It has been a tradition for citizens of San Juan, Metro Manila to celebrate the birthday of the city’s patron saint, St. John the Baptist, through “basaan
” or dousing of water. This activity, which simulates the act of baptism, is one of the staples of the city’s Wattah! Wattah! Festival.
But with the recent water crisis, San Juan residents have begun to rethink the execution of the festival, turning a revered festival into a showcase of conservation efforts.
Earlier in March, a water crisis hit many parts of Metro Manila. Around 52,000 households experienced water shortage, with countless residents lining up for water rations. The intense heat of summer brought the water level of La Mesa Dam to its lowest level in 12 years.
In response, the Wattah! Wattah! Foundation plans to not only highlight the religious aspects of the festival, but also the environmental awareness of the celebrators. Through water conservation activities, the festival will demonstrate the faith of San Juaneños to their patron and their responsible use of limited natural resources.
“While the city has already been advocating water conservation campaigns, we think it is about time that the festival itself will highlight the environmental aspect,” said Dante Santiago, Head of San Juan’s City Environment and Natural Resources Office. “We can all have fun and be responsible to our mother nature at the same time.”
This year’s Wattah! Wattah! Festival began by observing the World Environment Day on Wednesday, June 7. The festival’s grand weekend will kick off on Friday, June 21, and will culminate in the grand celebration on June 24, Monday.
Wattah! Wattah! will hold waterways and river clean-up programs, water caravan, and tree-planting. Organizers will also launch an online water conservation campaign.
“Wattah! Wattah! Festival binds the solid community of San Juan. But we also recognize that water is a blessing to cherish,” said San Juan City Mayor Guia Gomez. “This year, it’s time for a change. It’s time we renew our faith and life by showing our faith by how well we take care of our blessings.”
In addition to the much-awaited basaan, street dancing, float parades, concerts, masses, and other pocket activities that will fall under the four main pillars of the festival: Conservation, Arts & Culture, Faith, and Solid San Juan, will be featured throughout the nearly month-long celebration.