Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
February 25, 2001
Celebration marks escape from crocodile
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
EDMONTON — Fiesta ni Santa Martha ng Pateros, a Filipino religious tradition, came alive again in Edmonton on Saturday Feb. 10.
The local annual celebration of St. Martha was founded in 1991 by a handful of Filipinos who used to live in Pateros, Rizal. Their objective was to renew Christian values through this old religious tradition.
The legend says that a duck-eating crocodile threatened the duck-raising town of Pateros, Rizal, about 11 km east of Manila, Phillippines at one time.
Unable to capture the predator, which was destroying their natural resource of food and source of income, the people of Pateros prayed to St. Martha. Soon after the reptile was apprehended and finally killed.
Since then they dedicated a river parade to their patron saint, St. Martha, protector of ducks and duck farmers, as a sign of gratitude. On this day people attend the church service and then humbly place the regally-dressed wooden statue of St. Martha on a decorated platform, which was carried by male devotees to a decorated barge.
Pursued by an iron replica of a crocodile so large that people dance on its back, a man dressed in multi-coloured shirt and red pants dances on the back of the crocodile while waving his sword to demonstrate that he was the hero that killed the crocodile.
The barge then moves up the river while a brass band plays and people on accompanying boats hurl favours and treats to the cheering crowds on the nearby riverbanks.
The 10th annual celebration of the feast of St. Martha in Edmonton is simultaneous with that in Manila. The opening ritual was the recitation of the rosary at St. Charles Church in Castledowns.
This was followed by a short procession where selected men wearing their special Filipino attires carried on their shoulders the statue of St. Martha which was carefully hoisted on a decorated platform surrounded by multi-coloured flowers.
Following the men were women also dressed in their special Kimona outfits who were dancing traditional movements in the procession. Father Mike Decant celebrated the Mass enhanced by the St. Charles Choir.
Once the about 300 guests gathered at the church hall, various types of candies and interesting goodies were shared and the delicacy Balut (boiled duck eggs) were distributed.
Soon after, the people greeted the incoming procession by joining the group of dancers and, as this went on, candies and various favours were showered everywhere and everybody scrambled for them on the floor while others jumped for them in the air.
Once again the Filipinos demonstrated their spirit of Bayanihan in this spiritual and social celebration.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.