Guinarona is San Pascual Baylon and San Pascual Baylon is Guinarona. Just ask around, the truism speaks for itself. That’s why, with the recent disappearance of San Pascual’s image, on June 12, 2010 to be exact, it is as if Guinaronanhons have lost their moorings. Such drama had happened before, and each time, after a hiatus, San Pascual comes back, not without much hullabaloo.
San Pascual Baylon came to Guinarona in 1903. Much of Leyte then was being ravished by a severe cholera epidemic and Guinarona was the epicenter of it all. Someone had suggested that the people pool their resources to purchase San Pascual Baylon’s image in Manila, and the epidemic would go away. And so they did. And sure enough, like an angel of death, Mr. Cholera packed up his belongings and went away, never to return.
The first fiesta for San Pascual was held May 17, 1903, with Don Alfonso Maray as hermano mayor. It has been 107 years since, and as far as we know, there has been no centennial celebration–as in nada. Could a delayed centennial gig be okay?
The Guinaronanhons care for their fiesta so much that they would prepare for next year’s right after the last. A pig or two, which they call “haray” would be nurtured and cared for, and the animal would be huge in one year. Others would allot a carabao for the same purpose, and yes, the mandatory “bahalina” (coconut wine) would also be collected and aged. And could we add that the rest of the year Guinaronanhons are famished and their caloric intake spike only on May 16 and 17, San Pascual’s feast days?
And oh, how we looked forward to doing our splurge shopping for fiesta things at Lee’s Grocery in Tacloban, a good 38 kilometers away. Mother and kids would then arrange the “panakot” on top of the “aparador”, and the smell. . .oh, how we loved the variegated smell from the panakot, which would permeate each corner of the house!
As for San Pascual Baylon, he is the highest earner among the saints in Leyte. Thousands flock to his shrine in Guinarona to light up candles, have their prayers said, and of course, to deposit their tithes or donations, which would amount to thousands of pesos on a single day. No wonder, for many a time, San Pascual’s image has figured in some tug-of-war between Guinaronanhons and the priesthood–and outright thievery, as is the latest case.
Until San Pascual comes back, the whole will not be complete; there will only be uneasiness among Guinaronanhons, for it is as if their soul is on a wanderlust.