Every municipality in the Philippines holds an annual weeklong fiesta. In Romblon, the largest fiestas are those in the capital and in the city of Odiongan, where I live. Although Odiongan will not be celebrating fiesta until April, this past weekend all of the Peace Corps volunteers, as well as many local residents of Romblon traveled to the capital for this fiesta celebration. I had to get up at 3am to stand in line just to get a boat ticket and then the boat was so packed with people I could barely find a place to stand! Good thing the Peace Corps issues us a personal lifejacket because the U.S. Coast Guard definitely would not have approved the ship at that capacity!
The president of the Philippines even made an appearance, arriving via private helicopter to give a speech (in Tagalog, of course). This is the first time he has ever visited our province and I was lucky enough to get a special access badge to the event! Following the president’s speech was the parade of Santo Nino, a statue of the baby Jesus belonging to Spain, however the local legend says that Spanish ships tried on 7 different occasions to bring the statue back to Spain and they were continuously met by rough seas and forced to turn back. After the 7th time it was decided that the Santo Nino would remain in Romblon and finally the weather turned fair allowing the Spanish ship to return home (without the statue).
Saturday morning was full of parading, costumes, dance, and delicious street food. I watched the various “tribes” compete in costume, dance and drumming competitions and enjoyed fresh roasted corn and hot peanuts sold on the streets.