There was this old Pinoy story about a man who was brought to the court for stealing a carabao. The man pleaded innocence saying he only stole a rope and — was not aware of a carabao at the other end.
Another version grew from this gag: A man asked the parish priest if it’s a sin to steal a rope. “Of course” replied the priest “it is a sin and you should return the rope.” The man was grateful saying he will surely return the rope. At least there’s no reason for him to return the carabao.
What is so special about this beast that makes rustlers out of men?
In Pulilan, I stumbled upon a convention of this — what we once called — kalakian. It was the feast of San Isidro Labrador, the farmers’ patron saint. Thanksgiving day of sort for another season of good harvest. The event is closely associated with the Carabao Festival, a tribute to the farm laborer’s partner on the fields where the main attraction of which is the “kneeling of the carabaos” as they pass by the town cathedral.
Hundreds of these beasts are huddled pre-ceremony in this shaded spot in Barrio Lumbac. They have come from neighboring territories and have walked for miles to grace the occasion.
I have never been in a large assembly of water buffaloes. The air is so countrified. And if I can’t keep my toes from carabao shit, I don’t really mind.
Pulilan, Bulacan: Home to the kneeling carabaos.