ALIAGA, Philippines (AFP) - Filipino devotees muddied their faces and covered themselves with dried banana leaves on Saturday (June 24) to celebrate a religious festival which also has roots in Japan's occupation of the country during World War II.
The annual "Taong Putik" or "Mud People" festival, held in the town of Aliaga, 100 kilometres north of Manila, honours John the Baptist.
Hundreds of men, women and children walked to a muddy field at dawn and covered themselves from head to toe with mud and dried banana leaves, with some residents saying their appearance was meant to evoke the attire of John the Baptist in Biblical times.
According to the Bible, the prophet John donned clothes made of camel's hair and ate locusts and wild honey as he announced the coming of Jesus Christ.
The prophet, also honoured as a saint, is revered in largely Roman Catholic Philippines.
But the celebration, which concludes with a mass at Aliaga's Saint John the Baptist church, can also be traced back to Japan's wartime occupation of the former US colony in the 1940s.
Residents say Japanese soldiers ordered all the men from one of the villages in Aliaga to be executed outside a church.
As women and children prayed to John the Baptist, there was a heavy downpour that forced the troops to scamper, and prompted the grateful villagers to roll happily in the mud.