Do you remember me writing about being asked to be a beauty queen for the Santa Isabel fiesta? Well the role became a reality last weekend and I rode around the barangay on a carabao, awkwardly waving at the locals.
If I'm honest, I had completely forgotten about the event: each day in Cabiao is always a bit of a random adventure, enough to provide distraction from diary dates. So early on Sunday morning, just as I sat down to Skype home, I was quite surprised to receive a call from the barangay secretary of Santa Isabel:
They were looking forward to seeing me later.
Quite confused and still half asleep from a lack of coffee, I asked her what she was referring to:
The fiesta of course. 3pm start. Wear something pretty.
Three concerns immediately struck me: I would no longer enjoy the lazy Sunday I had been yearning for; I would be riding around on a carabao (a large bull-like animal); I had to look pretty.
The last point may seem unreasonable to you, but when you've been wearing no make-up, baggy clothes and you haven't seen your reflection in weeks, the thought of 'looking pretty' was terrifying. Thankfully, one of the more girly volunteers came to my rescue, by braiding my hair and lending me mascara. Separated from my oversized harem pants, I actually felt feminine for the first time in ages!
As it turned out, the second issue wasn't problematic either because I ended up riding in a cart that was being pulled along by a carabao. Not on the carabao itself. Although in hindsight that would have been pretty cool, as I probably would have looked like a character from 'Game of Thrones.' Instead, I sat on my 'throne' in the carabao cart and smiled nervously at the gathering crowd. For the next 90 minutes our carriage fell in line with the parade around the barangay, accompanied by a marching band and sweets to throw to the excited children. Yet my attempts at looking 'glamorous' were definitely shown up by Little Mr and Miss Santa Isabel- a pair of toddlers who were wearing much more make-up than me. In my embarrassment, I shoved on sunglasses to simultaneously hide and look more like a V.I.P. Turns out that waving and smiling at strangers can be quite nerve-racking (I'd be a useless monarch!) But asides from that, I wasn't required to do much at all. So I guess I sort of got my lazy Sunday after all.
In the Philippines, fiesta is when a barangay celebrates their patron saint. My first fiesta was certainly an unforgettable experience and provided an afternoon of colourful entertainment. But next time I think I would prefer to watch, rather than wave from a float...