LINGAYEN, Pangasinan—For the people of Pangasinan, merry-making is also a unique opportunity to pitch environmental protection concerns.
This is what they do at Pistay Dayat, a traditional annual summertime festival held recently at Lingayen Gulf, one of the country’s biggest bodies of water.
Dating back to decades ago—before street dancing became a popular attraction of traditional feasts—this summertime event celebrates the bounty of the sea in the Gulf which teems with marine life and rich colonial history.
At one time, it was viewed as the “mother of all summer festivals.”
The 206-kilometer Agno River, whose headwaters emanate from the Cordillera Mountain ranges, is the country’s largest river in terms of water discharge, draining around 6.6 cubic kilometers of fresh water into the Lingayen Gulf.
Gov. Amado Espino III said that the river parade showcases Agno River, as one of the country’s cleanest and most navigable river systems.
A major producer of freshwater fish, the river was cleared of fish pens and other obstructions to allow free flow of water. Millions of fresh water fingerlings were released to allow spawning and bring back its once abundant aquatic life.
He added that Pistay Dayat also stresses the need to protect the natural resources, marine, coastal, river and mountain ecosystems for the next generation.
He also cited the need to conserve the forest resources to sustain the voluminous water supply of the Agno River.
A portion of it is called Limahong channel, named after the notorious 18th century Chinese pirate who sought refuge here after being chased by the Spanish authorities.
Local folks from all over the coastal towns back then would troop to the nearest beach with their families and friends for spontaneous merry-making, picnics and unrehearsed festival activities.
The excursions usually peak on May 1, being a national holiday, where the beaches get an influx from the urban areas.
Through the years, more festival-related activities were added to the Pistay Dayat the annual event evolved into an exciting tourist-oriented festivity.
Today, modernized and transformed celebration is highlighted by the now much anticipated, Banca Parada in Agno River which features hundreds of lavishly-decorated boats showcasing each provincial municipality, government offices and establishments in the province.
The month-long festivity concluded with a coastal cleanup at the Lingayen Gulf to protect the marine ecosystem.