Tuesday, January 6, 2015

San Joaquin Celebrates the Wild and Festive Mood of Pasungay

photo by Ray Tabafunda

Pasungay, celebrated this year on January 17 is one of the favorite activities of the people in San Joaquin. Bullfighting in the area can be traced back to the Spanish occupation and has developed into a ritualistic occasion observed in connection with its feast day. Unlike in Spain and Latin America, bullfights in San Joaquin do not feature matadors, nor is there much blood or gore.

photo by Ray Tabafunda

Pasungay along with Pahibag (horsefight) is a is a deeply rooted special event annually observed every 2nd Saturday of January as part of the week-long Municipal Fiesta celebration of the municipality of San Joaquin, Iloilo.

Popular in the upland barangays, people raise "fighting bulls" (water buffaloes) exclusively for the use of bullfight.  Fighting bulls are usually big and strong, with bulky and sharp horns.

photo by Ray Tabafunda

The bullfight field is located at the San Joaquin Sports Stadium, a stretch of open flat land at the back of the municipal hall.  On the event day, thousands would come all the way from neighboring provinces to partake in the tradition and fill the stadium while some gather at the back of the field.

photo by Ray Tabafunda

Bull keepers bring their fighting bulls and horses to the arena to identify their opponent. Typically, the bulls spend minutes (or hours) butting heads until one yields. To start the bout, the trainers release them and draw them together with ropes then the two bulls begin to fight. For the horse fight, the stallions are encouraged to fight by being lead to a mare in heat, and then taking the female horse away when the stallions are aroused.

The audiences cheer loudly. At times people would lay bets on which one will be standing after the fight that normally goes on for thirty-minutes or more and ends until one bull collapses or is simply too exhausted to continue. Keepers would then hitch their legs and draw them apart.

photo by Ray Tabafunda

This activity is a means of connecting to their past, celebrating their indigenous roots and ancestries. It is observed not only for victory, but also for blessing good harvest in the coming year and multiple reproductions of the cattle.

To get to San Joaquin, the last municipality in the southern district of Iloilo Province, one can take a jeepney at the Don Benito Q. Acap Sr. Southern Iloilo Perimeter Boundary Terminal in Barangay Mohon, Oton, Iloilo or at the market terminal along Mabini St. in Iloilo City. Metered taxis are also available. For more information, please contact Mrs. Erlyn Alunan – Municipal Tourism Officer at 09498309171.

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