The Carabao Festival is celebrated in various provinces such as Rizal, Nueva Ecija, and Bulacan but it is more popular in Pulilan, Bulacan because they celebrate Kneeling Carabao Festival in the said province.
Apparently, the festival is celebrated by towns or municipalities whose patron saint is San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of farmers. The feast is to honor both San Isidro and carabaos – the national animal of the Philippines – as the farmers’ helper.
The Carabao Festival is a two-day celebration that starts in May (although in Nueva Ecija and Rizal it is celebrated on May 15 and 16).
The first day usually involves a parade of the water buffalo. Farmers form part of the celebration by paying tribute to these ever-helpful animals. Their day starts with brushing the carabaos’ skin and rubbing the horns with oil until they become shiny. Carabaos and their carts are adorned with flowers and ribbons made from crepe paper, plastic or abaca strings. Some farmers choose to paint their carabaos using washable paints.
The farmers lead their carabaos to the church and once all of the participating carabaos are there, the procession starts. Before the parade, though, each carabao kneels while the priest blesses it. More than 20 carabaos participate in the blessing. During the grand parade, the carabaos also kneel in front of the churches and chapels that they pass through.
The more exciting activities occur on the second day of the Carabao Festival. Some of these are carabao race wherein bamboo carriages are pulled in a 400-meter track, street dancing competition and awarding of the most beautiful carabaos.
Pulilan has been celebrating Carabao Festival for several years now to the delight of Catholic Filipinos and travelers from Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
In Bulacan, the festival is more of a thanksgiving to San Isidro Labrador for a bountiful harvest throughout the year.
Carts are usually big enough to carry the town’s muse or the image of the patron saint. The carts more aptly called floats are dressed up to depict farm life. An assembly of dancers follows the cart during the parade.
The locals and tourists line the streets and shout Luhod! (Kneel!). The owners oblige by ordering their carabaos to do so. You’d be amazed at how obedient the carabaos are. Don’t worry, there is no animal abuse here. These carabaos are well-trained.
Participants from other municipalities are also welcome to join the parade. The carabao parade starts at the highway, National Road, at the entrance of the poblacion.
On the second day of the festivities, there’s a street dancing competition where participants are elementary and high school students from Pulilan. They use tunes and sounds specifically created for the festival.
In front of San Isidro Labrador Church is a small plaza where the judging happens. The floats and the garbs will be judged based on overall compliance.
However, if you are from Cubao, there are several bus terminals in EDSA going to Bulacan. Look for buses with Guiguinto, Plaridel, Pulilan, Baliwag, San Rafael, and San Ildefonso signages. These buses will pass through Pulilan.
Alight at the bus terminal stop, then, ride a tricycle going to the church. The travel would take one to two hours. The first trip is at five in the morning and the last trip is at 9 in the evening.