Remembering the St. John’s Festival at MWS

The Saint John’s Festival at the Manila Waldorf School Timberland Heights lasted for four weeks and was celebrated traditionally with a mix of fire and water.

On June 27 2011, the whole school gathered together in the gym to sing the festival songs. The verse for St. John’s Tide was read by Class 12, and Class 11 recited the Adam Bittleson verse. While they did this, Class 6 came in and lit torches which they used to burn the newspaper placed in a large shallow bowl held up by a bamboo tripod.

Flames shot up. The whole gathering took turns walking by in spiral form while dropping pieces of paper into the flames. Previously, the teachers had asked the students to write what they wanted to transform in themselves on these pieces of paper that were then dropped into the bowl and burned as a sign of offering.

St. John’s Tide is really all about transformation and change. This is a good time (or a better time) to do things differently, like taking another view on life, taking up another project, painting your room a different colour, aspiring for a new goal or having blueberry pancakes instead of strawberry. ☺ The fire symbolically scourges; the water symbolically cleanses, and whatever’s left is changed for the better.

After singing in rounds, the traditional games began. We played the balloon throw; blanket toss, water balloon relays and in the end, a wild (and also traditional) water balloon fight. This was satisfying in more ways than one.

In the chaos, you never know who hits you, people don’t know you hit them, you can perform awesome penguin slides on the wet floor and best of all, you can totally attack the teachers till none are left standing dry. (Mwahahaha.) Normally we’d have a bonfire where everyone took turns jumping over, but that didn’t happen this year.

In the end, we had a big feast, mainly fruits. The high-schoolers prepared langka (jackfruit), mangoes, papayas and pineapples to symbolize the fruits St. John ate in the forest, while some middle-schoolers made palitaw (for the steam of fire.) We also had dough-on-sticks which had to be heated over fire first before being eaten (think chapatti-gone-wrong) and calamansi juice which were squeezed by the younger students. — by Sabina Antigua, Class 10

Insight from another student:

“When we were asked to write what we wanted to improve in ourselves, and later on toss the piece of paper into the fire, for me that ritual resembled something like birth, or rebirth, maybe a birth or a rebirth of something in oneself, something that will flourish within us. Just like the fire: from a spark, to a flame, to a blazing intensity, will our virtues grow in us. When Jesus was baptized by St. John, and when some of us were baptized, we were baptized in water. Water for me resembles cleansing, washing away of impurities, making new.” — Solimar De Castro, Class 11

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