Pavia’s Carabao Carroza Fiesta: Tradition and Transition
It’s the month of May in the Philippines, and that means its fiesta time this summer. One of the towns that celebrate its annual festivity during May is my hometown Pavia, in the province of Iloilo. However, unlike the trending feasts that went on street dancing as a major event, Pavia still pursued the promotion of its ingenuity, culture, and tradition by celebrating Carabao Carroza Festival every May 3rd, a day before Pavia’s religious feast for Santa Monica.
Carabao Carroza Festival or roughly translates as “Ox-Cart Festival,” pays homage to Pavia’s traditional and major economic driving force—agriculture. Carrozas or carts, driven by carabaos, are one of the most utilised mode of transporting products and people from farms to market in the rural Philippines. By decorating their carrozas or carts with ingenious designs usually made from indigenous materials, the Pavianhons celebrate the culture of a once vastly rustic town. Designs usually depict the rural landscape that Pavia is known for, and at the same time the incoming progress and its benefits to the people, given its proximity to urban Iloilo City.
These decorated carts are then pulled by carabaos or water buffalos in a parade of pomp that starts from the highway, to its commercial district then to the town’s center and ending up at the town’s high school. Along the way, people watch as the beautifully crafted carts with a barangay muse riding it, passes by.
While the early morning carabao carroza parade is simple yet attracted townsfolk and even tourists to flock on the streets of Pavia, the carabao carroza race is another event that the people look forward to.
The Carabao Carroza race is another highlight of the event. No non-sense whatsoever, it is a race between farmers and his loyal companion—the carabao, while also pulling a cart at the back. Mechanics are simple, whoever gets to the finish line first, wins. The twist here however, is that carabaos have a very unpredictable nature. Sometimes the carabao goes ahead with the race without the “go” signal, sometimes it heads somewhere else. Yet it is up to his master farmer where he places his diskarte (deal).
Being Iloilo province’s oldest instituted festival, Carabao Carroza Fiesta has undergone a lot of changes. From simple ox-drawn carts, it became highly elaborative decorated carts with beautiful muses on it. However, the race still dates back from its earliest beginnings, 40 years ago, as part of the celebrations during the eve of the religious Catholic fiesta in honour of Santa Monica. Yet given Pavia’s fast-paced urbanization, the agricultural areas in its area are decreasing gradually. We do hope that the tradition would stay and prevail further, even if Pavia may go into a highly urbanized town in the future. This reminds the residents of Pavia of its humble beginnings, its history, heritage, and a tradition that brought life in this little town up north of the City of Love.
For more photos of the Carabao Carroza Festival, click here.
Pavia is located 10 kilometers north of Iloilo City. It is accessible by jeepney and only takes 30 minutes.
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