A lot of Bull - Pulilan Carabao Festival
- Mabuhay (Philippine Airlines), May 2001

Pulilan Butterfly Haven

Pulilan, Bulacan isn't known only for its carabaos; it also has butterflies to boot. Just a few kilometers off the North Expressway lies the Pulilan Butterfly Haven. Located near the town center, this picturesque, 500-square meter compound is nirvana-in-net for anything with six legs, a pair of colorful wings, and an unbashed obsession for flowers.

For us two-legged creatures, on the other hand, it offers a welcome break from the mall - as well as an entertaining and educational experience. Guests get to watch a documentary video on "Nature's Flying Gems", then go on to tour the garden-enclosure, with its lush greenery, cascading waterfalls, and hundreds of fluttering butterflies. There's a $1 entrance fee - a negligible amount, really, for the chance to adore there multi-hued charmers.

Elsewhere in Luzon, another time-honored tradition is taking place. Whereas the kiping embodies the fiesta in Lucban, a different "ornament" takes center stage in Pulilan - Bulacan - the water buffalo!

There are herds of these and a lot more at the Pulilan Carabao Festival, a fun-filled (and slightly bizarre) celebration that showcases these native field animals. Like the Pahiyas, this annual event is also held in honor of San Isidro Labrador (that's right, the Patron Saint of Farmers), to whom gifts and gratitude are offered for another bountiful harvest. What makes this occassion unusual, however, is that the thanksgiving is done by the carabaos themselves!

The beasts are bathed, oiled and perfumed with flowers on the morning of the 14th, after which they stand in formation on the church grounds, awaiting the chance to pay homage to San Isidro. They are them amde to kneel in front of the church, receiving blessing from the priests (and a nod of approval from the saint) in the process. A series of carabao races follows on the 15th.

By the end of the event, both water buffalo and humans will have had their fill of this yearly revelry. The animals will, of course, return to the fields on the next day, perhaps oblivious to their starring role in the recent festivities. But then again, maybe they do know their place in Pulilan's fiesta of fiestas. One thing's for sure, though - man, woman, child or beast, this festival of blessed bovines is something they won't soon forget.

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