Howie Severino documents Carabao Festival in Bulacan

May 25, 2009
Howie Severino documents the Carabao Festival in Pulilan, Bulacan for the GMA-7 show I-Witness.

The trusty and hard-working carabao has long been a symbol for the ordinary Filipino. So what does it mean when an unusually large example of that brawny symbol goes berserk on the day devoted to its kind in Pulilan, Bulacan?

Passing the town church for the annual Carabao Festival, dozens of carabaos in a long procession were made to kneel by their masters, not just a sign of piety but docility of these gentle giants. Townfolk and visitors from neighboring municipalities had thought this would be a fun afternoon spectacle, until an unusually large participant defies tradition and refuses to kneel. The adamant carabao violently toys with its handlers, causing a mini stampede beside the church. The carabao takes a long manic run through the crowd, wildly towing its wagon and three other carabaos tied to it.

Howie Severino and his I-Witness team discover that the delinquent carabao is a Bulgarian Murrah Buffalo, a carabao breed imported during the '90s to enhance the gene pool of its docile and undersized Philippine cousin. Experts say that crossbreeding the native carabao with the Bulgarian Murrah Buffalo creates a hybrid that produces more milk and meat, yielding better income to farmers. However, the Bulgarian Murrah Buffaloes are by nature more aggressive, and it takes longer time to tame this breed.

On one gut-wrenching level, the rampage means Howie and his team almost get trampled during a crowded parade, and their camera collides with a charging bull. On another level, the crazed carabao focuses attention on its imported aggressive species, the Bulgarian Murrah Buffalo, whose growing presence in the Philippine countryside could change the image of a gentle giant.

Howie Severino's gripping documentary on the Carabao Festival airs on I-Witness this Monday midnight on GMA-7.

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Howie Severino documents the Carabao Festival in Pulilan, Bulacan for the GMA-7 show I-Witness.
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