Hearing the word got me curious. Was she referring to "agawan base"? It is a game of my childhood years where kids bonded themselves into two teams and chased one another with the end goal of making an uncontested touchdown on the other team's base.
Alas, when the poster of the May run was sent to me by Judy, it was not to be the agawan base. The Run sa Agawan is much more than a childhood game. The Run sa Agawan on May 10 is part of a big festival of Sariaya. If Lucban has "Pahiyas" and Tayabas has "Mayohan", my dear Sariaya has "Agawan." All three festivals are in the province of Quezon and are in celebration of the feast of San Isidro Labrador. The Run Sa Agawan will benefit the Sariaya Farmers Federation.
To get to know more about the "Agawan" Festival, I communicated with a true blue Sariayahin - Eric Dedace. He is with the Tourism office of the town. Eric is known among his townsfolk and town visitors as the tour guide to see if one needs a lesson in the rich history of Sariaya. Eric was generous with his time and knowledge and here are direct quotes from him about the subject:
"Agawan Festival is the name given since the 1990s to the traditional Sariaya harvest festival held in honor of San Isidro Labrador, the Spanish patron saint of farmers every May 15th of the year. No one knows when this tradition started but it may have evolved sometime during the Spanish colonial period. It involves the putting up of decorations in the house using the best farm produce like fences from bunches of coconuts, bananas and sugar canes at times, fruits and "Suman" artfully placed on bamboo chandeliers or "Aranyas" gaily decorated with "Papel de Japon," draperies of "Pastillas" or milk-based candies and embellishments of those traditional 'Pamahiyas" or hard type of gaily colored bread in various shapes as boxer, horse, eagle, gun, fish, heart and guard, as well as "Kiping" or colored rice wafers as eye-catching accents. The beautiful decorations are spruced up further by the raising of goodie-laden young bamboo trees called "Bagakays" that form a beautiful and bountiful, gently swaying canopy along the route of the saint's procession. Food preparation is likewise the name of the game , a chance to sample the well-known "Puwersado sa Recado" culinary expertise of the Sariayahin. Prizes are given to the best house decorations, as well as to the winners in the host of activities designed to highlight the festival to the locals, as well as to the visitors and tourists alike. After the holy mass, sly blue garbed San Isidro Labrador is led out of the church and ushered into a fireworks-laden start of the afternoon procession, wherein the passing of his antique silver-plated carroza signals the ripping off or the generic Sariayahin term "Halbutan" of the decors which are thrown to the people on the street. The excitement of the mad scramble for goodies is intensified further by the felling down of the "Bagakays" on the ensuing grab fest that has been described as a "Happy Pandemonium", the most expressed form of giving and sharing by a people this side of the country. After the procession, the Santo is led inside the church for the ritual incensing wherein all the goodie decorations in his carroza are handed over to the overeager revelers as well, after which it is led to the home of its owner, the Rodriguez-Cabunyag Family. Accordingly, some of the residents even burn whatever they were able to obtain from the traditional religious activity to be strewn on their farmland for a good harvest the following year.
The name "Agawan Festival" was coined in the 1990s for tourism branding purposes. However, the Sariayahin term for the grabbing action is "Halbutan." E.g. "Huy, parine na kayo at nadaan na si San Isidro ay nang tayo'y makipag habutan!"
Among the regular activities of the Agawan festival are the "Araw ng Magsasaka", "Bulindakan" (the street dancing competition with the dancers wearing buri-inspired costumes and backdrops to the tune of Filipiniana music, "Dekorasyon ng mga bahay" contest, "Sagala ng mga kasuotanb buli" (lovely Sariayahin ladies serve as models wearing buri-inspire formal creations), "Minindalang Bayan" (a town-wide free merienda of pansit habhab held at the Municipio park area), "Parada ng lahing saryayahin" (an early morning parade on May 15th participated by the Sariaya LGU employees, socio-civic organizations, church organizations, business sector employees, senior citizen's federation, Women's federation, barangay), and the Agawan festival grabfest highlight during the afternoon procession in honor of San Isidro Labrador.
2015 is the very first year that a fun run will be incorporated among the activities of the Agawan Festival."
So there you have it, a pulsating account on Sariaya's very own Agawan festival. The passionate words coming from Sariaya's top tour guide is very much indicative of the passion and industriousness of the people of this proud town.
We look forward to running the streets of Sariaya come May 10. We look forward to immersing in the world of aranyas. bagakays, kipings, pamahiyas, suman, pastillas, halbutan. It would feel awe-inspiring to again be in the midst of all this "saya at sipag."
Unli ang saya sa Sariaya. Indeed!