FOR more than eight decades now, natives of Minalin town continue to hold their unique way of welcoming the New Year with cross-dressing gentlemen parading around the streets of the municipality.
Dubbed as the “Aguman Sanduk” (Fellowship of the Laddle), the festival make men from the town’s barangays wear women’s dress or skirts and heavy makeup along with their own laddles and parade around town with their equally-well decorated floats before converging at the town plaza.
According to Vice Mayor Edgar Yambao, Aguman Sanduk started in 1932 when Minalin lost its harvest due to drought and resulted to community-wide famine.
As a temporary resolution, a group of professional men called Aguman Alang Tutul decided to cook “lelut manuk” or chicken congee and other meals to share with their townmates but ended up short for everyone, Yambao said.
The gentlemen then thought of putting on women's clothing and makeup, and took what was left on the tables — the laddles and “balanga” or clay pot—and paraded around the community to cheer up the crowd, the vice mayor added.
“Sabi ng mga nakakatanda, naging matagumpay daw iyong grupo dahil napasaya nila ang mga kababayan nila. At simula noon, naging tradisyon na iyon at ito na nga ang sine-celebrate natin na Aguman Sanduk tuwing January 1,” he said, adding that festival was set every first day of the year as thanksgiving for the bountiful harvest in the past year, and as offering gift in the hope of another fruitful year ahead.
Yambao, who once became participant in the festival himself, said that the festival also gives a sense of honor and entitlement for the gentlemen-participants, especially if one will be chosen as the Reyna Ning Sanduk.
He added that his stint as participant and Reyna Ning Sanduk gave him the feeling of becoming a true Minaleño and that his masculinity is unquestionable despite donning women’s clothes.
This year, more than a hundred men on board the 12 floats participated in the colorful event in the hope of taking home the Reyna Ning Aguman Sanduk title who is crowned with a “lakal,” a bamboo ring used in the kitchen on which a pot is placed.
But more than the title, Minaleño gentlemen are still true to the essence of the festival which is to give joy and cheer up the Minaleño crowd and audience from different places.
“Ang pinakasentro pa rin ng aming selebrasyon ay magbigay saya. Sa Kapampangan, mayli tamu, sagakgak tamu (Let’s laugh and be happy) para ang buong taon ay masaya at masagana,” he said.