In Los Baños, parade turns to walk for causeBy Maricar Cinco
Philippine Daily Inquirer
What made this year’s Bañamos Festival different from past celebrations was the absence of gaudy street dance costumes, blaring music, busy trade booths or spectators rooting for beauty pageant favorites.
The usually week-long revelry that culminated with a mass “healing bath,” a fluvial parade in Laguna Lake, or a Marian street dance called the Elejer, was reduced to a simple yet “meaningful” daylong activity on Monday to commemorate Los Baños’ 397th founding anniversary.
“Since we were hit by a calamity, we opted to change the program a little bit instead of celebrating (with) the traditional street dance or competitions,” Mayor Anthony Genuino said.
Bañamos, which means “we bathe” in Spanish, was first staged in 2002. The festival’s name was derived from Los Baños, or hot spring baths that are naturally abundant here.
But weeks after the August monsoon dumped heavy rains and caused massive flooding, the local government announced the cancellation of the festival in deference to the flood victims. Over 4,000 families living in nine towns hugging Laguna de Bay were affected by the flooding; 800 families are still in evacuation centers.
Some residents reacted to the new festival program on the municipal government’s Facebook page. “But that’s the dynamism of Bañamos. It adapts to the call of the times,” said Roberto Cereno of the municipal tourism council.
Cereno stressed that the festival was not canceled or postponed, “but was just different this year to suit (the situation).”
Walk for a Cause
Instead of the civic parade, the celebration kicked off with the five-kilometer “Walk for a Cause.”
More than 10,000 people, representing 180 civic organizations, government agencies, universities, and public and private schools, joined. Some held out donation boxes and tin cans to motorists, bystanders and residents who watched the parade from their homes.
“In our village (of Malinta), 156 families are still in the evacuation center. That (number) doesn’t include yet those who chose to stay with their relatives elsewhere,” said government employee Carmen Umawit, 65, as she held out a donation box to bystanders.
Senior students Rochelle Macarilay and Marc Jay Bautista of Los Baños Community National High School said the walk “was nothing” if it would not be a means to help the flood victims.
“We wanted to show the spirit of bayanihan (community involvement). Whatever amount we collected would all be given to the flood victims,” Genuino said.
He said the fundraising component of the festival was meant to augment the relief operations as the flood situation was expected to persist until December.
As of 10 a.m. on Monday, the collection reached P190,000. Others gave clothing, relief goods and medicines.
A donation center was put up at the municipal hall grounds.
In the afternoon, a special Mass, followed by the lighting of around 100 sky lanterns along the lakeshore, was held. The lanterns, Genuino said, symbolized “our prayers that we would be spared from the calamities (in the future).”