You’ll find the quiet town of Sasmuan in the southernmost part of Pampanga, one of the coastal areas connected with Manila Bay. The town is locally infamous for two things: abundant seafood and delicious pastries.
I was a bit surprised when we were advised that we will be witnessing a kuraldal in Sasmuan. Surprise because in Pampanga, when you mention kuraldal, what usually comes to mind is the one held in the month of June at the town of Betis. Needless to say, my curiosity grew into anticipation because I know that I will witness another side of Pampanga that I haven’t seen before.
A bit of information about Kuraldal
Kuraldal is from the Spanish word “curar”, which means healing. The direct translation of the word would mean healing-split. The event is an annual religious tradition held in honor of the town’s patron, Saint Lucia of Syracuse (St. Lucy) or Apung Lucia in the local dialect. The actual feast day for St. Lucy falls on December 13. However, the activity for kuraldal happens every 6th of January and lasts for five days culminating on the eve of the 10th.
At the beginning of the weeklong celebration, the hermanas (elders) and the talatayids (guardians) draped in colorful flowery attire literally waltz their way from one house to another to solicit donations known as “para sabun” (for soap). The money solicited basically serves as a fund to keep the tradition going.
Experiencing Sasmuan’s Kuraldal
On January 10, we reached the town of Sasmuan at past 9 in the evening already. The culminating mass had just concluded, and people began to flock on the town’s center where a wooden makeshift stage was set. On it was 3 religious icons, one of the Virgin Mary, of Jesus, and the small antique icon of St.Lucy or Apung Lucia – the one believed to be miraculous.
We made our way down a street full of devotees. Young and old, mostly adults carrying kids on their shoulder. Lively music was in the background as people danced and chanted Viva Apung Lucia! Pwera sakit!
We learned that majority of the devotees who frequent the kuraldal are praying for healing and fertility. Some people we’ve spoken with have other petitions like success in their business, guidance for an upcoming exam, or petition to secure employment overseas. While other devotees participate in the festivities to give thanks for petitions that were already answered. There were couples who are able to conceive a child and bought their kid along to give thanks to Apung Lucia. There are some who credits their fortune and good health to the patron and made kuraldal their annual vow.
The kuraldal is very similar to the celebrated traslacion in Quiapo or the Feast of the Black Nazarene. People who are not allowed to go up the stage to kiss or touch the icons throw in their handkerchiefs instead and have it wiped onto the icons. The crowd here is lesser in number so the event was more organized plus the icons are stationary in one place.
It was quite fun dancing with the people on the ground but up on the stage overlooking the chanting crowd, there’s a different story to tell. I saw not just an old tradition but an overwhelming display of faith. People were in deep prayer. More than the merriment around, I saw a crowd full of hopeful tears and trusting eyes fixated on an icon hoping against hope that somehow, they too can experience a miracle.
After about an hour, we were led back to the Barangay Hall for some snacks. The reception from the tourism officers, even the mayor himself was warm. We sampled some of Sasmuan’s delicacies including their special ube, puto, and tamales. We were also treated to try the local tsokolate batirol which was really, really good. If that drink came in an instant pack, I’d probably take home a sack of it. For our tokens, we were given a box of Sasmuan’s famous Pulvoron. It took some serious self-control to not open the box and consume all of it before we head back to Pradera, so I tucked it immediately in my bag, and away from my sight 😊.
There are other areas waiting to be explored in this town that we hopefully can write about in the future. Kuraldal is just one way to experience the rich culture of Sasmuan. If you’re planning to drop by, this experience is definitely worth the drive. Because who knows, you might find the miracle you are long hoping for in a quiet little town called Sasmuan.
How to get to Sasmuan
Via public transportation:
From San Fernando Intersection, ride a jeepney headed to Guagua (they usually stop in front of Chowking – fare is P25.00). Once you reach Guagua, look for the city hall. On this area, you’ll find jeepneys bound to Sasmuan. You can also ride a tricycle going to Sasmuan proper (fare is P30.00)