Celebrating San Joaquin’s Fiesta with the Annual Pasungay

Text and photos by: Bombette G. Marin

THOUSANDS of people are expected to travel to San Joaquin, Iloilo for its annual Pasungay or the carabao (water buffalo) fight which is part of an ancient tradition celebrated every 3rd Saturday of January.

This annual, action-packed cultural event held at the San Joaquin Sports Stadium situated at the back of the Municipal Hall draws in local and foreign visitors yearly to witness bulls try to outdo each other.

The crowd watch in awe and cheers as breeders lead their mighty and robust carabaos into the fight arena.

The first fight starts as the pair, attack by locking their horns and try to push each other until one gives up and flee.

Another pair takes their place. A horse fight or Pahibag is an added attraction where horses kick and bite each other into submission in front of a mare, or female horse, displayed purposely to trigger the fight.

The fight normally goes on for less than half an hour until one or the other collapses or is simply too exhausted to continue.

The participating animals are owned by cattle breeders, mostly from the upland barangays, who are renowned for rearing tough bulls responsible for the most wins in the history of this cultural celebration.

Although less violent than its foreign counterpart, the animals in the Pasungay are not killed or seriously injured.

Whether you like it or not – agree with it or despise it – bullfighting exists in San Joaquin and is an important part of their history and culture. The town has always been famous for its Pasungay. There is no other place in the region where bullfighting is observed. It is the most common thing associated with San Joaquin, and rightly so because its origins date back to the early 1900s.

It is only during the religious fiesta celebration of the town that the general interest for Pasungay and Pahibag is aroused. During the next days, a huge festival happens in this town. Locals and visitors mix in the town streets for the annual Bayluhay Festival.

San Joaquin is a second class municipality, the last town south of the province. It is 85- kilometers away, or an hour- and twenty-minute drive from the city. With a total land area of 23,135 hectares, the town is subdivided into 85 barangays.

To get to San Joaquin, visitors can take a jeepney at the Don Benito Q. Acap Sr. Southern Iloilo Perimeter Boundary Terminal in Barangay Mohon, Oton, Iloilo or at the market terminal along Mabini St. in Iloilo City. Metered taxis are also available. For more information, please contact Municipal Tourism Officer Erlyn Alunan at 09085129189.

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