From Caragan to Balakat Festival: A cohesive, inclusive celebration

Mabalacat City Tourism Officer Arwin Lingat

MABALACAT CITY– There is a reason behind the changes in this city’s annual festival, from the longtime-running Caragan Festival to the “Balakat Festival”, which encompasses the origin of the city’s name.

City Tourism Officer Arwin Lingat, during Pampanga Press Club’s News@Hues forum held at the Park Inn by Radisson Clark, explained the change, which intends to correct the wrong impression created by the previous festival name that the Aetas are the ancestors of the people of Mabalacat.

Reading a message from one of this city’s advisors Robby Tantingco, who also heads the Center for Kapampangan Studies, “the change will also bring the focus back to what makes Mabalacat great—the beauty of the land and the strength and resilience of the people, as symbolized by the balakat tree.”

The Balakat Festival, which kicks off on Feb. 27, thus celebrates the city’s real origin, which is not the Aeta chieftain, but the balakat tree, the message reads. According to Tantingco, “there is no other place anywhere in the country or the world named after this tree.”

Balakat Festival, he said, also has a greater name recall, because it comes from the city’s name itself and is more inspirational because it resonates more with the people of Mabalacat themselves, not their Aeta brothers and sisters.

“Balakat is more than just a tree. Balakat is fortitude, stability and resilience. Balakat is the heart and soul of the city. Balakat is the spirit of its people rising to the sky. When you say ‘Mabalacat,’ you are not just referring to a place that is full of balakat trees, but to someone who is full of fortitude, stability and resilience. Thus: Kapampangan ku. Mabalacat ku. I am a Kapampangan. I am a Mabalakat. Masikan ku. Matatag ku. Mabalakat ku,” Tantingco said.

Lingat, for his part, enumerated the different activities that make up the Balakat Festival, starting with the “Barangaynihan”, where the services of the city will be taken to the barangays in four clustered venues – San Rafael Village (Feb. 27), Bical (Feb. 28), Duquit (March 1) , and Sta. Ines (March 2).

Among services which will be made available to the Mabalaquenians are heath and social services, civil registration, business permits and licenses, as well as legal services, Lingat said. Serving as a pilot program, this will become a quarterly activity, he added.

Also a highlight of the festival, which commemorates the 311th year of Mabalacat as a town, are caravans for employment and for farmers, as well the opening of the Agro-Industrial Trade and Food Expo Pavilions.

There will also be a tree planting activity of balakat seedlings on March 1, which aims to promote consciousness awareness that the trees still exist around the city up to the present time.

Another change in the annual celebration is the inclusivity of all its 27 barangays, where each will be given a space to put up their own trade fair to be headed by the barangay councils.

In addition is the Miss Mabalacat beauty pageant, where candidates are from all the barangays of the city.

According to Lingat, Mayor Crisostomo Garbo sees this as a promoting a sense of belonging to all the Mabalaquenians who are rooting for the candidate of their respective barangay. The coronation night of the pageant will be on March 2, 7 PM, at the SMX Convention Center located at the SM City Clark complex.

Lingat said with the new festival, Mayor Garbo wants everything to be cohesive and inclusive. During a recent interview, the mayor clarified that the Caragan Festival will not be taken away and will still be a huge part of the Balacat Festival to pay tribute to the city’s first Chieftain, Aring Caragan (King Caragan), and the indigenous People of the city, the Aetas.

Nariyan pa rin po ang Caragan pero this time it will be part of Balakat Festival,” he furthered.