The last time one of us was in a festival street was August, and considering we were in Angono that Sunday for a fiesta we haven’t seen before, we were doubly glad to finally be back on the streets.
The first thing we noticed about Angono in Rizal province, an hour away from Metro Manila, was that its streets were extra narrow and extra crowded: there were higantes (giants) on our left bobbing nearer and nearer, but there was also a pair of men carrying an image of a saint hurriedly from our right, making a counter-flow on the route. There were motorcycles, tricycles, pedestrians, and vendors coming from all directions, spilling into the intersection that marked the parade route.
A higante stands at about 10 feet, wears brightly colored clothes, and has a hollow body where a person can fit himself to carry the higante around. The higante’s body is made of assembled bamboo sticks to make transport easy.
While Psy’s effigy came parading down to the tune of Oppa Gangnam Style, the priest’s homily was also booming out of the loudspeaker from one block away. From where we were, which was another intersection, a nearby house’s radio was also on full blast. It was more chaotic than we expected, but the sights we saw were fascinating nonetheless.
One of these amazing sights were the elaborate stone carvings that were all over the streets of Angono. Most of them depicted scenes from the Spanish occupation, and looked like 3D renditions of intricate paintings. Street intersections also have life-sized, full-color stone sculptures, which were as detailed as the wall carvings.
We don’t know about you, but we have yet to see another town in the country with as much street art as Angono does. Don’t be surprised to encounter a larger-than-life mermaid popping out of the street—this means you’ve probably reached the gates of one of the town’s famous art galleries. And here in this place, there seems to be an art gallery on every block.
Angono is the Art Capital of the Philippines: it was home to National Artist for Visual Arts Carlos ‘Botong’ Francisco and National Artist for Music Maestro Lucio San Pedro. There are also countless art houses all around, including Balaw Balaw of the Vocalan family, as well as Nemiranda just a block away.
Where’d the giants come from?
According to folklore, the first higante was created by Angono farmers to protest against their landlord’s unjust treatment. This is also why the typical higante’s hands are on the hips, his eyes big and bulging, and lips not smiling at all. It wasn’t associated with anything festive, unlike what it is today.
This is Angono’s original Pamilya ng Higante. The oldest existing higante of Angono,
which parades the streets to this day, is five decades old. It’s that adult male piece on the right.
To cut the story short, the higante only became a symbol of art and festive cheer in the 60s, when a higante was commissioned to go with the festival, until every year afterwards, more and more artists would create different higantes (also females, children, and even mythical characters).
Higantes’ clothes are made from bright colors and patterns. The styles are also Filipiniana.
The higantes were designed after real people, too. Can you guess?
This is how it is inside a higante’s belly.
The Higantes Festival coincides with the Catholic feast day of Saint Clement, patron of fishermen and patron saint of Angono. Today, November 25, marks the end of the town’s fiesta.
Local students in colorful costumes get ready to dance.
Leonardo Tajan, the son of Artemio Tajan who made the oldest existing higante, puts finishing touches to his creations.
First three higantes from left are his father’s original creations (the Pamilya ng Higante) while the next two are commissioned pieces of the town’s mayor and vice mayor (two rightmost higantes are made by other artists).
The Angono municipal hall in full festive mood.
Shuttle vans and buses going to and from various points in Rizal are available at the Araneta Bus Terminal in Cubao, Quezon City and SM Megamall in Mandaluyong.
This is the third part of our Rizal Series from our Rizal Blogger Tour sponsored by Thunderbird Resorts Rizal. Check out our other posts here:
- Fried crickets and art at Angono’s Balaw Balaw Restaurant
- Stunning hilltop view and more at Thunderbird Resorts Rizal
- Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs: The Philippines’ oldest work of art is in its art capital
Check out other Philippine festivals here: Photographing Philippine fiestas