Every year, on June 24, farmers in the village of Bibiclat in the northern Philippine town of Aliaga, Nueva Ecija province, celebrate the feast of Saint John the Baptist with a ritual that has attracted tourists in recent years.
People wake up before sunrise, cover their bodies with mud from the surrounding rice fields, and their faces with dried leaves. The devotees of the “Pagsa-San Juan” call themselves “Taong Putik,” literally “mud people.”
The ritual, which was supposed to have started during the Spanish colonial period, became more popular during the Second World War when Japanese soldiers occupied the town.
To escape capture, villagers would hide in the fields and would pray to Saint John the Baptist for rain. As the soldiers ran for shelter, the villagers would rejoice by rolling on the muddy field.
Once fully coated with mud and covered with leaves, the villagers would walk to town to beg for candles or money that they would offer before the image of the saint in the church. (Photos by Jimmy Domingo)