Carabao Festival

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The Carabao Festival is celebrated in the farming towns of San Isidro in Nueva Ecija, Pulilan in Bulacan, and Angono in Rizal from 15th to 16th of May every year to pay tribute to the water buffalos or carabaos. It coincides with the feast day of San Isidro Labrador (St. Isidore the Worker), the patron saint of farmers. Although not legally enacted, the carabao or kalabaw is the national animal of the Philippines.


According to Roman Catholic Church records, San Isidro was once hired as a labrador or laborer. On the farm where he worked, his landlord was astonished by his ability to finish his tasks despite coming late to work most of the time. Curious by this strangeness, he investigated and saw Isidore praying while an "angel" was plowing the field for him. Amazed, he knelt before San Isidro and the angel, and the image of a kneeling man is often associated with the patron saint.

The Hispanic feast of San Isidro evolved into the Carabao Festival since the carabao is to farmers, being the animal that helps them plough their fields and produce a good harvest.

Kneeling of the Carabaos

The townspeople celebrate the occasion in a hope for a year-long bountiful harvest. It is held with a two-day revelry where street dancing and a procession of decorated carabaos take place. A variety of multi-colored fruits, vegetables, flowers, candies, and other food crops are hung on bamboo poles and carts. These carts, pulled by the carabaos, serve as floats. The highlight of the fiesta is the genuflection or kneeling of the carabaos with its two front legs in front of the church as sign of reverence to Saint Isidore.


On the first day, farmers pay tribute to carabaos. Farmers brush their carabaos' skin until it is sleek and shiny, while the horns are rubbed with oil and given shine. Then, the carabaos are decorated with ribbons or sometimes painted and attached to carts.

In the afternoon, farmers lead their carabaos to the church square to be part of the procession. At the church, the carabaos not only kneel for their blessings but also walk on their knees like penitents in front of the church. A priest blesses each one of the carabaos as they pass by the church and pay homage to their patron saint, ensuring their good health and vitality for the coming year. On the second day, the carabaos compete in a friendly race, each pulling a bamboo carriage on a 400-meter course. These carabaos are trained daily for several weeks before the festival begins.

Aside from the kneeling of the carabaos and the carabao race, equally entertaining activities are done such as exhibitions where marching bands’ majorettes dance and twirl their batons, and children’s drum and lyre bands perform as street dancers take center stage with various folk dances. These performers are mostly students from different municipalities in Bulacan.

Traditional dances and processions of decorative floats are part of the activities during this occasion. Prizes are awarded to the strongest and most beautifully decorated carabaos.


During the 2009 Pulilan Carabao Festival parade, a carabao attached to a wagon ran amok toward the crowd lining the streets. The carabao's owner fell off the wagon as the animal knocked down motorcycles and vendors' carts. Short of breath, the carabao stopped next to a waiting shed, where it was tied by several townspeople. The tired animal resumed its rampage when a policeman hit its head with a plastic chair, dragging the wrecked shed a few hundred meters. The “crazed carabao,” identified as a Bulgarian buffalo, was reportedly agitated by the spectators. When the carabao could no longer struggle from exhaustion, it was carried on a trailer to its home in Plaridel. [1]

Then Pulilan mayor Vicente Esguerra said that this was the first time such an incident occurred in the history of their celebration. Although Bulgarian buffaloes are gentle by nature, Esguerra said that these would not be allowed to participate in parades anymore. [1]

External Link


  1. ^ "Severino, Howie Crazed carabao during parade was a Bulgarian buffalo," GMA News Blogs (accessed 24 March 2010)



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