A grandiose Bocaue pagoda sails again on Sunday during the 172 Krus sa Wawa Feast after the 2020 and 2021 pandemic docked it. Photo by Anton Luis Reyes Catindig

BOCAUE, Bulacan–A two-storey grandiose Pagoda sails again on Sunday during the town’s Pagoda Festival (fluvial parade) for this year’s 172nd Feast of the Krus sa Wawa amid the pandemic. 

The two-storey Pagoda revived the local tourism in the town as some 5,000 people watched, attended mass and join the fluvial parade. 

This year’s Bocaue Krus sa Wawa Pagoda was creatively designed similar to its traditional three-storey grandiose design before the pandemic. However, only 130 devotees and crew members were allowed to board.

The traditional grandiose full scale three-storey pagoda accommodates more than 200 devotees. 

In 2020 and 2021 COVID-19 heightened restrictions and lockdowns, the pagoda were scaled down to a simple one-storey design and only used government boat with a very limited up to twenty  devotees that were allowed to join.

Renan Eusebio, Bocaue municipal tourism officer said today’s improved COVID-19 situation compared in the past two years allowed them to sail an almost similar grandiose Pagoda this year except for the size. 

Eusebio said this year’s Pagoda Festival drew more than 5,000 local and outside tourists who watched and participated in the fluvial parade and attended series of mass at the town’s parish church. 

“We cannot go on a full scale three storey Pagoda because there is still a pandemic, but due to ease restrictions, we deemed it fitting to have a semi-grandiose Pagoda not only to boost tourism but also to join the rest of the other sectors in the country in starting to go back to normal situation following the pandemic,” Eusebio told NEWS CORE.

About a hundred motorized bancas of fishermen, devotees and folks from the coastal towns of Hagonoy, Obando, Malolos, Paombong and Bulakan and adjacent City of Meycauayan and Marilao town also toured Bocaue river for their devotion and thanksgiving to the Krus sa Wawa. 

Nearly 1,000 residents were given free food pack meals by the parish church under Fr. Mario Jose Ladra and the feast’s hermano’s and hermana’s as newly elected Mayor Eduardo Villanueva Jr. and Vice Mayor Sherwin Tugna had also provided support. 

Before the pandemic, up to more than 20,000 tourists come to Bocaue during the Pagoda Festival every first Sunday of July.

The Pagoda Festival only sailed again in 2014 and was docked for 21 years after the infamous Pagoda tragedy in 1993 had killed nearly 300 devotees. An overloaded pagoda that time capsized on the last day of the evening novena and eve of the Sunday feast.

The wooden Holy Cross is known to be miraculous after it was found floating in the town’s river in 1850 and had saved a girl from drowning. The girl as she tried to swim very hard to save herself from drowning followed the Holy Cross until it had brought her off shore and saved her. Since then, folks had been close devotees of the Mahal na Poong Krus sa Wawa.

Edgardo Espiritu 65, from the family of “German Espiritu” Bus Liner company, whose ancestral house is along the river in Poblacion said it is only this year since the pandemic struck in 2020 where the people again celebrate in fear of being infected with COVID-19. 

Their whole clan members even from other barangays gathered and had a feast. They all dine on their table in the terrace along the side of the river and together with their guests, they rushed inside their house everytime the people on board the pagoda and the boats spill them with river water as part of the fun in the celebration. 

Espiritu recalled that before the tragedy, most of the inner skirt roads are closed because of number of people celebrating and families bonding together. But, the town stopped the festivities since the 1993 tragedy. Carmen Benedicto, 80, from Barangay Binang 1st, said she lined up in the food packs of Fr. Ladra to have a free meal because of the difficult times today.

She wished that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. could do something about the horrendous fuel prices problem.