Social Activities in Cuenca, Batangas by Petronila C. Marasigan, 1930 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore Social Activities in Cuenca, Batangas by Petronila C. Marasigan, 1930 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

Social Activities in Cuenca, Batangas by Petronila C. Marasigan, 1930

This page contains the complete transcription of the 1930 ethnographic paper written by one Petronila C. Marasigan from .jpeg scans of the originals made available by the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections. Corrections for grammar had been made in certain parts but no attempt was made to rewrite the original paper. Original pagination is indicated for citation purposes.

Henry Otley-Beyer Collection

[Cover page.]

Tagalog Paper No. 688.
Petronila C. Marasigan
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  1. ILOKO: Cuenca, Batangas Province.
  2. Summary: : Social Life: Amusements, local celebrations, and feast-days.

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March 1, 1930

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(Cuenca, Batangas).


Petronila C. Marasigan

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The most widely observed fiesta in my town is the Holy Week. Lent begins early in March by I shall confined my discussion to the Holy Week inasmuch as it is very important. Every Christian town in the whole Philippines observes the Holy Week but it is quite different in my town.


Early in the morning of Palm Sunday, an observer can see people dressing up to attend mass. Streams of people from everywhere can be seen coming. The older folks bring their children with them while the young ladies are followed by gentlemen. It is a jolly group. On reaching the church, the young men are left behind and place themselves on each side of the entrance door as if they are bodyguards. Only the old men, the women and children with their palms enter the church earlier. When the church bell rings announcing the beginning of the mass, all the people enter.

A keen observer will see that now and then the palms are waved which merely signifies the happy coming of the Lord. You can also observe that from the Palm Sunday up to the Monday following, no people work. It is strictly prohibited to work

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during the Spanish times and until now some of its traces remained in my town. An observer can also see that nearly people from head to foot are wearing all things new.

After the mass is over, people go home. In the evening, after their supper, they go to different chapels within [the] town. Again, one can see the different jolly groups. The aristocrats of the town go with the aristocrats and the common people among themselves. One thing I can be proud of to say is that all people in my town are friends despite their standing in the community and disregarding their party affiliations. The moon is very bright during the Holy Week and that is why ladies can walk around.

People all flock to see the competition or reading the “Passion” or the History of Christ by singing. The competitors are usually women and they sing at the top of their voices. The bystanders admire the winning woman and oftentimes they bring her to another chapel to compete. While the competition is going on, the young boys are outside playing what is called “Tuktukan.” That is, an egg is handled by a boy such that there is a small portion to be seen. Then, the other boy with another egg strikes the former. The egg which is broken will be given to the boy whose egg wins.

At the “Cristia” or the part of the chapel where the priest dresses and undresses himself up, there is a committee of three or four persons composing the “Pakain.” They offer food to everybody, especially to those who compete in reading the “Pasion.” Everybody can eat freely. At midnight, there

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are persons assigned for lunch which is called the “Merienda.” Everybody may come and eat.


There is nothing done much in these days, only there is a repetition of the same thing that happened the previous day. I must not, however, neglect to mention that on Holy Wednesday, at about ten o’clock in the morning, all the “Apostoles” or Apostles go to church and the priest acting like Christ Himself performs the “Hugas” or cleaning of the feet of his followers. Only the young children go to see this event. On this day also, there assembled in the church what we call the “Sundalong Mantika.” They are supposed to have captured Christ and present him to different authorities. A captain is leading them. They number about a dozen or so.


This day is what I consider very unique in my town because the celebration is very different from the other towns of our province. I will discuss everything here in full so that you can understand me better. You must understand, my reader, that there are two masses on this day. The poor people go to church early in the morning and attend the four o’clock mass. Everybody has new cloth, new hat, new shoes and in fact new in everything from head to foot.

The well-to-do aristocrats usually go to church and attend the nine o’clock mass. At about eight o’clock, one can

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see streams of people coming from here and there. They are dressed at their best, otherwise they would not go to church. Indeed, we may say that they are making the church a display house. They are dressed with the most costly things they can afford. The girls all wear their diamonds, the young men their costly suits. They are grouped according to their family relations. It is hard to explain why they are such.

After the mass, nearly all the people go to the convent. I must mention to you that, annually, there are selected a gentleman and a lady who are called the “Hermano” and the “Hermana,” respectively. They are the ones who furnish the “eats.” Everybody is invited to eat and drink as he pleases. The priest and his twelve apostles are given [a] special table separated from the people. While eating, one can observe that the old people are on one side while the young men and women are grouped together murmuring to each. Everybody is jolly. It seems to me that everybody is satisfied.

Soon after dinner, a meeting is held. The very purpose of the meeting is to select the three presidents of the coming town fiesta to be held on May fifteenth of every year. A selection of a president for the young women is done. The priest then assumes the place of a temporary chairman and calls the meeting to order. The Roberts Rule of Order has no place here because the old men who are patterned after the Spanish fashion cannot fully understand such, so the meeting is not held in order as is the case. Somehow or other, the “Presidente de

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Festejos” is then selected. Immediately, he assumes his post and the election of the other officers is done. The young people’s turn now comes and the selection is made. The different committees are also formed and so everything is ready for the town fiesta. After this, they will go home and rest.

The Holy Thursday moon is always full and bright. The aristocratic group takes a walk within the town and goes to different chapels nearby to hear the competition in singing the “Pasion.” Oh! The splendor of the night and the continuous walking of the people, you will surely appreciate. The beauty of the scene can only be explained by a talented writer and a good poet.

During Holy Thursday, there are people who do to themselves what is called “Penitencia.” They strike their backs with sticks so that blood comes out. They run and fall down. There are other things done to inflict punishment to themselves. They do this with the idea that they are helping Christ in His sufferings. In the former days, no people were allowed to ride in any vehicle, but now the idea is dying out. It is also prohibited to take a bath. In this day, after the mass, the church bell will not ring until in the morning of Holy Saturday or “Sabado de Gloria.”


No new things can be seen on this day. We can only observe that the people are in black dress when they go to church.

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They mourn for the death of Christ. The women are in “Media [blurred word].”

At one o’clock sharp, Christ is placed on the cross by the “Sundalong Mantika” and guard Him. At three o’clock sharp, the church bell rings once announcing the death of Christ. His apostles are also there and soon after three o’clock, they take Him from the cross.

In the evening, there is a procession. Nearly all the images of saints in the town are brought with the procession. The first in line is the car which brings the corpse of Christ and then follows his mother, Virgin Mary. The other saints follow in the order [in] which they ought to be.


No important thing happens on Holy Saturday. The day following is Sunday. It is this day, early in the morning, when Christ ascended Heaven and sits on the right hand of God as said in the Holy Scriptures. That Sunday, there is a procession. The image of Christ is carried on one way and that of the Virgin Mary on the other. They meet at the “Galilea” and there, a certain ceremony is performed. That day is usually termed “Pasco ng Judio.” It is the Resurrection day. This ends the Holy Week, the week most Roman Catholic people observe with homage.

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To begin with, I must tell my readers that there are many

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fiestas observed in Cuenca, Batangas, the place where I first saw the light of a beautiful day. I am going to describe and relate their occurrence in chronological order. As I have said, there are so many, but I am going to limit my discussion to three of them which I consider the most important because the people on these occasions do their best effort to make the festivities the happiest ones.


There is no fixed date as to the celebration of this fiesta. The old men of the barrio compose themselves as “Diputados” and decide the date of the fiesta. A meeting is called. No formal invitations are issued but the news reach the members from mouth to mouth. Thus, at about four o’clock on Sunday afternoon, one month before the fiesta, the chapel bell rings and announces that the meeting is ready to be held. All members, when they hear the bell ringing, come. Then, the “how” and the “when” of the fiesta is taken into consideration. At first, the date of the celebration is fixed. Usually, the fiesta of “Mahal na Señor de Paciencia” is held on the first or second Saturday of January every year. After fixing the date, then the “Diputados” decide on the “Hermano Mayor.” Who will be the next “Hermany Mayor” or the head of the fiesta will be selected. The one selected will be for the ensuing year. The committees for the soliciting of contributions are formed. There are about three or five members in a committee. They go from house to house in the barrio and ask for their voluntary con-

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tribution. When they are through collecting, they report to the “Presidente” of the chapel who gives the money to the “Tesorero.” A committee is again formed to make the fiesta lively.


Daily, for nine days before the date of celebration, the people go to the chapel in the evening. This is what is called “Siyam” or “Novenario.” Every day and every afternoon of those nine days, a band goes around the barrio and announces the “novenario.” At about six o’clock, the novenario begins and ends about one hour or two later. To deal with the “novenario” in full will be too long so I will just give my readers some of its important parts.

They assemble in the chapel and pray. Usually, the old folks and the woman are in the chapel. The young men are just peeping through the small holes of the chapel just to view the girls. The band stays outside. This is what is done for eight days, at the evening. The ninth day is worth mentioning for it is altogether a different story. This special day is called “Vispera” or the day just before the festivity


At about two o’clock, the band goes around the barrio. We shall observe that at this day, the houses are already decorated and well arranged for they are expecting to receive their visitors that afternoon. Everyone is ready in the house, food

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light and what not. The chapel is also well-decorated for a committee usually of five beautiful and well-to-do girls and five well-known gentlemen of the barrio undertake the affair. After rounding the neighborhood, the band is given “merienda” or lunch by a person assigned. Then, in plays in the house until about six o’clock when the “novenario” is about to begin. At this day, we also observe that there are two bands. The one is offered by the young folks of the barrio; the other one by the old folks. At the designated hour, both bands go to the chapel and play their pieces. The “novenario” starts at six thirty. There are many young people at this day attending. Nearly all the people of the barrio are there. The priest attends this occasion with his choir and attendants. The ceremony is then performed. The priest sings and the choir answers. I need not deal with the very details of the ceremony for what takes place in that occasion are significant.


As soon as the bell rings continually signifying that the ceremony is ended, then the bands play alternately. I must not, however, forget to tell my readers that at this hour, they have already taken their supper. The young folks and those old men interested to hear beautiful pieces stay and crowd the band. The bands place themselves opposite each other about ten meters apart. After one band finishes a piece, the people shout and root for the other. The other band thereupon also plays a piece. We call it “serenata” or serenade in the

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English language. The “serenata” lasts till late at night, each band playing its best piece at its turn.


Early in the morning of that day, the band goes around the barrio announcing the event of the great fiesta. The people dress up ready to attend the mass. From every nook and corner, people and their visitors come to attend the fiesta. All people are happy as shown by their smiles and laughter. At about eight o’clock, the priest arrives; the choir is already there awaiting him. Thereupon, the chapel bell rings, continuously announcing to the people that the mass is about to begin. By this time, the chapel is already full and sardine-packed so that many of them have to stay outside. At the middle of the mass, there will be a sermon. [A] Special priest is employed for this occasion. He usually extols the work, hard work at that, of the “Mahal Na Señor de Paciencia.” He relates the whole story of the saint and tells the people that he seems an example to them. After the mass, then a procession is held around the chapel. All go with the procession. On one side are aligned the women and on the other side, the men. A band is playing before and after the saint. A priest follows the saint.

After the procession, the people go to their houses. Every house is an inn where all people are welcome may they be friends or not. There are plenty of eats everywhere. It seems that there is complete happiness in the barrio.

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Games of different kinds are played beginning at about two o’clock. Most of the ladies and gentlemen are present. Here may begin the lifelong romance. After the game, all go home and again eat to their hearts’ content.

The procession in the evening is the last event of the fiesta. The morning procession is nearly the same as that in the evening only that in the evening, the procession is carried to all parts of the barrio. There are lights and banners on all houses. After the procession, there are skyrockets and different lights shower in the air. The bands at this time are both playing. After the skyrockets and all those lights are through, then the festivity ends.

San Isidro Labrador

The Patron Saint of my town, Cuenca, Batangas is “San Isidro Labrador.” Every May 15 of the year is set aside to honor and venerate him.


Nine days before the fiesta, a “novenario” is held every evening. Within these days, the people go to church. The outside of the church is beautifully lighted. There is a band hired to go around the town every evening within nine days.


All officers who were selected on Holy Thursday

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are preparing for the fiesta. They go from house to house in the whole town to ask for voluntary contributions for the celebration. It is no mean work to be an officer of the fiesta. You have to work hard, otherwise the fiesta will not be lively. The different organizations of the town are also busy asking contributions so that they can contribute something to make the fiesta a happy one. The different barrios have their own contributions. They hire bands for the occasion. Indeed, the whole town is moving earth and heaven and leaving no stones unturned to venerate the Patron Saint. The old people take charge of all those things that are within the church. They spend all their collections to beautify the inner portion of the church. The young men and women join and they take charge of the beautification of the “Patio” or the yard in front of the church. They are in charge of the light in the “Patio.” They are responsible for the bandstand and for all the arrangements to be made in the “Patio.” One may think that a little sum of money will be enough for this, but it takes four or five hundred pesos to beautify the “Patio.”


By this day, all the preparations are already completed. At about one o’clock in the afternoon, the different bands hired by the different organizations and barrios are already there and begin to play their melodious pieces. They number from six to ten bands, so that the whole town seems to be in revelry. At about three in the afternoon, the “Procesion

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Civica” begins. It is not a civic procession as the name signifies but a procession of animals. This is celebrated because “San Isidro Labrador” was a farmer and all the farmers of the town bring with them pet animals to attend the procession. It is interesting to describe the procession because it is appealing.


The chief of police is selected as the grand marshal and the policemen together with the invited constabulary men are his aides. The “Presidente de Festejos” and the president of the young men head the procession. I must not forget to mention that by this time, every house is decorated. Visitors are pouring in from everywhere. The hospitality of our people is really beyond comparison. One cannot pass a house without being called for and once you are in, you cannot go out without eating something. I am not boasting, but it is a fact. “Every house is an inn.”

The procession starts at about three o’clock in the afternoon beginning from the “Patio.” All horses head the way. Then follow the cows in the group; then the carabaos. The carts which are beautifully decorated follow in line two by two. There are people singing in one cart, and on the others, demonstrations are taking place. Indeed, it is very nice to see these things. The people are yelling and shouting to the tune of the music. The carts number in [the] hundreds. Following these carts are the trucks which are representing the different organizations of the town. The lower class of people are the only

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ones usually going with the procession and the aristocrats and their visitors just view the parade in their houses. There is a band at the head of the procession, one after the rows of the carabaos; one after the group of cows; one after the carts; one after the trucks; and one at the very last. Two or three bands remain at the “Patio.” Those bands going with the procession are riding in trucks. The Patron Saint, “San Isidro Labrador,” is with the procession at the very last. The procession passes the different important streets and at about six o’clock in the afternoon, it is already ended.


The “Serenata” begins at about eight o’clock when everybody has already eaten. All the bands are placed in the bandstand so that the whole public can see them. They take turns one after the other. Here, people number by the thousands. They are anxious to hear the different pieces of the competing bands. Here, the skill and genius of these bands are measured and sized up. The band which has the best pieces played and which are agreeable to the public are likely to be hired again for the next fiesta. So, the best play is an asset. The play ends very late in the evening. The poor musicians have to wake up early in the morning about four o’clock and play around the town. At about six o’clock, they are taken to a house to eat. Each band has to eat at different houses where they are assigned.


Again, the church is made [into] a display house for all men and

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women wear new things from head to foot. There are many masses beginning from four o’clock in the morning up to eleven. Nearly all the priests of the nearby towns are there to participate the frolic of the happy fiesta. They are entertained by the local priest. The church is sardine-packed. Even the choir is full. The “Patio” is always full.

An invited priest usually officiates the ceremony and there is a special choir invited for the occasion. At about the middle of the last mass, a priest sermons. He extols the hardships and sufferings of the Patron Saint. In fact, he reveals to the people the history of the saint.

After the mass, every visitor is entertained. The guests of the lower class have to eat what the poor people can afford. Here, the contrast of the rich and poor classes is very distinct. The rich have all the delicious of the table while the poor has simple “eats.” The manner of entertainment, however, does not differ. Hospitality is shown to everyone.

In the evening, there is a dramatic performance hired for the occasion. The young people have another chance of enjoying themselves. They have a dance usually held in the town market.

After the procession, there are firecrackers and skyrockets. There are different kinds of lights. After these, the fiesta is ended already.

Manila, March 1, 1930

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Notes and references:
Transcribed from “Social Activities in Cuenca, Batangas,” by Petronila C. Marasigan, 1930, online at the Henry Otley-Beyer Collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
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