Caragan Festival

Caragan Festival
Caragan Festival | @kapampangan.words

Touted as a Kapampángan Mardi Gras, the Caragan Festival (now rebranded to Balacat Festival starting 2023) celebrates Mabalacat City’s indigenous Aeta roots and culture and is named in honor of its Aeta founder, Haring Caragan.

This festival is held during the last days of February to March in Mabalacat City to promote the city’s Aeta origins and culture.

The Aeta peoples are the numerous indigenous people groups of the western part of Central Luzon (Bataan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales) inhabiting the Zambales mountains area and characterized by their darker skin, curly hair, and shorter stature.

According to traditional accounts, Mabalacat City was founded by Aeta Chieftain Haring Caragan (King Caragan) who named the area after its abundance of balacat trees and eventually married Mabalaquena Laureana Tolentino, the city’s first cabeza de barangay (barangay captain).

According to legend, when the first Kapampangan settlers of Mabalacat were clearing the forests, Cabezang Laureana’s workers found hidden among the bushes a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary with baby Jesus sitting on her lap.

On February 2, the statue was presented by the Indigenous Aeta Chieftain Caragan as a gift to Padre Maximo Manuguid, the priest of the early Mabalacat Church, which was made of sawali and cogon grass.

From then on, Mabalacat’s fiesta was observed on the 2nd day of February, the Caragan Festival is celebrated every February to commemorate this event.

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