Filipinos love celebrating, especially when the occasion calls for it. Be it a school graduation, birthday or a good turnout in an exam, they will not let the chance to celebrate pass. Some families opt for a small dinner party or gathering among relatives to celebrate while others like to throw extravagant parties where neighbors and friends can swing by and feast upon the sumptuous meals prepared by the celebrators.
This is especially true in provinces where locals in different neighborhoods treat each other like they are related by blood. Every time there is an occasion, celebrators open their gates to welcome guests, relatives and neighbors with equal hospitality.
But if there’s one occasion that perfectly shows how fun and unconventional celebrations can be in the Philippines, it’s the Lechon Festival held annually on the 24th of June in Balayan, Batangas. The main subject of the festival, the lechon, might seem highly unusual for onlookers, but for Filipinos, it’s a day to look forward to.
Lechon or roasted pig is a popular staple for celebration for many Filipinos. When something worth celebrating happens, most Filipinos would say, “Where’s the lechon?” It’s a common expression (or imagine, if you will, a big inside joke) that is shared by most. Indeed, this native delicacy has become a big part of common festivities.
There’s a reason why lechon is celebrated not only in Batangas, but also in other parts of the Philippines. It’s a delicacy that is incredibly appetizing and flavorful, and gives us a taste of how slow and steady cooking brings out rich flavors.
Lechon is made by roasting a whole pig on a spit over fire for more than 4 hours. What makes it uniquely Filipino is the stuffing added inside the belly that gives off an aromatic flavor. Special kinds of sauces are also brushed over the skin as it slowly roasts. The result? A golden crispy exterior on tender, juicy meat that melts in your mouth.
Every July 24th, Batangueños wake up to a day filled with fun and exciting activities for locals and tourists. The streets are cleared of traffic as they will be full of excited visitors and parade floats. The floats are something to watch out for as each float holds a lechon dressed or decorated in eye-catching garb. Most of these floats try to outwit each other with funny themes and unconventional costumes.
One of the main attractions of this festival is the street water fight where every person on the streets inevitably gets wet by water splashed or sprayed through various means. Not even innocent by-passers are safe from water guns and children with tubs of water. Visitors are also advised to wear clothes that they would not mind getting wet and placing gadgets in water-proof pouches. The lechon partaking in parade decorations are usually wrapped in plastic so as to avoid them from getting wet and being eaten by hungry festival goers.
The town proper is also filled with exciting sights and the day won’t be complete without a big dance party where people are sometimes doused with foam bubbles and sprinkled with water. A stage is also set up where live bands, DJs and entertainers perform in front of hundreds of people, keeping the spirit alive all day.
Whether or not your going to the parade to take part in the festivities and have yourself a plate of lechon, you will undoubtedly get swept by the excitement of the street parade, the quirky lechon costumes, and most importantly, the Filipino spirit.
By AYEZA KAMILLE MALLARI, ASEAN Correspondent from Philippines