Wattah-Wattah: An insensitive tradition


The recent water crisis in Metro Manila has got its residents and authority gaga on how to address it. News of almost day-long (week-long for some) water interruption has been a regular in daily broadcasts for more than three months already and the end of it still appears dim.

Notwithstanding that, the people of San Juan City pushed through with their June 24 Wattah Wattah annual celebration.

The feast is marked with people dousing each other with water. This is supposed to be dedicated to John the Baptist who, according to the Bible, baptized a number of converts, including Jesus Christ, by pouring water over their heads as depicted in some paintings. But over the years this occasion has also earned a bad reputation due to incidences of indiscriminate dousing; i.e., local residents who participate in this event don’t seem to care who they drench. In response, the city government, I heard, issued an ordinance limiting the event from 7:00am to 12:00pm.

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A few years ago, San Juan city officials began openly and directly participating in the annual festivities even employing a number of the city’s fire trucks for the event. However, this time, we have a nagging water crisis. Almost everyday, we hear news of lowering water levels in our reservoirs. Sought for explanation why San Juan City still held the festivities despite the water shortage, outgoing mayor Guia Gomez simply said: “We cannot do away with tradition.”

This leads me to the various provisions of Section 4 of Republic Act 6713, aka Code of Conduct for Public Officials. In deciding to go ahead with the annual festivities, I wonder if she considered:

1. Public officials shall always uphold the public interest (paragraph a)

2. All government resources must be employed and used efficiently, effectively and economically (paragraph a)

3. The spirit of the phrase “avoid wastage” in paragraph a.

4. Respect the rights of others (paragraph 4).

It may be true that Mayor Gomez is simply a servant of the people primarily of San Juan. As she stressed in the interview above, even if she did not move to proceed with the event, her constituents will still go on with it. But that is all what she needed to do – not participate.

Knowing the current water crisis and its severity, the mayor should have set an example, as a leader, of sacrificing a tradition to support the need to save water.

Granted that the amount of water “wasted” during the feast of San Juan may be insignificant, it still sends a message of insensitivity. Even the small things count. What’s worse is that the people of San Juan City appeared to have sent that message themselves and they are backed by their leaders.

Indeed, this annual Wattah Wattah should be stopped as it is nothing more than a wasteful tradition, not to mention the activity is itself unscriptural.

8 Replies to “Wattah-Wattah: An insensitive tradition”

  1. It’s hard to imagine that a country fenced in and out by bodies of water such as the oceans, the seas, the lakes, the rivers, the creeks, etc. would experience a water crisis of the magnitude claimed, leading me to believe it’s simulated to force an increase in water rates. Let the water-dousing tradition in San Juan continue, who cares?, for all we know, the water came from the murky Pasig River and its tributaries, if not, from people’s urine. That’s really a lot of wattah-wattah.

  2. The tradition of dousing people with water, of any kind, during the San Juan festivities is stupid and should be discontinued.

    Jesus Christ was baptized by St. John the Baptist, by submerging him in the River Jordan. He was not doused with water to be baptized. Just read the scriptures in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.

    We don’t know who started the tradition of dousing people with water of any kind, during the San Juan Festivities. Some people do it , to do mischiefs on other people. We should jail people, who do this kind of mischief. It should not be excused as part of the festivities !

  3. “We can’t do away with Tradition” is a lame excuse. Probably it’ll take a disaster on the scale of the Bocaue Pagoda collapse to bring them to their senses. San Juan should just designate an area where volunteers can just do a water fight. But considering the lameness of the excuse, I guess common sense as always is lacking on why Filipinos continue to do foolish things.

  4. India is already at a crisis of having a lack of potable water, no one still knows where the problem is but they have this nuclear reactor that is forever constantly be needing water to cool off the reactor or else without it, the isotope will just overheat. There will come a time that the government will have big crucial decision to make since there is no way to turn off a nuclear reactor, you just cannot turn off a radio-active element into suddenly a non-radio-active thing.

    Now that being said, all I can say is, “Don’t waste water!”

    1. Speaking of India, you probably heard the comment that famine is rampant in India, but there are so many cows and bulls roaming the place. So why not remove the ban and allow those to be eaten? That’s an example of why I believe traditional culture is also one of the hindrances to a society’s moving forward. I think it’s the same here in the Philippines, the problems of Pinoy Pride and political patronage are among those traditions. I’ve been saying in the past that there is a need to attack traditional cultures too, although I indeed admit, that is quite a challenge.

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