Bamban town and Mabalacat City, separated by a bridge but tied by a common practice and rich cultural tradition.
First is the observance of fiesta – the Tarlac town celebrates the feast of Sto. Niño held every last Saturday of January while the newest Pampanga city observes Nuestra Senora De Gracia or Apung Gracia on February 1 and 2.
Almost each year, with the exception of COVID pandemic years, the neighboring Local Government Units (LGUs) stage several days of fun and celebrations, ranging from cultural shows, art and trade fairs, agro-industrial exhibits, dance and singing contests, sporting events and of course beauty pageants which haul in the crowd to a night of pomp and glamour.
Loud cheers and jeers erupt during this event as barangays parade their candidates. What used to be a purely religious celebration is now a community extranvaganza, a grand spectacle for everyone that is put up and funded by the LGUs.
Separation of church and state no longer allows state-funded celebration of religious events. The local parishes of Roman Catholic church, however, still holds activities like Holy Masses and “prusisyuns”. To this end, Mabalacat is popular for its Lubenas.
This year, Mabalacat is staging its second Balacat Festival, its way of paying homage to a species of tree where its name was derived from – the Balacat tree.
Balacat Festival replaced its Aliw-awardee Caragan Festival, an annual event that honors the Aeta ancestry of the town that was founded in 1712. It will be as grand as it can be with Mayor Cris Garbo and City officials leading the bash.
The festival will be held at the last week of February at the site of the Christmas Village along MacArthur Highway in Barangay Mabiga. All but 27 barangays will again fight it out to put up the best pavilions that will showcase their products or anything known of their villages.
Aside from the usual street and interpretative dancing, the festival will be capped by the launching of the so-called Tabnuan Mabalacat Cultural Center at the old municipyo in Poblacion. Tabnuan (Rendezvous) will be an art and cultural exhibit hall that has been long awaited (and initially used) by hometown artists.
Bamban will not be outdone. It is staging a grand float parade where participating barangays and entities will compete. It will also have a Farmers Day and a Drivers Night. For the traditional literati, Bamban will be having a “Ligligan Poesya”.
I was told that Mabalacat would be staging its own art and cultural sub event. The latter would have an answer to that, definitely. And get this too, Bamban will have a Motor Show and an All-Breed Dog Show.
Now, who says that the relatively smaller town is behind Mabalacat? If Mabalacat would be having Sayaw Pinoy, Bamban will have a Zumba Fest. Both however would have a Music Fest.
What commonalities they share. What contrast we can compare. Bamban, southernmost town of Tarlac. Mabalacat, northernmost in Pampanga. Celebrating their fiestas with fusion. Celebrating their heritage with passion.