Monday, June 25, 2007

San Petro festival at Portugese settlement in Malacca

It was April 1511 when Afonso de Albuquerque set sail from Goa to Malacca with a force of some 1200 men and seventeen or eighteen ships to make it a strategic base for Portuguese expansion in the East Indies. Lots of things have happened since that date, but some Portugese have chosen to stay behind in Malacca to set up a Portugese settlement which still exist today. Malaysia is a multi-racial country with 3 major races - Malay, Chinese and Indians, plus other races and tribes. The Malay holds the political power and has given itself Bumiputra (sons of the soil) status with special privilages. This had been extended to the Portugese (accuracy not verified yet) but not to the Babas and Nyonas (the Chinese who came with Admiral Zheng He (Cheng Ho) and settled in Malacca and Penang) for reasons only known to the authorities. The Portugese came to conquer, but the Chinese came in peace.

The majority of the Portugese occupants of the settlement back in the 1930's and 1940's wereb either directly or indirectly involoved in the fishing industry. Fishing is a hazadous occupation, thus the need for a patron saint for the fishermen - San Petro or St. Peter. From June 23 to June 30 (the period varies from year to year, but this year being Visit Malaysia Year, the dates have been extended), the settlers celebrate the birthday of San Petro with Fiesta San Petro. There will be dancing, singing and feasting amidst dim candlelights. There are also fun fairs, game stalls, best decorated boat contest and the procession of the statue of St. Peter.

On the actual feast day, there is the Eucharistic celebration followed by the blessing of the boats decorated with colourful flags, banners and paints, and candles were lighted. The blessings are for God’s grace for a bigger catch for fishermen who depend on the catch for their livelihood. The lit candles signify the Light of Christ who guides the fishermen through the storms of life whether at sea or on land. The fishing boats then join a procession which starts from A'Famosa Fort, winds through the historic streets of Malacca and ends at the Portuguese Settlement.

It is only the 25th of June today. You still have 5 more days and one night to catch the San Petro festival. Otherwise, plan your visit for the following years.

For more information, contact

Portuguese Settlement: Tel: 06-2847050
Phone: 606-2318200
Fax: 606-2311400

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