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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bocaue Fluvial (Pagoda) Festival, Bulacan


The Pagoda sa Wawa is held every first Sunday of July in Bocaue, Bulacan, in honor of the Holy Cross of Wawa (Mahal na Krus sa Wawa). The festival is also known as the Bocaue River Festival, Bocaue Pagoda Festival, and the Pista ng Mapagpalang Krus sa Wawa (Fiesta of the Blessed Cross of Wawa). The main attraction of the celebration is the fluvial parade of the pagoda or decorated barge and colorful small boats.
History and folklore Legend states that the forefathers of Bocaue extracted the Holy Cross of Wawa from the river 200 years ago, and the celebration is in commemoration of this event. A well-known story tells of a woman who was saved from drowning by a floating cross which is presumed to be the Holy Cross of Wawa.

The festival
The Holy Cross of Wawa, a replica of the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified, is set on a pagoda, which is paraded down the river, led by a retinue of bancas. The entire fluvial procession is colorfully decorated and hundreds of devotees from all over the Philippines gather to pay homage to the Holy Cross of Wawa. The festivities also include a nine-day novena, which celebrates the rescue of the Holy Cross of Wawa from the Bocaue River. Devotees customarily douse each other with water from the river during the festival, especially during the procession. The density of devotees forces some to swim alongside the pagoda when they cannot find space for themselves on the vessels.


Pagoda tragedy More or less than 300 people drowned on 2 July 1993 when the pagoda sank. The pagoda, which was already overloaded with devotees, sank because of an uneven distribution of weight in the vessel.

The measures taken to ensure the safety of the devotees have been strictly enforced because of the tragedy. This move was spearheaded by Richard Gordon, who also led the team that originally responded to the incident.

The tradition was halted on 1994 and was resumed in 1999, continuing up to the present. The tradition now commemorates not only the Holy Cross of Wawa, but also the devotees who died in the sinking of the pagoda during the tragedy of 1993.

Sajid Bulig, an elementary school student, was proclaimed a hero after giving his life to save four children from drowning during the sinking of the pagoda. Bulig's act is chronicled in the social studies textbook Ang Lahing Pilipino sa Nagbabagong Panahon authored by Lazelle Peligno and Ela Rose Sablaon. The book was published in February 2007 and is used in public and private schools.

Note: This is No.8 of the series of articles on Philippines Festivals and Fiestas.

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