Adding color and gaiety to Angono town fiesta, celebrated early the 23rd of November, are the "Higantes", paper to mache to giants measuring four to five feet in diameter and ten to twelve feet in height. Philippine Rizal Angono's joyous major festival in honor of San Clemente (patron saint of fishermen) whose image, glorious in papal vestment, is carried by male devotees during a procession accompanied by "pahadores” (devotees dressed in colorful local costumes or fishermen’s clothes, wooden shoes and carrying boat paddles, fish nets, traps, etc.) and “higantes" (giant paper mache images). The street event finishes in a fluvial procession in Laguna de Bay amidst revelry that continues until the image is brought back to its sanctuary.
The “higante” tradition began last century, when Angono was a Spanish hacienda. The hacienda owners concerned about costs prohibited all celebrations except for one annual fiesta. The townspeople concerned about enjoyment decided to make the best of a bad situation. Using an art form brought from Mexico by Spanish priests, they created larger-than-life caricatures of their Spanish landlords. In typical Filipino fashion, the fiesta become in equal parts, a stunning spectacle and a tricky inside joke. There too was a story that a French man happened to pass by this coastal town of Laguna de Bay as he cruised from Manila Bay. Captivated by the town being divided by a river, he predicted that someday giants would come out and become famous. True to his words, Angono can show off of two national artists - Carlos "Botong" Francisco in the field of visual arts and Professor Lucio D. San Pedro in the field of music. There are other Angono sons and daughters who are becoming big or giants on their chosen field of endeavor. Paper mache making is an art that is known back during the Spanish Era. The head of the giants is fashioned from a mold made of clay, which is dried under the heat of the sun.
With the advent of modernization and technology clay is changed to plaster of Paris and resin. The mold is then pasted with lots of newspapers then split into the middle and sun-dried, after which it is then pasted with the brown paper (the slit being covered) then sun-dried again and painted. The body is made of bamboo, but other materials like yantok (rattan) and thin iron bars can also be used. Yards are yards of clothing materials and accessories complete the costume of the "Higantes". Before, Angono town fiesta features a "Mag-anak" (family) Higantes consists of three figures, the father, the mother and the son. In 1987, Mr. Perdigon Vocalan visualized the idea of having a Higante Festival wherein all the barangays in Angono(13 of them) are to be represented by two to four Higantes symbolizing the industry or the personality of the barangay. This idea materialized with the funding given by the Dept. of Tourism and Provincial Tourism Office thus in a year after a seminar and a workshop in Higante Making , the fiesta was flooded with thirty-nine different Higantes. In that year too, there was a contest among the Higantes, thus one can see them a Higante with a duck on its head and another one a basketful of duck eggs representing a barangay that known for its fried itik and balut-making.
HOW TO GET THERE
Angono lies to the east of Pasig City. Take the Angono-bound buses at the Shaw Boulevard terminal in Pasig. Travel time is 45 minutes but can stretch to over an hour, as traffic tends to be heavy.
SIDETRIP: ANGONO ART GALLERIES
Located in the nearby province of Rizal, Angono has always been known as a haven for artists. Renowned Filipino painters and sculptors like Nemiranda and Jose V. Blanco trace their roots to this town. A Street near the old church is, in fact, lined with the wall paintings of Carlos "Botong" Francisco, National Artist for Painting. There are also a number of galleries where one can view and purchase their work, as well as those made by their talented protégées.