APALIT -- The Pampanga river, host to the 171-year-old annual religious tradition in honor of this town’s patron saint, is regarded as a bringer of bountiful food harvests during the Spanish period, Mayor Oscar Tetangco, Jr. said at the start of three-day festival on June 28.

Tetangco, who was joined by Senator Cynthia Villar and Governor Lilia Pineda at the fluvial procession on Sunday afternoon to honor St. Peter or “Apung Iru”, said the old Apalit folk during the middle of 1800s had decided to hold the parade along the third largest river in the country because it “gives bountiful blessings” to farmers and fisherfolk.

His statements were based on the researches of Councilor Fortunato “Atoy” Castro and former Councilor Kenneth Nunag.

Nunag said the Spanish and Portuguese sailors docked at the portion of the river in Apalit and they were joined on their ships and boats by the then local residents.

“That’s why most of the people from Apalit know how to cook well, notably the dishes well known in Spain and Portugal. Our ancestors learned the style of cooking at the ships of the foreign visitors,” said Nunag.

Tetangco said the annual tradition at the river also known as “Great River of Pampanga” was consistently graced by Villar and Pineda. He added that former Senate president Manny Villar, husband of the first-term senator, once joined the fluvial festival.

“The devotees of Apung Iru based in other countries come home yearly to join the celebrations,” said Tetangco, who started the giving of fruits in 2008 to the devotees of St. Peter during the fluvial parade.

Pineda said: “The safety of the people, especially those living near the river, is the content of my prayer to Apung Iru.”

“Governor Pineda and I join the feast for Apung Iru annually as vow of faith,” said Villar.

“We must preserve and treasure cultural and religious traditions,” she added.


The tradition dates back to 1844, reports said. It’s locally known as “libad” where the holy image of Apung Iru is taken from the St. Peter’s Shrine in Capalangan using colorful and fully decorated boats. Then for three days Apung Iru will be in Barangay San Juan where thousands are expected to visit the image.

On June 30, the more than 1,000 swimmers who are members of the Knights of St. Peter will bring back the image of Apung Iru to its home in Capalangan.

Tetangco said devotees will carry back the image by pulling it while swimming along the river unlike when it was brought to San Juan.

It was in a barge when it was transferred during first of the three-day event. The three-term mayor will join the “return-trip” for centuries-old Holy Image by walking along the banks of the river, said Castro. (Joey Pavia/Contributor)