A harvest festival defined by the strong expression of cooperation of the Gumaceños to build their own version of “Baluarte” known as the bamboo arch where the “Arana” or the edible chandelier style display of their rich farm yields and products. A seemingly simple and straightforward messaging yet sending a strong message of synergy – THE FILIPINO BAYANIHAN.
It was monumental to have sat with Mam Bee, the previous Municipal Tourism Officer of Gumaca, where she led us through the humble yet deeply meaningful history of the Araña and Baluarte Festival. It is believed that the narrative of community pantry came to light – as local farmers tend to share the excesses of their harvests by hanging them onto reverse V shaped bamboo poles, where neighbors can choose portions that they need. From the simple tradition sprouted to a grander expression of the “bayanihan” spirit where all barangays, near or far flung, participate in unity with their municipality. These led to the ARAÑA and BALUARTE FESTIVAL of the Gumaca of what we experienced this 2023 edition.
The festival spirit truly resonates as the Gumaca thunders alive with a plethora of experiences and activities set by their Local Government Unit headed by their supportive executive head, Mayor Webster Letargo.
On the dawn of May 14, the defined aisles of the downtown Gumaca would receive contingents from all barangays, as they would build ground up the “Baluarte”. These baluartes serves as a strong arch support mechanism made of bamboo where the harvests would be hanged on display during the last two days of the festival. The vegetables, fruits, and other bounties from each respective farms and plantationa would be then creatively decorated to a chandelier style. This style of setup is called the “Araña”. Putting together this two elements would create the iconic arches decorating the streets that are truly captivating and worth visiting for. All respective barangays would enthusiastically participate, as each constituents would bring their portions or share. Until such time, the baluartes would be one grand hanging display of colorful produces above you, waiting to drop after the San Isidro de Labrador procession passes. Imagine, more of these baluartes lined up as you saunter the downtown area with heaps of farm bounties above your head. Each of the barangay representatives exert their creative ingenuity by adding different elements that completes the narrative or story they would evoke on each edition.
THE GRAND PARADE
Came the mid afternoon of May 15, signalling another momentous event where key persons from the LGU and various stakeholders would partake in the grand parade. Each baluarte would have the opportunity to be marvelled by their very own executive head and the rest of the political entourage, valued guests and the Gumaceños themselves, as they celebrate their way towards the capping highlight event – the symbolic dropping of the arañas on the waiting locals below. A holy mass will be celebrated followed by a procession. The procession entourage will pass through all baluartes until returning to the town church.
TOURISM SIDE TRIPS
The festival experience would not be complete without roaming around their poster destinations. Visit Gumaca’s “Castillo” located at the coastal area. It was a remnant of a Spanish Military Fort. You would see an actual canon left installed. The “Castillo” also features a mini tower where you can enjoy panoramic view of the vast Lamon Bay and Gumaca town.
Visit also their museum which is stonethrow away from the Castillo where the historical narratives and artefacts are on display. Various political, civic and educational pieces are on display with accompanying printed labels.
One must not miss the towering church – The Cathedral of San Diego de Alcala. The centuries old church is established at 1582 at the town of Gumaca. The original church is burned down by the Olandes and reconstructed. The church is believed to be the oldest in the province of Quezon.
It was one of the greatest opportune to celebrate the festival by joining the parade with the mayor. I can really marvel his excitement and how proud he is. Mayor got so excited when he knew that we came from different regions of the Philippines to help promote their festival. Never would I imagine joining the grand entourage! It was indeed another epic experience!
The Arana’t Baluarte Festival experience is made possible by the Department of Tourism – CALABARZON office. Our heartfelt thanks to Municipal Staff Mam Lani and Mam Bee for providing great insights about Gumaca. I am proud that I have experience this festival – grounded yet immersive.