carabao population in the country has steadily dropped since 1988. Statistics collected showed that in 1988 there were 2.95 million carabaos in the country. However in 1992, it dwindled to 2.48 million and the trend is continuing even today.

And to revive local traditions and old practices in agricultural communities, farmers pay tribute to carabaos for they are very important to them, its socio-economic importance and considered part of our country's national heritage and treasure and their local economy.

photo by Leo Solinap

In Pavia, carabaos are the biggest crowd drawer with the town’s tradition of carabao racing, leaving its mark as one of the most entertaining festivals in Iloilo. Amid the scorching heat of the sun, villagers and tourists gather to watch locally-bred carabaos race. Carabaos take the center stage through grand spectacle although they are not particularly noted for their speed. Each carabaos are attached with a bamboo carriage and race across the fields reaching finish line. Prior to the event, they are trained daily. The race is a fun-filled event showcasing the native field animal. It has become more than a celebration to Pavia. Attracting many, it is considered as one of the biggest tourist attracting annual cultural celebrations of Iloilo that has enjoyed great success over the years.

Carabaos are also exhibited as an artwork. Farmers clean their carabaos' skin until it is smooth and polished. The horns are smeared with oil and given gloss. Then, they are sometimes groomed and dressed or artistically painted, decorated with ribbons sometimes, painted and attached to carts and parade them through the town. Residents gather together with visitors on the streets of this old town waiting for the 18 carrozas on parade. Prizes are awarded to the most gaily-decorated and beautifully-painted carabaos. This does not only draw participants closer to farmers’ best friend but lures tourists as well.

This year's festival opens on May 3rd from 7:30 in the morning with their annual Gaily-Decorated Carroza with Festival Muses Parade starting at Ungka-I; the Carabao-Carroza Race on a 400-meter course follows at around 9 a.m. and the rest of the day’s activity will run through till 7 in the evening with the Coronation of Carabao-Carroza Festival Queen. The carabao race is located just off of the municipal plaza at Pavia Comprehensive High School just a few meters from the historic Sta. Monica Parish. The event has become so successful and it gets bigger ever year.

So, if you are planning to visit Iloilo, try to visit Pavia in time for their festival so you will have a glimpse of the town’s history, culture and tradition.

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