San Joaquin town officials are looking for ways to keep their Pasungay Festival and retain its bullfighting tradition, despite protests from animal welfare advocates.

Last January 19, San Joaquin mayor Ninfa Garin canceled the scheduled Pasungay Festival, because of animal cruelty accusations led by Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF), a non-governmental organization.

“Masakit sa buot ko nga indi madayon ang halos isa ka siglo taon nga ginahimo kag nagpa kilala kang banwa kang San Joaquin,” said Garin in a report by The Daily Guardian. (It is with a heavy heart that we would no longer push through with almost century-old activity that has made San Joaquin known for.)

However, ‘Pasungay,’ which is San Joaquin’s annual fight show between two carabaos or water buffaloes, remains an integral part of the southern town’s cultural heritage, said town councilor Joe Abad S. Lazaro Jr. to the Manila Bulletin last Wednesday.

He added that they canceled the bullfight last week “to avoid any legal problems for the carabao owners, spectators, and the town itself,” according to the Manila Bulletin report.

AKF stated that bullfighting in Iloilo will violate Republic Act No. 10631 or the Amended Animal Welfare Act.

In Iloilo, #bullfights are still held at present times as part of an old religious tradition. The festival called…

Posted by Animal Kingdom Foundation on Wednesday, January 16, 2019

“In Iloilo, #bullfights are still held at present times as part of an old religious tradition. The festival called #Pasungay, involves bulls and horses that are pitted against each other for sake of entertainment. It’s not a ‘fight to the death’ match per se, but there is still clear cruelty involved,” posted AKF on their Facebook page. “Abusing animals will not bring honor to any culture. Stop using tradition as an alibi.”

San Joaquin’s officials are now seeking the advice of experts and see whether they could hold Pasungay festival once again without breaking the law.