AFTER putting away the Christmas decorations and ushering in the New Year, the people of Sasmuan town and devotees from all across Pampanga will officially end the Yuletide season with a five-day dance ritual in honor of the town’s patron saint.
Starting this Saturday, a mix crowd of devotees, people with disabilities and tourists will form part of the endless sea of participants to this year’s “Kuraldal Atlung Ari,” an annual religious folk dance that has spawned hundreds of followers and believers through the years.
It takes place at the chapel of St. Lucy, with participants taking part in a series of impassioned dances.
Spanish chronicler Fray Gaspar de San Agustin, OSA wrote in Conquistas de las Islas Filipinas (1698) that St. Lucy had been venerated in Sasmuan "since long ago."
The occasion is one for merrymaking and revelry, where rich and savory food abound and goodwill flows as Sasmuaneños open their homes to family, friends, pilgrims and strangers.
January 6, in the Catholic calendar, is used to be known and commemorated as the Feast of the Three Kings, hence the term Atlung Ari (Three Kings), according to writer Nina Tomen in her book documenting the said religious festivity.
Devotees from across Pampanga and neighboring provinces troop to this town, bringing with them hopes that an ardent wish, a long-awaited pregnancy and an immediate cure for disease would be granted with their participation in the festivity.
Redentor Sazon, 60, of Sta. Rita town has been trooping to the event for as long as he can remember. He said his participation is more of his personal way of expressing his thanks to God and asking for good health for his family in the coming year.
“The kuraldal is an event where people, young and old and the rich dance together as one to thank God and their patron saint and ask for further favors. It is more than the usual recently invented mutant festivals were people dance choreographed moves. This one is a religious festival as old as the town itself,” Sazon said.
Kuraldal Atlung Ari will end on January 10, the evening of the “kawakasan” (ending).
After the 6 p.m. procession of the image of Apung Lucia, a mass will be held in front of the barangay chapel, where thousands of devotees are expected to flock to honor their beloved patron saint amid shouts of “Viva Apung Lucia, Pwera Sakit.”
The event is also an instant commercial opportunity for local merchants who clog the streets of this town selling their wares.