Friday, January 7, 2011

Haring Karabao of Hupi

“Tatlong taong walang Diyos”, three years without God, was one used to describe the nightmares and horrors of those years in the Philippines during WWII. Many also claim that if there was ever a point in local history when our people collectively lost their marbles, it was during that period. Extreme violence, fear, suffering and greed in their various shades were the daily occurrence, that many began to examine their own issues on spirituality and life itself.

Marinduque was one of the last Philippine islands occupied by the Japanese, thus local inhabitants had their own share of the atrocities of war. When peace reigned finally with the return of the American fleet under Gen. Douglas McArthur, people also returned to their normal lives, to their trust in themselves and faith in their God.

Yet, the Marinduqueno never lost that which kept him sane even after grieving for the departed, after losing all his crops and property, after constant hiding from the perceived enemy, Filipino or Japanese and going hungry - he never lost his sense of humor.

Less than two years after the country regained its Freedom, in the hamlet of Hupi (Sta. Cruz), the young and the old started a fiesta celebration that appeared to spell just that: F-R-E-E-D-O-M. People there would dress up like clowns, like queens in drags, like crazy people, like their own private fantasies, and roam the streets together making noise not music, all the rules of behavior suspended.

Calling it Haring Karabao, (yes, they spell it this way), the event that since 1948 has become an annual affair, is usually celebrated on Three Kings Day, known as the Epifany. But people here associate their crazy acts and role playing not with anyone among the Magi but with the character of Herod the Great (called Herodes locally), King of Judea, who according to the Bible story ordered the killing of all babies when Jesus was born to give no chance for the prophesied Messiah to survive. The Messiah and would-be King was a threat to his position and title. Of Herod's method, a local organizer put it, thus: “Si Herodes ay nabuhay sa daigdig na suko hanggang langit ang kasalanan”.

People here also believe that Herodes together with his soldiers all but lost their sanity in those days – to them it could have been a case of ancient mass hypnosis that occured when loyal soldiers lost their sanity for a time and blindly obeyed the King’s diabolical order, as even in these modern times, in these islands, we have witnessed and have become familiar with such episodes repeated by those who append ‘honorable’ in their names as principal actors.

Haring Karabao, therefore, the Hupi folks say, is celebrated in mockery of Herodes and all those like him in this world – the political oppressors, the exploiters and manipulators of the poor, those who make a mockery of our democratic process, those whose lust for power could never be satiated! But the exercise is also done with that spirit of humility and thanksgiving, “sapagkat kami ay kinupkop ng Panginoon sa loob ng nakaraang taon”, because we were taken care of by the Lord during the past year, a practitioner declares. Renewal of their faith in Bathala, who is certain to eventually take care of the scoundrels, male or female.

Over time, the Haring Karabao fever spread to the other villages of Sta. Cruz such as Matalaba, Tawiran, Malabon, Baliis, Manlibunan and Polo Island. There, the wacky and the absurd, the atrocious and the hilarious, the shocking and the ridiculous are seen in various forms as village folks mark the festival of the Epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Susong Dalaga Hill

Susong Dalaga Hill
Susong Dalaga Hill from Bagtasan isthmus

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