Cleansing rituals


From sinking cities to World Water Day observance and the increasing lack of potable supply as well as the apparent lack of access of 2.2 billion people to safely-managed potable supply – these have been the  foci of discussion here in three of the past four issues of Negros Weekly.

This week, we continue to draw inspiration in our discussion from that basic element of nature but this time, it is on a rather happy note.

I am reminded of the water-inspired festive occasions in our neighboring countries at this time of the year. This April mid-month happens to be New Year in at least four ASEAN countries and the celebration is highlighted by water festivals and occasions.

While we, Filipinos, celebrate the start of the year usually with pyrotechnic explosions to drive negative vibes away, our neighbors use the water element for a reason.

The biggest and most globally popular among these events is Songkran, the Thai New Year, which has been extended to six days, starting April 11. The most well-attended event in the country is the Maha Songkran World Water Festival, considered an epic celebration “that brings together to the capital city of Bangkok the glory of Thai traditions and cultures and historical facets of the regions of the country” into one spectacular extravaganza.

Songkran is celebrated with festivities all across the country.

There is also the Burmese New Year event, Thingyan, the Myanmar Water Festival – a four-day occasion ending on April 16 this year.

The Khmer New Year in Cambodia is also known as Sangkan Ta, Choul, Chnam and Thmey. Also a four-day observance, it culminates on April 16.

The three-day Lao New Year celebration climaxed on April 12 this year. The Oi Mai festival is also called Songkran.

These regional traditional events are, likewise, observed to celebrate the end of the harvest season.

Beyond the ASEAN region, the traditional solar new year observances are marked – in the South Asian countries of India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka with similar rituals.

As mentioned earlier, the celebrations in our neighboring countries, which are predominantly Buddhist in faith, are characterized by pouring, throwing or dousing water at one another anchored on the belief that water is a cleansing element that “washes bad deeds off from the past year to start fresh into the new one.” Water, in their tradition, also symbolizes reverence and good fortune. Part of the rituals is the taking down of Buddha statues for their annual bathing.

Especially these days when people are suffering from extreme heat, getting doused appears a welcome experience amid the spirit of fun in a boisterous atmosphere.

Like I did a few years back at Songkran, it will be a wonderful and enriching opportunity to experience first-hand the traditions and way of life of our fellow Aseans.

Happy New Year, neighbors.


I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:25) | NWI