Buling-Buling is a religious and cultural event celebrated annually in Pandacan , Manila usually held on the third Saturday of January, in time with the town’s fiesta, to honor its patron saint, Santo Niño.
We decided to visit and explore the historic district by commuting the Philippine National Railway train via España station south bound to Pandacan station. We just paid Php 10.00 fare and took off at the Pandacan station.
Pandacan PNR station
We manage to take few stolen shot at the station before the guard told us that photography was not allowed within the premises for unknown reason . ( Maybe terrorist threat ?) We just walked a few meters before reaching the church . We manage to arrive past noon time and took some time eating at the local eateries and taking photos of monuments , historical places .
This festival comes from the Filipino word “buling-buli” which locally means well-polished , to polish , to dress-up , signifying something or somebody to dress in barong with large handkerchief for men , or colorful terno , baro’t saya, balintawak or kimona for ladies.
According to the book “The Child of the Pandan Reeds: The Spiritual Journey of the Santo Niño de Pandacan Parish,” a passage from a narrative by historian Ricardo Mendoza:
“The children were startled and [they] stopped playing, then admiringly gazed at the small and beautiful image. In a moment, they all felt terrified, and some knelt and prayed because it crossed their mind that this may be the image of the Holy Child.”
Santo Niño de Pandacan replica image with pandan leaves
The Santo Niño was discovered on top of a pandanus plant by the residents of the place , hence the name Pandacan originated , Another theory was people and houses from the locality are ” pandak” short hence ” Pandakan ” word might have originated.
The festival started sometime around early part of the 17th century along with the establishment of the parish . The dance used to be performed only by ladies as an act of devotion to the child jesus .
Aglipayan church few blocks away
Buling-Buling dance and festivities somehow slowly diminished in the 1930’s and eventually ceased by the end of the second world war , due to many factors such as devastation of Pandacan and moving out of the old families which sponsored the annual festivities.
The annual festival would only focused on parade and simple novena mass for several decades .
Aglipay church main altar
We saw some of the Kapitbahayan sa Kalye Bautsita atbp. volunteers and residents of Pandacan . Mr. Robert Fabro Tomas and Jhone Gorme , they are part of the organizing committee for this year’s festival. We were allowed to get some photos of the main altar of the Aglipay church .
devotees wait outside the church
This year’s theme ” Dekada ng Pagkakaisa ” marked 10 years of the simultaneous parade of child jesus images of the Catholic and Aglipayan church. The wooden image of the child jesus was carved from black wood , like the ones in Antipolo or black nazarene. The one that the Aglipayan church was made of ivory .
We did some side trip to some historical places in Pandacan and food establishments ( on later post ) .
original santo nino de Pandacan at the side altar
People started their assembly within the church courtyard , saw some local television channels like GMA channel 7 senior reporter Mr. JP Soriano and some photo bloggers. The parade started about past 2:00 pm with a short practice by the participants few minutes at the church courtyard.
santo nino outfits for sale
It was only during the late 1970’s when the Samahang Sining at Kalinangan ng Pandacan (SSKP), founded by Ricardo B. Mendoza and some old-time residents of the district initiated the revival of the colorful dance festival.
procession by the Aglipayan members
two images meet
“ Salubong ” to meet at the side of the main street between the two images . Both images are original .
Aglipayan child jesus and Catholic child jesus
Highlights of the Festival
One of the most anticipated part of the festival is when both child jesus ( wooden image by the Catholics ) and ivory image by the Alipayan meet and paraded on the street of Pandacan . This was a rare occasion , since both religion were at odds with each other since the 1900’s .
People from both religion witness the meeting of the two icons of the Sto. Niño like two brothers reunited after being estranged for centuries by war , court order and religion.
Santo Niños of Aglipay and Catholic
Several child jesus are then paraded along the streets of Pandacan and the Buling-buling dance is performed by the crowd. Some were privately owned . Some of the simple ones are paraded with the help of pedicabs and tricycles prop-up with cloths, flowers , while the more elaborate carriages bear family heirloom Santo Niño .
Santo Niños paraded on the streets of Pandacan
We also participated at the actual dance , it is 3/4 with hand gestures swaying back and forth while walking the street of Pandacan.
staffs of the councilor
There was also FREE sopas courtesy of councilor Carlos ” Caloy ” Castañeda of the sixth district of Manila. We manage to take a few cups of hot sopas before we went home , riding at the PNR Pandacan station going north.
This time we waited for at least 1 hour before catching -up the train. We would like to come back again next year and try to dance the Buling-buling .
Note : photos are from the author