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Wacky town festival pays tribute to OFWs

by | Feature

Jan. 13, 19 | 3:03 pm

Every New Year’s Day, while the rest of the country counts injuries from firecrackers exploded the prior evening, the town of Minalin in Pampanga celebrates the milestone with exuberant laughter elicited by a parade of male townsfolk wearing women’s dresses, hairpieces and make-up.
Make no mistake: this is no gay parade, which many local communities elsewhere stage during town fiestas or festivities. The Minalin event features straight gents just out to instigate and spread fun and merrymaking dressed in their housemates’ gowns or dusters (even an occasional wedding dress), trying to look dainty with extra layers of facial make-up and lipstick.

Called “Aguman Sanduk”, which the local residents translate as the “Fellowship of the Ladle”, the annual festival marked its 85th year this New Year’s Day. The organizers point out that starting the new year with cheers and gaiety is a way of attracting good vibes which can help the people of Minalin overcome any challenges through the period.

From among the over 100 participants, a “Reyna ning Aguman Sanduk” (Queen of the Fellowship of the Ladle) is selected — not really based on “who’s the fairest of them all” standards but on, the locals insist, the “funniest and ugliest” get-up. The Reyna is crowned with a lakal (a round contraption that holds a clay pot after cooking), complete with soot, and handed a wooden ladle as her scepter.

Turning serious during the celebration, the 2019 festival’s steering committee paid tribute to OFWs, who were described as “saving the economy especially in times of global financial crises”.

“They endure fatigue and loneliness just so they could provide a comfortable life and a good future for the families they left behind. It is high time [OFWs] were given high regard, honor and due importance for their sacrifice,” the organizers noted in a statement.

They cited the OFW families’ assiduous use of remittances they receive from their breadwinners abroad and the spouses’ watchful care of the children and household activities.

The organizers added: “Aguman Sanduk 2019 extends its gratitude to our OFWs, not only those from Minalin, but all those from other islands of the Philippines. Mabuhay OFW!”

Formerly a sleepy town prone to frequent floods, Minalin is a growing agricultural town with a population of just below 50,000 people, most of whom are poultry raisers (it is one of the leading producers of eggs and chickens in the country) or fishers.

Minalin is situated at the southern end of Pampanga’s Pasig-Potrero River whose water flows partly from Mt. Pinatubo and spills into the Manila Bay.

Residents trace the history of the Aguman Sanduk festival to 1934 when Minalin reeled under crippling drought conditions that smothered crops in the mainly agricultural community.

Amid that gloomy situation, a group of concerned residents decided to host a cookout at the town center where native rice porridge with chicken bits was served to residents from the villages.

According to the old folk’s narratives, the party ran out of porridge and many were still unserved. While people were trickling out of the plaza, two of the men who had arranged the event grabbed some of the cooking pots and utensils and started to dance in a funny way to somehow assuage the disappointment.

The two men again held a cookout on New Year’s Day and later danced around the plaza — this time wearing their wives’ attire. The happy event somehow caught fire and males wearing women’s clothes became a regular highlight of New Year festivities at the plaza.

Appearing in public in women’s clothes and heavy make-up, as well as proudly holding up ladles and cooking pots, is also a way of honoring the housewives, according to local residents. The happiness they generate while letting their hair down is highly contagious.

The Aguman Sanduk festival has grown significantly over the years, both in terms of the number of participants and the “quality” their attires. Tourists, both foreign and local, now also number a few thousands, according to the organizers.

With contributions from private companies and institutions, there are now attractive cash rewards given to participants. A cash prize of ₱50,000 went to the champion participating group, with smaller amounts to the other winners. Entries that did not win any of the top places went home with cash prizes of ₱3,000 each, the organizers said.- By Jose Galang

Photo credit: Sideway Jerry Gutierrez Nunag

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With more than 2,500 strategic distribution spots, TFT is available where the Filipinos are - at Smart Bus Shelters, Metro Stations, restaurants, supermarkets, schools, airport lounges, Emirates and Etihad Philippine-bound flights, churches, Filipino community events and many more.

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