San Juan City’s Basaan Festival: What’s With the Celebration?

The residents of San Juan City have just finished celebrating a splashing Wattah Wattah Festival last June 24.

Known to many as the “Basaan Festival,” the festival is a unique spectacle as it gets the streets get filled with people who aim to get others wet and have fun under the sun. No one is safe from the water-filled festivities, as everyone in the city is is trying to get every dry soul wet. It is not uncommon for commuters and drivers to bring or wear waterproof garments or pull their windows up while passing through the city on the day of the festival, as celebrants want everyone — even passersby — to join in the fun. These activities may remind some of the annual Water Festivals being held in Thailand, Burma, Laos, and other Southeast Asian nations.

Locals who take part in the splashfest tend to get creative weapons their weapons of choice: water guns, pail and dipper, plastic balloons containing water, and garden hoses are among some of the most common things you’ll see locals carry around. The local government joins in the fun, as firetrucks also roam around and drizzle people to help them cool down under the hot sun.

People that want to take part in the festival gather at the San Juan Plaza and Pinaglabanan Shrine. The water-filled action usually lasts until noon. Parades, drum beats, and dances are also common sights during the festival.

While the Wattah Wattah festival is a half day full of fun, it is important to remember that there’s a deeper reason behind getting your neighbor wet. This festival signifies an significant event in our faith, which can be found in the Bible.

The Significance of Basaan Festival

“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire.”- Matthew 3:11

St. John the Baptist is the patron saint and namesake of San Juan City. He resided on the Jordan river, and is known for baptizing people and preaching to the people. He has gained a sizeable following, and was referred in the Old Testament as the prophet who will prepare the people for the coming of Jesus Christ.

St. John was telling people to change their ways and prepare for the coming of the Messiah, and used baptism as a symbolic cleansing of a person from sin. This aspect of our faith is made permanent with the establishment of the Sacrament of Baptism, and is reminiscent of the Water Festival’s motives.

If you were in San Juan and had fun getting soaked, remember the work of St. John the Baptist and his calling for us to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. As we dry ourselves from the festivities, may we learn to live as better men and women for our fellows.

Photo by: Teddy Pelaez,
Photo by: Teddy Pelaez,
Photo by: Teddy Pelaez,
Photo by: Teddy Pelaez,

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