June 27, 2005, 9:56 a.m.


On June 29, we'll celebrate the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul, the former being our patron saint here in Apalit. It's been traditionally celebrated for three days, from June 28 to 30. Streets are lined by all sorts of make-shift stores of various items, and thick banners that seem to form a roof above. Just go to the fairground for rides and local entertainment, which are anticipated by the young people. Because it's mainly a religious festival, masses in church are attended SRO, and various forms of prayers are said that include processions around the town, always accompanied by loud brass bands and occasional shouts of Viva Apung Iro! The image of St. Peter with papal paraphernalia is paraded, carried by the Knights of St. Peter and many volunteers. Along the way, food is being given generously, and firecrackers explode from all directions. People cut leafy branches from trees and shrubs (mainly guava for its medicinal value), and wave them around, not only for Apung Iro but for health throughout the year.

Before this procession that occurs late in the afternoon, fluvial parades populate the nearby Pampanga river; people in all sorts of boats are in joyous mode, trying to splash water at each other (in the vernacular we call this libad). St. Peter's pagoda is being towed using a long rope, by volunteer swimmers, and assisted by people along the river bank. Why have a water parade? St. Peter as we all know was a fisherman from Galilee in Palestine, before being called by Jesus to become one of his disciples; Jesus told him to become a fisher of men. The tiara points to the fact that St. Peter was the very first pope in the church, vicar of Christ on earth. I think it was St. Ambrose who said that "where Peter is, there is the Church".

All people are welcome here in Apalit and celebrate St. Peter the Apostle with us. In fact a lot of tourists come here, both foreign and local. While this celebration is so simple and down to earth, it is profoundly theological. The beauty of the Church's universality makes others who can't go here, to celebrate it in their own parish church in any part of the world; the mass is the same, including the scripture passages (cf. Acts 12.1-11; 2 Tim 4.6-8, 17-18; Mt 16.13-19).

Viva Apung Iro!