The Lechon Festival: A Feast of Roast Pigs and Merrymaking
The Philippines is a country with diverse cultures and traditions, and one of the most delicious and festive events that showcases its cuisine and history is the Lechon Festival. The Lechon Festival is an annual festival that takes place every June 24th in the town of Balayan, Batangas, which is known as the home of the best lechon in the country. The festival honors San Clemente, the patron saint of fishermen, and features a parade of roast pigs that are offered to him as a thanksgiving for the bountiful catch and a blessing for the future. The festival is also a way of expressing the fun-loving and generous spirit of the people of Balayan, who share their food and joy with everyone.
The word “Lechon” comes from the Spanish word “leche”, which means milk. It refers to a whole pig that is roasted over charcoal until its skin becomes crispy and its meat becomes tender and juicy. Lechon is a popular dish in the Philippines and other parts of the world, especially during festivals or fiestas. It is usually served with liver sauce, vinegar, or soy sauce, and eaten with rice or bread. Lechon is considered a delicacy and a symbol of abundance and prosperity.
The origin of the festival can be traced back to the 16th century, when Balayan was a fishing village that was converted to Christianity by Spanish missionaries. They introduced the devotion to San Clemente, who was said to have miraculous powers over the sea and its creatures. They also brought an image of San Clemente from Rome, which was enshrined in the church of Balayan. The image was believed to be miraculous, as it protected the town from pirates, storms, and diseases. The image was later brought to a fluvial parade in Taal Lake as part of the festival. The parade also included boats carrying lechon, which were offered to San Clemente as a sign of gratitude and devotion.
The festival today is a day-long celebration that culminates on June 24th, the feast day of San Clemente. It features various events and activities that showcase the culture and heritage of Balayan, such as art exhibits, musical performances, cultural shows, food fairs, and other contests. The highlight of the festival is the grand street parade or Sadsad, where hundreds of lechon are carried by men dressed in colorful costumes and masks. The lechon are decorated with flowers, fruits, vegetables, and other items that reflect the theme or personality of the owner. The parade also features floats, higantes (giant papier-mache figures), carabaos (water buffaloes), beauties, and farmers.
The festival is not only a feast for the eyes, but also for the taste buds. Visitors can enjoy various delicacies that are unique to Balayan, such as tapang taal (cured beef), adobong dilaw (yellow adobo), sinaing na tulingan (boiled tuna), suman sa lihiya (sticky rice cake with lye), kapeng barako (strong coffee), balisong (butterfly knife), and lechon sauce (made from pork liver, vinegar, sugar, garlic, onion, and spices). They can also join in the fun and merrymaking by throwing water at each other, which is a tradition that dates back to the olden times when people would splash water on San Clemente’s image to receive his blessings.
The Lechon Festival is not only a celebration of roast pigs and merrymaking, but also a celebration of faith and culture. It is a way of preserving and promoting the traditions and values of Balayan and its people. It is also a way of showcasing the beauty and diversity of Batangas and the Philippines.