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Despite COVID-19, Taong Putik festival pushes through

Photos and text by George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 25 2021 12:03 AM

A few minutes before the break of dawn Thursday, residents wearing dried banana leaves covered with mud can already be seen walking down the streets of Barangay Bibiclat in the town of Aliaga, Nueva Ecija. 

The image of the locals emerging from complete darkness covered in mud was like a scene straight out of a horror flick when seen from afar. However, the reason for the procession is much more inspired. The townsfolk are celebrating the Taong Putik Festival and mark the Feast of St. John the Baptist.

Some residents say the activity is a reenactment of how sudden heavy rainfall stopped the execution of a few Filipino men and were set free by the Japanese during their occupation in World War II. The men danced in celebration under the rain and attributed the miracle to St. John the Baptist, which started the tradition. 

The annual Taong Putik festival is well known in the province as locals and a few devotees from different provinces religiously flock and take part in the rituals. 

This is the second year the festival was held under the threat of COVID-19 with devotees encouraged to stay put in their front yards to wait for the parish priest roaming the community blessing them with holy water.

Here are some scenes from the festival:

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Residents covered in mud and dried leaves light candles in front of the Saint John the Baptist Parish in Barangay Bibiclat, town of Aliaga, Nueva Ecija on Thursday. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

The “Taong Putik” Festival is observed annually by devotees by covering themselves with mud to mark the feast day of their patron saint. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Locals start the tradition early dawn of June 24th by gathering in swampy fields before heading to the church to light candles to honor St. John the Baptist. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Residents cover themselves with mud and dried leaves for the festival. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Some residents say the activity is a reenactment of how sudden heavy rainfall stopped the execution of a few Filipino men and were set free by the Japanese during their occupation in World War II. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Residents cover themselves with mud and dried leaves for the festival. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Residents cover themselves with mud and dried leaves for the festival. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Residents cover themselves with mud and dried leaves for the festival. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Residents wait for the arrival of the image of St. John the Baptist. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Devotees are encouraged to stay put in their front yards to wait for the parish priest roaming the community blessing them with holy water. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Residents wait for the arrival of the image of St. John the Baptist. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Residents return to their homes after taking part in the festival. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News