The feast of San Juan, or the feast day of Saint John the Baptist, is traditionally celebrated in the Philippines with water.
In some cities, mischievous revelers, children and grown-ups alike, use the day as a legitimate excuse to douse passers-by with water, often using dippers, buckets, hoses, or even water guns. This practice supposedly reminds people of their baptism. In other places, people spend the day beside a body of water, gathering with friends and family, relaxing, reflecting, and often taking a dip.
These are the customs that Filipinos use to commemorate the birth of St. John, who in Biblical times, cleansed and prepared the people for the coming of Jesus Christ, by baptizing them with water. San Juan can either be fun, wild, or annoying to the victims, but Filipinos have been celebrating it that way for decades and it is among our culture’s more unique celebrations.
Today’s celebration of San Juan will have to take on a more somber approach for the second consecutive year as the country still grapples with the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in Western Visayas, where cases have recently been rising to worrying levels.
In Bacolod City, business establishments catering to tourists in beach and mountain areas have agreed to temporarily suspend operations during the feast day of St. John the Baptist as part of efforts to contain the spread of the infectious coronavirus. Business owners are cooperating with city officials as everyone tries to prevent the large gatherings and potential super spreader events that could follow San Juan traditions and festivities.
It is now up to the people to do their part and, for now, focus on the meaning of the feast day of San Juan, instead of the fun and traditions we have been missing. As St. John the Baptist did his work to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus Christ by baptizing people on the River Jordan, let us also do the work needed to be done as we collectively lead our country to the end of this pandemic.
Let us not focus on what we are missing for now but instead gather the resolve to continue following the minimum health protocols, avoid gatherings and crowds, and get vaccinated so we can get back sooner to the customs and traditions that we have been missing.*