‘Taong putik’ immortalized in Ecija shrine
ALIAGA, Nueva Ecija—Staring at the bronze images of three “taong putik” (mud people), Nora Mapalad, a long-time resident of Barangay (village) Bibiclat here, was filled with joy, believing that the newly built shrine gave the village’s patron saint, St. John the Baptist, the honor he deserved.
Mapalad, wearing her red Filipiniana dress, witnessed the unveiling of the shrine last week as Bishop Sofronio Bancud of the Diocese of Cabanatuan led the declaration of the St. John the Baptist Parish, the home of the Taong Putik Festival celebrated every June 24, as a diocesan shrine.
“Our patron saint is indeed miraculous,” Mapalad said.
She said her prayers to St. John saved her then two-year-old son, who suffered from bronchial pneumonia.
“My son was very weak. I pleaded and prayed hard to St. John to ask him to heal my child,” she said.
When she went home from church, her son showed signs of recovery and was soon healed.
Since then, Mapalad has never missed participating in the annual Taong Putik Festival, which has become an annual pilgrimage and media event.
The local devotion to St. John the Baptist heightened during the Japanese occupation in 1944, accounts of older residents showed.
When Japanese soldiers were to execute all men in Bibiclat to revenge the death of their compatriots, villagers went to the church and prayed hard for the lives of their relatives. After a while, as the Filipinos were led to the firing squad, it rained so hard and some Japanese officers interpreted this as a sign of disapproval from heaven. Since then, villagers have celebrated the feast of St. John by wearing banana leaves and vine and covering their bodies with mud early morning of June 24, the patron saint’s feast day.
By transforming themselves into mud people, participants said they are able to emulate St. John the Baptist, who appears in most biblical tales dressed like a beggar.
From the village’s rice field, groups of taong putik roam the village and ask for alms. House owners give them money or candles, believing that this gesture would be compensated with blessings.
After this ritual, participants gather at the church yard to hear Mass. They light candles and offer prayers before they wash themselves and join their families for the fiesta celebration later in the day. Simeona Rivera, a Bibiclat resident, said their patron saint has never failed them. Like the faithful and government officials who attended the event, she welcomed the shrine because, she said, this would give everyone an opportunity to honor St. John the Baptist.