Lawihan Festival



Lawihan Festival, Malapascua Island. Copyright Michael Bencik 2014

When ever I found my self getting a bit tired, or road weary, I would hunker down in the dirt, whip out my sketchbook, and start sketching. It would be no time at all before I would be surrounded by a gaggle of children, asking what I was doing, who I was, and where I came from. This always brought a fresh step to my travels, a new energy to life, and an opening to the real joys of travel; The People. It was great fun, and soon I was treated as a guest, sampling  local booze and food. Malapascua was no different. The Lawihan Festival was coming up, and the whole island was a flutter. Pigs were being slaughtered, booze shipping in, and pits were being dug. There has not been this much booze being shipped since prohibition. Everywhere I went in the village there were pigs already on spits. The smell, well, the smell was wonderful. I was salivating like crazy, and this went on for days.


Lawihan Festival, Malapascua Island. Copyright Michael Bencik 2014

I told Yvonne I absolutely needed to sample this delicacy. So I struck up conversations with some of the locals, who speak both English and Tablaron. A drawing here, a beer bought there, and the next thing I know I am being treated like an honored guest. My new friends job for hours is to turn the spit, but he asks that I come back the next day to join his family on the feast. I was absolutely on edge with excitement. Everyone at the dive shop were also talking about the festival, which was going to have a huge armada. Every boat on the island was going to do a loop around the island together. We needed to get on a boat bad. So when the action was beginning, and all the tourist had a blank look of confusion on their faces as to why no one was around, the town exploded into action. All the boats were pulling in to the beach there, loading up to the gills with everyone, and then pulling out.

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There was a procession marching from the school, through the middle of the town, tot the beach too. There were priest blessing everyone, musicians playing, drummers drumming, and even dance groups. Everyone was dressed up in grand fashion. The procession marched right up the gangplank to the most gloriously decorated boat. There were palm fronds all over, beads, and Christmas lights; the whole works. This was the head boat in the procession. I figured if Yvonne and I asked enough locals what was going on, one would invite us in. Desperate perhaps, but who would want to miss out on this. Sure enough, second boat I went to told be to climb on board, and we were soon being whisked away. How no boats collided was a miracle, or more likely a testament to these guys skills. They were literally pulling in, filling with people, and then pulling out.

Now being a last minute addition, we forgot our manners and did not bring any libations. But never fear, after sitting among a large crowd of super friendly folks, home made booze and beers were being passed around. We were sitting on the front of the boat with our feet dangling above the water. There were probably 30 people on our little pontoon boat. I really wish there was a way to explain how cool it is to be surrounded by 100s of boats, all racing around the island. Its nothing like be in a traffic jam. Everywhere you look were beautifully decorated boats. After looping around the island once, we all went back to the beach we were on, and disembarked. The festival had begun.

Every night for the next three days there were events. The first night had a boxing match in the school. Just about everyone in the island was there. It started with younger kids, then moved up to semiprofessional boxers for the final match.

The next day there were boat races from our beach. We just chilled in the hammock and watched as one/two person boats raced around some buoys. The beach was filled with people making bets and drinking. I was wrong about everyone on the island showing up for these events, because every relative from the mainland also showed up. At night the beach had families sleeping everywhere underneath the stars.

We stopped by our friends place in the village for some roast pig. He said his family alone had already cooked 10 pigs. Ten! That’s a hell of a lot of pork. He gave Yvonne and I the best cuts, which were the cheek, skin, and tongue. Needless to say, that was a bit tough on our western taste buds. The skin was very flakey, and then oily. I liked it but there was only so much my stomach could handle, too oily. Now the meaty sections I love, and I even like a little of skin. So damn good.

As we wandered around the island we were being invited to drink home made whiskey with some of the guys. From what I could see, a lot of the older guys would just drink the entire day. So its best wander early in the day, when they are not so drunk.

That night was the talent show, which brought out some of Malapascuas best. So some of the acts were a little cringy, but all in all it was really entertaining. This was also the night of the big disco, after the talent portion. But we were so exhausted from the day long partying and events, that we just headed back and crashed. I heard the party went way into the wee hours.

If you can check out Malapascua during the festival, I highly recommend it.


6 responses to “Lawihan Festival

  1. Your joy and excitement comes through loud and clear here! What a man for adventure you are! I am glad you made it onto a boat and got to sample a pig!! That water is mesmerizing – what a colour. I found myself wanting to jump in and swim with the kids.

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