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Analysis of Municipality of Lubao

When you think of something to see in the Philippines, the first things coming to mind are likely Manila, the beaches of El Nido, or Mayon volcano. But what if I tell you there is a place just as deserving of your attention, and a mere two-hour drive from the capital? Lubao is a first-class municipality located in the province of Pampanga, administrative Region III, Central Luzon. Its official foundation date is September 14, 1571, and, as of 2020, it has a population of 170,000 people (Philippine Statistics Authority). The municipality is mainly known as the home of the annual Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival. However, there are is much to see and learn for any visitor beyond this immediate tourist attraction. This report will describe the municipality of Lubao, focusing on its history and culture to ultimately reiterate the vibrant sensory experiences that this place invokes.

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The name Lubao initially comes from the indigenous word “Lubo.” The term means “typically muddy and flooded” and has subsequently become “Lubao,” which is the current name of the town (Sicat). The name refers to the extremely low topology of the town, which causes water to accumulate and create mud (“Municipal Profile”). But the name should not discourage the visitors, for Lubao is but a two-hour comfortable drive from Manila to the province of Pampanga. As you drive, you will be greeted by the tranquil rice fields spanning along the road and creating a serene, peaceful landscape.

Beautiful as they are, the fields are far from everything there is to see in Lubao. The town itself greets the traveler with a mix of history and modernity. There you have buildings of concrete and glass, and next to them is architecture dating back hundreds of years to the Spanish period, like the majectic San Agustin Parish Church. The brick-and-stone neo-classical church, with its long nave and a five-story bell tower, is an imposing yet captivating sight. It might look a bit odd at first sight, with the red brick of the church contrasting with the bell tower’s grey masonry. Yet give it some time, walk toward it, put your palm on the stone – cool despite the hot air – and you will feel as if you are touching history itself. In 2014, the church was designated as an “important cultural property” by the National Museum (Navarro). If one goes inside, it is fairly easy to see why. Walking among the majestic columns and meticulously detailed reliefs, including that of St. Augustine himself, it is hard not to feel humbled in the presence of this carefully preserved beauty.

Speaking of St. Augustine, one could not forego the celebration of this saint that occurs in the town of September 14 of every year. As follows from the name, the festival is dedicated to the wisdom of Agustine of Hippo, about 400 A.D. To understand the context, one must know that much of the population of the Philippines, Lubao included, are Roman Catholics, and honoring patron saints is an important cultural and religious tradition (Beltran). It was mentioned above that the Hot Air Balloon Festival is not the only thing to see in Lubao, and the St. Augustine festival illustrates this point splendidly.

It starts with a mass that continues throughout the day. Then comes the parade, featuring an ornate sculpture of Saint Agustine carried on a huge wagon, which is highly decorated as well. The sculpture is dressed up like a bishop priest, with a great miter hat, a gold stole, a white robe, and a red cape. The venerable saint is accompanied by the Virgin Mary and a crucifix that includes Christ on the cross. After them, follows a band that plays joyful music, including motives used in Catholic church service. One can witness all kinds of emotions as people are watching the procession, standing beside the street or in front of their house. Some are crying and dancing, and others pray and even sing in acts of worship – Lubao really comes alive during the festival. Unlike some other festivals or carnivals, neither music nor celebrations are deafening. That is one more great thing about Lubao – it does not try to overwhelm your senses by allows to absorb the impressions it offers at your own pace.

After this parade, people return home to enjoy a feast which, to give some context, is roughly equivalent to the American Thanksgiving. The food is, naturally, local and traditional for the Philippines. Chicken Adodo, as one of the most popular Filipino dishes, occupies a prominent place. It is cooked with garlic, onion, soy sauce, vinegar, peppercorn, bay leaves, and some water. Lumpia, or what they call spring rolls in English, is also very popular in every Filipino gathering. Bear in mind that these rolls should be deep-fried and filled with ground pork, ground beef, or vegetables – otherwise, it is just a poor imitation. Seafood is also present, as is lechon, a roasted pig – and, of course, it would not be a feast without rice, the one food that Filipinos could not live without. There is nothing like feeling a piece of fried pork almost melt on your tongue as the people feast and rejoice around you. If seeing and hearing Lubao is not enough for you – try tasting it, and it will most likely do the trick.

As one can see, Lubao is really a great place to visit – full of friendly people, interesting landmarks, and captivating festivals. The intermixture of modern architecture and buildings going back to the colonial period gives this prospering town its characteristic outlook. Festivities, such as the International Hot Air Balloon Festival or the annual festival honoring St. Augustine, bring the place to life and turn the already picturesque town into something almost dreamlike. From the tranquil rice fields stretching across the fertile plains to the solemn stonework and marvelous interior decoration of San Agustin Church, Lubao is really a place one needs to visit to truly experience its charm.

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Works Cited

Beltran, Maria R. “What to Do in Lubao, Pampanga.” MariaRonaBeltran.com, Web.

“Municipal Profile.” Municipality of Lubao, Web.

Navarro, Chris. “Lubao Church Declared an ICP.” SunStar Philippines, Web.

“2020 Census of Population and Housing.” Philippine Statistics Authority, Web.

Sicat, Rodrigo. “History of Lubao, Pampanga.” WordPress, Web.

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