Filipino town gets muddy to honor Christian saint

Luis Liwanag
Aliaga, Philippines
Filipino town gets muddy to honor Christian saint A Catholic priest blesses participants in the Taong Putik (mud people) festival honoring St. John the Baptist in the northern Philippine province of Nueva Ecija, June 24, 2022.
Luis Liwanag/BenarNews

Continuing a unique tradition dating to World War II, residents in a northern Philippines town marked the annual Catholic feast of St. John the Baptist on Friday by covering themselves in mud and marching to the local church to receive a priest’s blessing.

The Taong Putik (mud people) festival is celebrated every June 24 in the farming community of Aliaga, in Nueva Ecija province, about 143 km (89 miles) north of Manila.  

Devotees wake up before dawn, troop to nearby fields and cover themselves in mud, dried banana leaves, vines and twigs before marching to the local church.  

Villagers say the ritual – they are not sure when it was first carried out – commemorates how

14 villagers escaped execution by Japanese soldiers in World War II by hiding in the fields during a torrential downpour that covered everything in mud. 

Locals believe the villagers were saved by St. John the Baptist and that rolling in mud is a way to show devotion.

The Philippines is Asia’s only predominantly Catholic nation, with more than 80 percent of its 110 million people embracing the religion.

At daybreak, a woman prepares banana leaves smeared in mud to be worn during the festival, June 24, 2022. [Luis Liwanag/BenarNews]
Band members lead a procession in Aliaga town, June 24, 2022. [Luis Liwanag/BenarNews]
Two women wearing banana leaves participate in the annual festival, June 24, 2022. [Luis Liwanag/BenarNews]
Devotees of St. John the Baptist gather to celebrate the annual Catholic festival with a tradition practiced only in their town, Aliaga, June 24, 2022. [Luis Liwanag/BenarNews]
A man bathed in mud emerges from the fields near Aliaga town as part of the annual festival, June 24, 2022. [Luis Liwanag/BenarNews]

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