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.