Last June 2018, I went to visit Samar to check on the many projects the Bayanihan Foundation have donated there. In 2014, the region was hit hard by super typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever recorded to hit landfall. After the typhoon, the foundation responded quickly to help with the recovery efforts. During my visit, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that all the books, computers, fishing nets, and many other donations are still being used today. I was really surprised by the colorful fiestas (festivals) happening in Samar and all throughout the 7,000 islands.
We were driving towards Giporlos, Samar and we passed by the highway an impromptu “Santacruzan,” a colorful pageant of young people dressed in colorful costumes. The festival is often held in many barangays (villages) where young people dressed up re-enacting the finding of the holy cross by Empress Helena in 336 AD. The Filipinos seem to know how to turn a boring historical fact in to a colorful fiesta.
The next day, Evelyn Castillo, Bayanihan Foundation Liaison and I visited the Giporlos Elementary School to check on the books and the computers we donated there a couple of years ago. During our unannounced visit, the principal, Oscar Sabarillo, and the school officials put together a potluck lunch during our surprise visit. All the sudden we had an impromptu lunch fiesta.
Before we left the school, the principal, Oscar Sabarillo, invited us to his town’s fiesta. So the following weekend, we went to another barangay (village) fiesta in Lawaan, Samar.
We enjoyed a feast at the school principal’s home and at least 300 people were in and out of his house enjoying the lechon (roast pig). Evelyn, and her sister-in-law, Marlefe Lo, also joined in the festivities. I also had some tuba, an alcoholic beverage created from the sap of various species of palm tree.
I did not expect to be joining so many fiestas and impromptu parties during my visit. It seems hard to believe that Samar was hit hard by a devastating typhoon with the residents celebrating fiestas and enjoying life. What is really amazing are the residents’ ability to bounce back from adversity. The lesson of resiliency is an important lesson to be learned. But most of all, the Philippines and its 7,000 islands isn’t the Philippines without its colorful fiestas. It’s always fiesta time.