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Buling-Buling Traditions in Lipa City

The jeepney had paused by that kanto fronting the elementary school in Tambô to pick up passengers and, after one passenger had boarded and the jeepney was about to leave, the dispatcher warned the old lady behind the driver, “Paki-sara lang pô ng bintanâ…” Now, why would he even care, unless it was…


You have to understand, I don’t really keep track of these things… But had I known, I wouldn’t have even left the house. By the way, it did not take long before one of the passengers confirmed that it was – indeed – buling-buling

Now, what is it about these people in Tambô that they take their buling-buling a little too seriously? Where other barangays have become blasé about the tradition, small pockets of mambubuling continue to dutifully line the road in Tambô each and every year to hurl water at pedestrians and passing vehicles.

It can be not very amusing. The young lady who boarded the jeepney I was in on the way home wore a wet brown shirt. She forced a smile when she realized that everyone in the jeepney was staring sympathetically at her, but the smile – if anything – only betrayed that she was seething inside.

“Walang magawâ ang mga batâ,” she muttered under her breath to nobody in particular, as though an explanation was needed.

At the kanto, indeed, was a small group of half-naked kids with pails and tabos, gleefully anticipating each vehicle arriving. They were, themselves, glistening with mixtures of sweat and water on their small bodies, having doused each other – I suppose – when there were no targets approaching.

At least, these were kids…

At a kanto in Paninsingin, the group of mambubuling was made up of dark half-naked men with their beer bellies sticking out above their shorts. Ah-ah… Nagbabatâ-bataan…!!!

My Dad used to tell us this story of this time way back in the fifties – or was it the sixties – when he and some Air Force buddies were doused wet while riding back to base in a jeep. They returned on board the base’s fire truck!

If that isn’t getting even, I don’t know what is… Of course, whether that is true or not, you will have to ask my Dad…

And he rests somewhere at the Libingan ng mga Bayani

The buling-buling, to my knowledge, is supposed to be held in honor of St. John the Baptist. It’s a little hard these days to make the connection, especially when fights breaking out as a result of the tradition are not unknown.

Then, there’s the little matter of the type of water that is being hurled at the passers-by. There are those who find humor in being nasty and either scoop water up from the pusalê or lace tap water with urine.

The Thais have their own water festival, but theirs is a bit more sophisticated. They spray pedestrians using water guns and, if anything, the water is even perfumed. Now, compare that to fetid water being rudely hurled off a tabô

The Thai water festival is – of course – a tourist attraction. Can’t say the same of the buling-buling

[This story was first published with the title “Water Festival?” on Facebook on 22 February 2009.]

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