The Carabao Festival is celebrated on the feast day of San Isidro Labrador (St. Isidore the Worker), the farmer’s patron saint from May 14 to 15 as tribute to the water buffalos or carabaos in the farming town of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija, Pulilan, Bulacan, and Angono, Rizal. Thecarabao or (kalabaw) is the national animal of the Philippines.
The townspeople celebrate this occasion in glorious thanksgiving for a year-long bountiful harvest. It is manifested by a two-day revelry where one can witness street dancing and a procession of more than twenty beautifully decorated carabaos. A variety of multi-colored fruits, vegetables, flowers, candies and other food crops are hung on bamboo poles and carts. These carts, pulled by the carabaos serves as floats.
On the first day, farmers pay tribute to carabaos. These animals are very important for farmers because they help till the land. Farmers brush their carabaos’ skin until it is sleek and shiny, the horns are rubbed with oil and given shine. Then the carabaos are decorated with ribbons or sometimes painted and attached to carts. In the afternoon, farmers lead their carabaos to the church square to be part of the procession. At the church, the carabaos not only kneel for their blessings but also walk on their knees like penitents in front of the church. A priest blesses each one of the carabaos as they pass by the church and pay homage to their patron saint, ensuring their good health and vitality for the coming year. On the second day, the carabaos compete in a friendly race, each pulling a bamboo carriage on a 400-meter course. These carabaos were trained daily for several weeks before the festival begins.
Aside from the kneeling of the carabaos and the carabao race, which are considered as the highlight of the festival, there are other things that are equally entertaining such as the marching bands where the audience are treated with the majorette’s dancing and baton twirling exhibition, the children’s drum and lyre band and the street dancers who takes center stage and exhibited various folk dances which usually delights both tourist and locals alike. These performers are mostly students from different Municipalities in Bulacan. Traditional dances and procession of decorative floats are part of the activities of this occasion.
Prizes are awarded to the strongest and most beautifully decorated carabaos.