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November 17, 2003


“Turumba turumba mariangga; matuwa
tayo’t magsaya; sumayaw ng tu-turumba;
puri sa Birhen Maria; turumba turumba sa
Birhen; matuwa tayo’t mag-aliw;
turumba’y ating sayawin; puri sa Mahal na
Birhen; biyernes ng makita ka; linggo ng
i-ahon ka; sumayaw ng tu-turumba; puri sa
Birhen Maria, sa Birhen (2x); turumba
turumba sa Birhen; turumba turumba sa
Birhen; turumba’y ating sayawin; puri sa
Mahal na Birhen (repeat).”

Manila has its “Buling-buling,” Bulacan its “Sayaw sa Obando,” Cebu, Bohol and Cuyo, their “Sinulog,” and Aklan its “Ati-atihan.” For the people of Pakil, Laguna, there is Turumba, the festivity held in honor of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows), which draws thousands of devotees from nearby provinces.

Pakil comes after Paete, and is 19 kilometers away from Sta. Cruz, the capital of Laguna. According to accounts, Pakil was supposedly named after Gat Paquil, a chief at that time, with the town being originally settled in by people who came from across Laguna de Bai (Laguna de Bay) sometime around 14th century. Paquil was officially changed to Pakil on December 5, 1927 as decreed by then Governor General Eugene Gilmore.

The Spirit of Turumba

Pakil’s Turumba is known as the largest and longest religious celebration of its kind in the country, it is even immortalized in artist Kidlat Tahimik’s 1983 short film “Turumba.”

The whole festivity is aggregately called Pistang Lupi held on specific dates for seven months. This is a special time devoted to the observation of seven key novenas corresponding to the seven sorrows of the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, before climaxing into the religious event that it is. The first “Lupi,” also termed Biyernes de Dolores, was observed last April 14, Friday being the day when the image of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores was seen floating in Laguna de Bai. Successive “Lupis” are labeled accordingly: Pistang Martes, Pistang Biyatiko, Pistang Biyernes, Pistang Linggo, Pistang Pag-Akyat, Pistang Pagpanaog.

The Turumba specifically refers to the dance-procession that follows at the end of each “lupi.” The otherwise quiet San Pedro de Alcantara Parish Church, famous for its reliefs and crucifix, turns into a virtual Quiapo. During the procession, the icon of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores is placed in an antique pedestal buoyed up only by three long wooden poles borne by the townsmen. The scene is reminiscent of Manila’s Feast of the Black Nazarene where people wipe various cloths on the image during the procession. The only evident difference is that there are a lot of swaying and singing. The climax of this event coincides with the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrow in mid-September. This special day is even marked by the so-called Ahunan sa Ping-as, where people from all walks of life troop to the top of Ping-as, it being the equivalent of Mt. Banahaw in the area. Others head towards the town’s center to take a bath in a pool fed by a cool running spring believed to have curative value.

Nuestra Señora del Milagro

The present icon was a replica of the Nuestra Señora de las Antiguas, found to be the actual name of the original 9 by 11 oil painting of the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores found floating in Laguna de Bai in 1788.

The image was supposedly brought by a missionary in a barge via Laguna de Bay. Caught by a thunderstorm, the image fell overboard. It surfaced on a Friday and was caught by a group of fisherfolk after several attempts at retrieving it. Seeing that the image was that of the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, they decided to bring it to the nearest church. The wind though seemed to blow against them until they ended up in Pakil at the other side of the bay.

The fisherfolk, contending with tired bodies and heavy rains, left the image on top of a slab by the shore. A group of women then came upon the image and were astonished because the image was dry despite the heavy rain that night. They alerted the resident priest because they could not lift nor move the image from its place.

With the choir and some musicians gathered about him, the priest gave the image praises and prayers. When they saw the priest lift it, the people, at once, started singing, dancing and shouting praises: “Sa Birhen! Sa Birhen!,” following the priest and the image all the way back to the church. That, in a nutshell, was how the first Turumba came to be.

Chosen Church

Frequent visitors say nothing much has changed in Pakil, an observation easily confirmed by a brief walk down the plaza where the San Pedro de Alcantara Parish Church is.

The church was originally constructed of bamboo and nipa as overseen by Fr. Francisco de Baraja when Pakil obtained independence from Paete in 1676. The stone church and convent were only built during the incumbency of Fr. Fernando Jaro in 1732. Since then, the church has seen two earthquakes and three fires. The altar enshrining the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores was made marble by Fr. Ronald Reagan and consecrated by archbishop Alejandro Olalia in 1959. The latest major repair was done between 1980-84 involving the bell tower and the church’s ceiling repaired.

Fronting the church is the Municipal Hall – a classic planning layout that delineated the former relationship between the church and state. The statue that stands in the plaza belongs to musician/composer Marcelo Adonay (February 6, 1848- February 8, 1928), the acknowledged Prince of Church Music. From Pakil’s almost dreamy surroundings, Adonay may have found his inspirations for the marches he composed for the annual Turumba. Likewise, the festivity has been a boundless source of inspiration to its resident artist Danilo Dalena whose early works feature milling crowds, or the mingling bodies during such processions.

Another interesting story traces the Turumba to another possible occurrence. The street dancing and the “falling” supposedly approximate the actions of the infirm and the sick who originally milled about the image of the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores hoping for some healing. Hence, Turumba is said to be a corruption of the Tagalog word tumumba. Another has it that the people swayed, almost falling forward, as the holder of the originally framed image swung to all sides.

Nevertheless, and regardless of whichever version one would have, it is clear that the people of Pakil, Laguna and nearby provinces have grown to love their “Pistang Lupi,” celebrating, dancing and singing after every contemplation of the sorrows of the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores. And who would not have loved it? Who would not have loved the Filipino festivities? Filipinos always seem to find something to celebrate about, to find a reason to be happy despite and in spite of the sadness that may have existed in their midst. And this is almost always true: couples praying for a child dance the “balitaw” or the “balse” at Obando; despite experiencing impoverished years, the people of Negros Occidental, took to the streets and celebrated! –it is Joy suffusing the sadness rather than the sadness clouding over our people’s varihued joy. This is, I think, what makes Pakil’s Turumba Filipino, very Filipino, very much us. And so, we find ourselves joining in the procession: dancing, praising, singing: “Turumba turumba mariangga; matuwa tayo’t magsaya…” – already one scene among the many scenes that would have made even Botong Francisco paint forever.