Lechon Festival is a cultural, food, and religious festival held during the feast of St. John the Baptist in the town of Balayan in the province of Batangas, Philippines every June 24. At the center of the celebration is lechon, a whole-pig recipe cooked in an open grill.
Lechon Festival is considered the king of festivals in the entire province of Batangas, and it is also called Parada ng Lechon sa Balayan, Batangas.
History of Lechon Festival
Lechon Festival comes from the word lechon, which refers to an entire pig skewered and slow-cooked over embers to a delicious golden brown.
Its history in the town of Balayan began in Kanluran district, located in the western part of the center of the municipality. It was mostly resided by people of humble means in the past, it is believed that the parade of lechon is an age-old ritual of thanksgiving by families who were blessed enough that they could spare some money for such a recipe.
Meanwhile, the town of Balayan was an established settlement before the onset of colonial era where barters of goods occurred between traveling merchants and the native population. Hence, it is regarded as the oldest town in Batangas.
When the Spaniards came, the ritual became part of the annual festivity of St. John the Baptist whose feast day falls on every 24th of the month of June.
Thus, lechon not only became an expression of thanksgiving as was in the olden times but became as way to venerate the patron.
Lechon Festival first entered into written history in 1906 when it was mentioned as a way to pay homage to St. John the Baptist alongside with the names of the mayor and the leading figure in supervising the festival known as hermana mayor. In 1959, an organization called Hermandad San Juan Bautista (Brotherhood of St. John the Baptist) was established and its sole purpose was to manage the activities planned for the whole duration of the festival.
The one-day observance was stretched to two weeks, and it grew to include many activities that made the festival more colorful and vibrant.
Lechon Festival was cancelled in 2020 due to coronavirus. It was revived in 2022.
Lechon Festival Schedule of Activities
During the climax of Lechon Festival, water is thrown at passersby, participants, visitors, onlookers, and whoever happens to be within the surrounding area where merry-making is held.
Water and its playful, at times riotous, inclusion in the celebration are associated with St. John who baptized Jesus Christ. People drenched by random showers from spalshes thrown at them and carrying roasted pigs skewered by a bamboo pole in a parade have become a distinct aspect of the entire festival.
The event is filled to the brim with respect to its schedule of activities. It is characterized by a general display of good-natured fun and merrymaking. A few of the activities include competitions in sports, singing, dancing, and other talents; concerts featuring live bands and musical acts; fireworks display; variety and cultural shows; street dancing; and beauty pageant.
Balayan is also decorated by streamers and banners, multicolored uniforms representing areas of the town or organizations, and live music.
Here are some of the highlights.
Anniversary Ball occurs the night before the feast day. It is held in the center of the town where the Queen of the festival is crowned.
Basaan translates to the activity of sloshing people with water. It is part of the festival and a mark of merry-making, and it is said to remember the baptism of Jesus by St. John. Some footage reveal that firetrucks take part in the revelry, spraying the crowd with jets of water. A few pranksters may douse people with alcoholic beverages.
Parada ng Lechon
Parada ng Lechon translates to parade of roasted pigs and is the highlight of Lechon Festival. It occurs in the morning of the feast day. Lechon that are part of the parade are assembled before the church where they are given blessing by the priest. Then the parade commences. Participants either walk on moving floats or on foot, some of whom are bearing bamboo poles that carry the roasted pig.
Lechon may be decorated and adorned in multitude of ways, most often done in tongue-in-cheek. Sights of pigs wearing wigs, eye-pieces, and dresses may not raise surprises particularly among those who have joined the yearly parade for quite some time and they could be a source of gaiety.
A number of lechon are protected with plastic wrapping to either protect the food from unexpected water spills or from being consumed by onlookers, although to be fair some families intend their lechon to be eaten along the parade route.
Religious services such as the nine-day novena prayers and liturgical celebrations are held at the Immaculate Conception Parish Church, the parish in Balayan, Batangas.
Roasting of pigs
Families, participating institutions, and organizations roast pigs either in the eve or wee hours of the feast day. Animals are butchered, their offal removed. They are pierced with bamboo which are then turned frequently over hot coals for hours. Recipe may also include different aromatics, spices, and special rubs to produce a savory dish that is crispy on the outside and delectable, juicy in the inside.
Where to go
Most activities occur in Poblacion (town center), Immaculate Conception Parish Church, and major thoroughfares.
How to reach Balayan, Batangas
The nearest airport is Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which is about 70 kilometers away. Bus trips are also available from various points in Luzon such as Manila.
- Parada ng mga Lechon (Parade of Roasted Pigs). Tourism Promotions Board Philippines. Retrieved August 9, 2022
- Parada ng Lechon. Municipality of Balayan. Retrieved August 9, 2022
- Valdez, Maria Luisa A. Parada ng Lechon in Balayan, Batangas Philippines to Honor St. John the Baptist: An Ethnographic Study. Asia Pacific Journal of Multidisciplinary Research Volume 2 No 3. June 2014. Retrieved August 12, 2022
- Vila, Alixandra Caole. Lechons line up the streets of Balayan for “Parada ng Lechon” The Philippine Star. June 23, 2014. Retrieved August 12, 2022
- Batangueños showcase hospitality in Lechon Festival. The Manila Times. June 24, 2014. Retrieved August 12, 2022
- Loyola, James A. Parada ng Lechon – the ultimate fiesta experience. Manila Bulletin. June 23, 2018. Retrieved August 12, 2022
- In Focus: Celebrating the Birth of San Juan Bautista. National Commission for Culture and the Arts. June 21, 2004. Retrieved September 20, 2022