San Juan keeps 'Wattah Wattah' tradition amid dwindling water supply

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 24) — As Metro Manila and nearby provinces suffer from depleting water supply, San Juan City kept its yearly "basaan" tradition on Monday with a few adjustments.

Residents, commuters, passersby, and visitors were splashed with water in the annual "Wattah Wattah Festival" to honor the city's patron saint John the Baptist and his act of baptism.

Outgoing San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez acknowleged there is an ongoing water crisis as Angat Dam, the main water source of Metro Manila and nearby provinces, continues to dip below critical level. But she said the festival has been a part of the city's tradition for 16 years now.

"We have a water crisis, we admit that, but we cannot do away with tradition. This is tradition. I also believe that in every crisis, there is an opportunity for us to do better," she said.

Diocese of Manila Msgr. Vicente Bauson also defended the LGU's decision to push through with the event.

"Water is life. It is not being wasted as we bless people with water. We have holy water to bless people... It's not a waste. It is to remind people not to waste water in this time of crisis," he said.

Despite criticisms, the local government made some adjustments to mark the festive event. Sixteen firetrucks went around the city to spray the public with blessed water; this is only 1/3 of the usual number of trucks deployed in the past 15 years.

San Juan is one of the cities experiencing water interruptions, with some parts left without water supply for 12 hours. Some trucks were also deployed to ration water in affected areas.

The water allocation was reduced from 40 cubic meters per second (cms) to 36 (cms) after the Angat Dam fell below the critical mark on June 22. The reduced allocation will affect nearly 14 million people.