Filipino Summer Solstice

June 22 of this year would be the longest day. The phenomenon is referred to as “summer solstice”.

This reminds me of a Joaquin classic about a pagan fertility dance, called tatarin, popular during the Spanish era. It also falls in the days dedicated to the feast of Saint John the Baptist which added more mystery and legend to it.

According to Joaquin (in his book Summer Solsctice):Tadtarin is celebrated on three days: the feast of St. John and the two preceding days. On the first night, a young girl heads the procession; on the second, a mature woman; and on the third, a very old woman who dies and comes to life again. In these processions, as in those of Pakil and Obando, everyone dances.”

Perhaps the Catholic hierarchy opposed this practice but how far they went or how strong they did I do not know. The dancing of women around a seasoned balete tree would have been enough to scare them.

I find it amazing how our native ancestors combined their ancient spiritual belief with Catholicism. The same thing happened to some South American countries with their Indian and African population.

The following event was described by Joqauin:

The old woman closed her eyes and bowed her head and sank slowly to her knees.

A pallet was brought and set on the ground and she was laid in it and her face covered with a shroud. Her hands still clutched the wand and the seedlings. The women drew away, leaving her in a cleared space. They covered their heads with their black shawls and began wailing softly, unhumanly—a hushed, animal keening.

Overhead the sky was brightening, silver light defined the rooftops. When the moon rose and flooded with hot brilliance the moveless crowded square, the black-shawled women stopped wailing and a girl approached and unshrouded the Tadtarin, who opened her eyes and sat up, her face lifted to the moonlight. She rose to her feet and extended the wand and the seedlings and the women joined in a mighty shout. They pulled off and waved their shawls and whirled and began dancing again—laughing and dancing with such joyous exciting abandon that the people in the square and on the sidewalk, and even those on the balconies, were soon laughing and dancing, too. Girls broke away from their parents and wives from their husbands to join in the orgy.

I  was told that Joaquin’s story was made into a movie and play, I haven’t seen both yet. I’ve already witnessed the fertility dances of  Obando and Pakil. But tatarin is more curious, much wilder I think. Too bad, it’s no longer around.

Nick’s work as interpreted by many expert as: godless, anti feminist and too much of a hispanist. But who reads these damn critics anyway – I don’t.  In the end the experience you get from reading Nick’s short stories are informative, educational and entertaining.

For those who have no idea what is this Tatarin. Guillermo Gomez explains:

“Pero, ang araw ni San Juan Bautista may isang  ritual ng tubig na siyang pagbabasâ sa mga tao maski na sa guitna ng daan.  Dahil sa ritual ng tubig, sumanib dito ang ritual ng TATARIN. At upang  mapagtakpan ang katañgiang seksuwal ng ritong ito, pinasiyá ng mga babailana  na sumama ang mga nañgagsitatarin sa bawat procesión ni San Juan Bautista.”

“Ang pagbabasâ ng katawan sa mga dekada ng 20, 30 at 40 may kahulugang  kahalayan na nagbibigay ng estimulasyon sa mga nanood na kalalakihan. Ang  katawang basâ ng kababaihan nagpapalitaw ng hubog ng kanilang mga dibdib at  balakang na siyang gumiguising sa mga kalalakihan na nasa mga kalye.”

“Pagkatapos ng pagsama sa prosesyon ni San Juan bilang mga devota nito, ang  mga nañgagsitatarin humihiwalay pagkatapos sa isang dakong nakatagô kung  saan nila sinisimulan ang mga maiinit nilang sayaw. Mistulang sayaw ng mga  Hitana at mga Flamenca ang mga primitibong kilos at indak nitong mga sayaw  na buñga na kanilang mga halusinasyon at pagnanasa. Ang kahinhinan na dating  katañgian ng mga Filipina ay winawaksi. At pagkatapos ng mga ganitong sayaw,  ang mga nagsitatarin ay sumasama sa kanilang mga esposo upang makipagtalik.”

According to GGR this explanation came from Dra. Belén de los Santos y Sisioco de Argüelles. Adopted daughter of EDSA.

Now on to the San Juan Bautista fiestas which would be June 24 (?). My advise is that for those that will pass by Sn Juan Manila: bring spare clothes. As early as five in the morning – people around the area already with their buckets of water for the annual “basaan”.

Although they do it in the spirit of good fun, some have had bad experiences with these tradition.

In Lian, they would be celebrating the feast of their patron saint also. Not sure how they celebrate it.


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