By Ellson Quismorio
The Las Piñas City Water Lily Festival – an offshoot of Senator Cynthia Villar’s advocacy to save local rivers from pollution – has become a point of pride for Las Piñeros, and for good reason.
Senator Villar, who started the holding of the festivities in 2006, said the festival through the years has served its purpose of being the show window for the city’s talent, beauty, and creativity.
This was again the case during the 14th edition of the Water Lily Festival last Friday, July 26 as Las Piñas’s rich cultural heritage took centerstage.
“We are very proud of this festival which we also hold to express our commitment for a lifestyle that is in harmony with nature and the environment,” said Villar, who topped last May’s senatorial race with an unprecedented 25 million votes.
Among the activities lined up for the occasion were the coronation of Miss Las Pinas Water Lily, the Inter-school Street Dancing Competition, and a water lily product exhibit.
Taking place at the Villar SIPAG (Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance) grounds in Pulang Lupa Uno, Las Piñas, the event attracted some 2,000 tourists and spectators.
But what makes the Water Lily Festival so special? Las Piñas City lone district Rep. Camille Villar, the senator’s daughter, explained in her opening speech how a pro-environment advocacy led to the creation of the Festival.
“This is our 14th Water Lily festival. If you can remember, it was 2005 when Senator Cynthia Villar started the Sagip Ilog (Save the River) project.
The water lilies in the river that were causing flooding and calamities were fished out, cleaned, and turned into products that both beautiful and useful,” recalled the congresswoman.
“That’s what we can accomplish if the community helps each other in addressing a problem. We can get great results,” Rep. Villar pointed out.
Pointing to the participants of the Water Lily-themed pageant and street dancing contest, Rep. Villar commented, “the festival just gets better every year.”
Senator Villar shared the congresswoman’s enthusiasm for the annual event during her own speech.
“I’m happy that the festival continues to grow in scale. I’m also happy with the active participation of our public schools and Barangays in our contests. We see how the contestants improve each year,” she said.
“The festival’s popularity has grown across Metro Manila and the whole country. Our candidates are invited to TV shows and parties wherein they showcase their beautiful costumes and at the same time promote our environmental advocacy–We will clean our rivers of garbage and use them for our people’s livelihood,” added Senator Villar.
Senator Villar said that she ultimately hopes that the Las Piñas City Water Lily Festival would join the ranks of huge regional festivals in the country that attract thousands of tourists each year.
“Our hope is for this festival to be as popular as the Sinulog, Kadayawan, and Panagbenga,” she said.
Known as Misis Hanep-Buhay, Senator Villar underscored that the local event is not just a festival, but is also a source of income for the people.
“We’ve taught people from other places how to weave water lily [leaves],” she said, noting that the water handicrafts featured during the event came from the greater Metro Manila area and Southern Tagalog, particularly Laguna and Rizal. Among the products were water lily baskets, bags, backpacks, pot holders, tray, and mats.
The candidates representing the different barangays in the Miss Las Piñas Water Lily pageant were required to wear decent cut mestiza terno made of 100 percent water Lily.
The winners were judged based on physical beauty, intelligence, and overall uniqueness and creativity of the water lily gown. They were also chosen for their communication skills and community-service involvement.
Meanwhile, the winners of the street dancing contest were judged according to their water lily costumes and props, choreography, and other technicalities.
The pageant’s Grand Champion received P25,000 in cash, while the first placer in the street dancing competition took home P50,000 in cash.