“Oh, Calabanga, gem of the province,
We will stand with pride and dignity,
We will watch your fragile beauty,
With much love and care . . . ”
The song goes on a never ending refrain as it brings in a hundred and one memories; some happy and some sad. It reminds me of old and familiar faces of people in the distant beyond, some lost and half forgotten, but most of all those that I love and long to be with.
The strong winds, heavy rains, tempestuous storms and the much too inclement weather of the months of June, July, and August had always left the heart of a Calabangueño unperturbed for in just a little while the winds will change and will usher in the cool air of September. Soon the countdown will begin. It’s fiesta days in Calabanga once more.
Calabanga is my hometown, nestled in between the gentle slopes of Mt. Isarog to the sandy shores and rattling waves of the San Miguel bay. It was founded in July 15, 1749 as La Porteria Parish and was established as the third ecumenical church. It is now named as the vicariate parish of La Porteria out of 5 parishes namely (Parroquia de la Inmaculada Concepcion) Immaculate Concepcion Parish, Quipayo (1578), Finding of the Holy Cross Parish, Manguiring (1933), Divine Mercy Parish, Paolbo (2003), Black Nazarene Parish, Binanuanan Pequeño (2009), Saint Peregrine Parish, Santo Domingo (2009). (Ed’s note: Black Nazarene Parish and St. Peregrine Parish were transferred to the jurisdiction of the Vicariate of St. Anne of Magarao.)
And how does a Calabangueño celebrate a town fiesta? This reminds me of the days my siblings and I spent with our Lola Awing, my grandmother in my mother’s side. All the preparations started in the Anti Bespera Day as she took out all the antique forks and spoons, cutlery, heavy dinner plates, crocheted table linens and white lanes curtains from their “baul” to be used for the day. I, do, remember scrubbing the wide spanned narra floors that were all beautifully polished and aged with time.
The capiz window panes were cleaned and hanged with the lace curtains. Potted and blooming bougainvilleas were set in the flower boxes in front of the capiz windows while down the tall Spanish type house of my grandmother, men along the road were just too busy doing their chores arranging and painting the stones to line up the streets, repairing and painting the flower boxes.
Others made some arches out of freshly cut bamboo slats. With much skills and patience, the arches were placed end to end along the sides of the road turning the place into some magical enchantment. This was to prepare for the parade that would be passing by the next day. With everything cleaned and set, we would soon be ready for the Bisperas.
Lola Awing would then painstakingly remove the “tipasi” (few unmilled palay grain) in the “polotan” (sweet rice). The polotan will be mixed with coconut milk and stirred slowly in a cawa. When the whole mixture was already dry, the wrapping ceremony would begin. Three table spoons of rice mixture wrapped in the newly picked then blanched young banana leaves and tied in pairs. Then, everything was arranged in a big caldero (huge metal pot) for boiling. After an hour or two of much waiting, the wrapped polotan was already cooked. Lola would carefully place them on the trays and left to be drained off the excess liquid after boiling.
How we tagged along with her so we can be given our first taste of the cooked latik. The neatly arranged rows and rows of latik on the trays lying on the long narra table only meant; it’s fiesta time for all of us while below men sweated out and wrestled with the screaming swine all to prepare the sumptuous dishes to be served on the most important day. As a prelude to the special day meal, were always served with dinuguan (chocolate meat) with gata and chili.
The town plaza always served as the venue for the Bisperas celebrations.
In my grade school years, we had our military and civic parade starting from the town plaza then passing through the streets of San Francisco, San Pablo, San Antonio, Del Carmen, Sta. Isabel, San Miguel, Sta. Salud, San Vicente then back to San Antonio where the town square is. This would be followed by different mass demonstrations from different elementary schools in town.
There had been many past Ms. Calabanga pageants and the beauteous and talented Ms. Araceli Amandy and Ms. Marilyn Agawa were some of the proud crowned ladies hereabout. There were amateur singing contest nights with all the categories for the bulilits section, the youth and the pwede pa portion. Often times, the totally awed audience would suddenly break into a loud laughter and wild screaming to some when the elderly contestant would show some toothless gums while reaching for a high note.
There would always be the carnival which in my early years I was too amazed yet too afraid for a ferris wheel ride. I couldn’t forget the free movie shows at the town plaza which we enjoyed much. But to top it all, there were the hot air balloons which we call lobo. I loved watching the hot air balloons being lighted then flown high up in the sky, higher and higher symbolizing the light spirited, vivacious, sprightly Calabangueno expecting for the next day- the ka fiestahan (the big day). Those were the last of the hot air balloons I had come to see then.
And so it’s the Fiesta Day!
Calabanga celebrates it’s town fiesta every eighth day of September in honor of her patron saint Nuestra Senora de La Porteria (Our Lady of the Gate.) This most awaited day is started by the djana composed of three or four member-band with trumpets and drums. The djana then goes around town playing lively Latin marching beats rousing the Calabanguenos to rise and start for the day. The town folks prepare to attend the mass in honor of Mahal na Ina in the parish church. This day, you will find the pious and devoted Calabanguenos offering his prayers, thanks giving for the blessings granted upon his family by the loving God with the intercession of our Lady.
The celebration is doubly blessed and become more significant in the parish church which has been the center of the life of a Calabangueno. Soon the long high mass is over and the milling crowd disperse to visit friends and the real celebration begins as each and every devotee and guest is welcomed in the heart and homes of my town folks in the unique charm and Calabanga hospitality.
The sharing of laughters, all the eating and the drinking spree! What a day! “Ubos ang handa” but the host beams with pride and joy for another merry making that had soon come to pass. Once again memories are made in the hearts of each one. “hasta sa sunod na fiesta!”
With much longing and yearning, ”Maogmang fiesta sa satuya gabos na mga Calabangueños in Calabanga and around the world!
As the town of Calabanga celebrates it’s 262nd town fiesta this year the following activities are set through the leadership of our town mayor, Hon. Mayor Evelyn Yu, in cooperation with the La Porteria parish priest, Rev. Fr. Antonio P. de los Santos:
Sept. 2 – Education Day
Awarding of Outstanding teachers
Sept.3 – Clean Up Drive
Sept.4- Scrabble Tournament
Airs Oft Competition
Sept. 5- Drum and Bugle Corps
Sept 6- Military/ Street Parade Competition
Fancy Drill / Majorette Competition
Ms. Calabanga Beauty Pageant
Sept.7- Civic Parade /Float Competition
Acrobatics and Magical Shows
Youth Grand Night
Sept.8- Misa Para ki Ina
Theme:”Monstrate esse filium” (You may all show that you are worthy sons and daughters of Ina)