Men wearing women’s dresses, bras and wigs with cheeks smeared with lipstick, danced along the rising coastal tide of the island. Some carrying animals, a chicken, a kitten, a frog, performing pit fights on them, as they made their way to the chapel. Shouting, “Bingka! Bingka mo diha! Pizza hut! Tag piso lang!” Carrying trays of dung topped with ketchup. A man wearing a cow costume, two men walking around with a large wooden replica of the male sex organ attached to their waists. A reenactment of a man dressed as a woman — giving birth in the sea.
Baliw is a Filipino word for crazy or mad.
Baliw-baliw festival symbolizes the confusion of the faithful, who chose to illustrate their struggles in life through rituals learned from their pagan ancestors. People are showing the things we need to remember and don’t want to happen. Some are unexplainable experiences in terms of their beliefs and are also a way of reminiscing God’s wrath.
In honor of San Vicente Ferrer, residents of Barangay San Vicente, Olango, celebrate the festivity every month of May, falling on the date with the highest 12-noon tide. The festival has been celebrated through several generations, evolving over time from pagan rites and later a fluvial procession. One 60 year old elder said that this celebration was already being held even before he was born and the festival may have started during the late 1800’s.
The festival was stopped for five years in the 1970s by a parish priest who viewed the activity as an act of disrespect to the saint. It was revived by the next parish priest who understood there were deep reasons why natives hold the festival, even if it was against the will of the church.