Amid water crisis, San Juan’s Wattah Wattah festival pushes through

Ralf Rivas
(UPDATED) The San Juan City government pushes through its annual Wattah Wattah festival amid a water supply crisis, but says it reduced the number of water trucks for the celebration

WATTAH WATTAH. Residents of San Juan City on Monday, June 24, 2019, frolic as water from a firetruck is sprinkled on them during the Wattah Wattah Festival in honor of Saint John the Baptist . Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Despite Metro Manila’s water crisis, residents of San Juan City carried on with the annual Wattah Wattah festival.

The yearly tradition commemorates the feast day of the city’s patron saint, St. John the Baptist, and involves residents throwing buckets of water at each other and at passing motorists.


All of the barangays in San Juan City have been experiencing water service interruptions this year, as the level in Angat Dam sinks below critical level.

Manila Water, the private concessionaire which supplies water to the city, said they have coordinated with the local government on holding the festival amid the water shortage. (READ: [ANALYSIS] The economics of Metro Manila’s burgeoning water crisis)

“Nagkaroon kami ng coordination [with the local government]. Before in the previous years na support talaga ang Manila Water sa San Juan, marami kaming pinapadalang truck para sa event. Ngayon, drinking water na lang ang binigay namin,” Kri Guevarra, Manila Water technical spokesperson said on a press briefing on Monday, June 24.

(We had a coordination with the local government. Before in the previous years where Manila Water supported San Juan, we sent trucks for the event. Now, it’s just drinking water.)

“Ngayon nananawagan talaga kami na gumamit ng sapat na tubig lang at sa wastong pangangailangan,” she added.

(We are appealing that people just use enough water for their needs.)

Manila Water added that they can only go as far as appealing the matter to the San Juan City government.

San Juan City’s public information office said it halved the number of water trucks for the festival. From over 30, only 16 trucks full of water were deployed. The city government thought it was fit to deploy 16, to commemorate the 16th year of the Wattah Wattah festival.

Water was sourced from the city’s fire hydrants.

Outgoing San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez meanwhile defended the annual tradition despite criticism that it was insensitive during a water crisis.

“We have a water crisis, I admit that, but we cannot do away with tradition. Even if we will not do this, people will do it anyway,” Gomez said.

Angat Dam’s level as of Monday stood at 159 meters, below its normal level of 210 meters and the critical level of 160 meters. (READ: EXPLAINER: What caused Manila Water’s service problems?)

Weather bureau Pagasa said the weak El Niño is likely to last until August. –

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.