THE winter festival in Taebaek is very popular as Koreans and visitors troop to Taebaek every winter for the skiing, the snow carving and the climb up the mountain. It is more popular than the water festival in July.
Similarly, the Sunflower Festival in Guwau Village in Taebaek is as familiar where more than 300 sunflowers and wild flowers were open to the public last August 2017.
The Water Festival started just a few years ago and this was the reason that we were in Taebaek this July. It was my first time to represent the city as I have been in South Korea twice before this trip.
In winter of 1994, I was invited by Ullim Missions to teach “Cross Culture Missions” in the Winter English School in Seoul.
We stayed for two months and I had the experience of joining in an outing to the ski mountain, although I was not that adventurous to try the ski. That was my first winter.
One afternoon, we were all having our social hour and I was sitting with some of the students when all of a sudden there was clapping of hands.
Everyone rushed to the window because the snowflakes were covering the ground. That was my first snow.
The other instance I was in Seoul was with my husband spending our holidays during one of our anniversaries. It was autumn and the ground was filled with dry leaves and the trees were of great colors of brown, orange, amber, some still green.
We stayed in the US Military base and there were arranged tours every day. But on that Sunday, we had family day with some of our relatives coming together for food, lots of walking and ending in the tower for the evening.
Taebaek is the head source of two rivers that runs through Korea.
The Hangsang River that comes from Geomnyongso Pond and the Nakdonggan River comes from a pond right at the middle of town is a great reason to celebrate. During our last night stay there, we were able to walk part of the Hwangjiyeonmot Pond where the Nakdoggan River starts.
This significance started the water festival. Part of the festival was a celebration at the park at night, a series of performances in the park packed with people.
They were a happy people, some dancing while performers continued singing, flute performance and dancing. The city officials were there and the messages were pretaped and played during the night.
Our own mayor, Benjie Magalong, sends his message and was played on the big screen.
After our welcome night, we were instructed that in the morning they will bring us to one of the mine museum, and then we will go for lunch then straight to the water festival.
We were instructed to be ready to be wet; they gave us water guns and if possible are in slippers.
We spent the morning in the mine museum where one of the living miners became our tour guide of the coal mines. It was not a happy story as they had several accidents and when the mines closed down, the claimant donated the facilities to the government and it was converted into a museum.
After lunch, we were told that we are going for the water festival.
The City officials gave us t-shirts to use; some blue, some pink.
We were grouped with the Taebaek City council, staff from city hall, the seven Baguio delegates, and twenty Bauang delegations.
A banner identified us and we were following other delegates.
Just in front of us were minions and before that were fairies, and at our back was another group followed by a water truck and other delegations.
At the start of the festival were lots of performances and finally we had the parade and during the parade was when the water fights started.
We were firing our water guns to members of our group, to the chairperson of the council and other members of their city officials, as well as people in the parade.
Sometimes we fire our water guns to the onlookers which brought them scampering into the shops.
There was street dancing and the parade stops but the water fights continue. Beside the road were buckets of water that never run dry as the fire truck or the local stores fills these continually.
When we reached the end of the parade, the crowd was excited as children and old alike fill their water guns and continue water fights until finally the closing where the fire trucks from opposite sides of the road spew water upwards sweeping the whole area, and everyone stood their being drenched with the water from upwards and from those who were still firing water from their water guns.
It was really fun where we were again young and carefree.