Mendez, Cavite, May 31, 2003 -- Few are familiar with Barrio Palocpoc in 
Mendez, Cavite. Its name is believed to be derived from the word "pukpukan."

Little information can be gleaned about the reason for the name, save for 
the fact that a small river used to cross the southern barrios, where a 
fabric called pinukpok was made by pounding the layers of the banana trunk 
to extract fibers. Others believe that the original word was "palo-pukpok." 
Today, Barrio Palocpoc has turned into Barangay Palocpoc, and is divided 
into two barangays.

Ninety-five percent of the barangay's 263 hectares is used for planting 
various agricultural plants. Coffee is a major product, as the town, near 
the city of Tagaytay, has the appropriate climate for coffee-growing. Time 
was when Palocpoc was the top coffee producer in the town of Mendez. But 
coffee production dropped, and banana trees sprouted and soon dominated the 
area. Today, farmers consider bananas the major agricultural product, with 
pineapple, jackfruit and coconut following closely behind.

Farmers have honored San Isidro Labrador as their official patron saint for 
more than a century. This particular icon has a colorful history in 
Palocpoc dating back to the 19th century. The townsfolk initiated a unique 
oblation called the Sinagingan Festival, focusing on the barangay's major 

At the festival, all the streets were lined with banana trees of different 
varieties, the most familiar being the Senorita, the Latundan, the Lacatan 
and the Saba. On one street corner, golden clusters of bananas hung from a 
bamboo stand, while a festive arc welcomed visitors to the barrio.

Aside from bands and dancers clad in colorful, indigenous costumes, the 
image of the celebrated San Isidro was borne on a carroza surrounded by a 
variety of fruits, particularly bananas. Another image at the festival was 
that of the Virgin Mary, since the month of May pays special homage to the 
Mother of Jesus Christ.

Herman Escueta, who has a summer house in Palocpoc, was approached by the 
president of the barrio's pastoral council to organize a festival. Escueta 
thought to hold a unique event that could become a major festival in 
Southern Tagalog. The result is the first Banana Festival, which would be a 
significant date in the calendar of events of the Department of Tourism for 
Region IV.

Although they only had to two months to prepare, the bayanihan spirit among 
the residents made it possible for them to include street dancing and, as 
Escueta happens to be a director of the variety show Eat Bulaga, a segment 
of its "Boganda Tribe", which presented a remarkable performance in the 
town plaza in front of the church.

Ogie Parino, still in his teens and the group's star performer, amazed 
everyone with his dexterity, incredible sense of balance, energy and 
enthusiasm. Elmer Pascua, a former dancer and now manager-choreographer of 
the group, explained that their common love for dancing has brought its 100 
members together to perform all over the continent. Their acrobatic skills 
are the result of discipline and professionalism.

Elementary schoolchildren, mostly girls, and elderly matrons from the 
Caracol Group of various zones in Cavite also performed, much to the 
delight of spectators.

As the procession neared its end toward the arc near the church, three 
angel figures hoisted above unleashed rose petals on the images below.

Despite the short period of preparation, organizers even found the 
appropriate Latin music, including Harry Belafonte's "Banana Song", to 
provide the accompaniment for the street dancers. Which just goes to show 
that when Filipinos band together in harmony, much can be achieved. (By 
Chona S. Trinidad, Tribune)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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