Source: The Chronicle Magazine, 6 January 1962 p. 6- 8
Epiphany, better known as the Feast of the Three Kings, marks the end of the Christmas season in the Philippines.
The religious observance which falls on January 6, commemorates the long journey of the Magi or Three Wise Men from the East in search of the Child Jesus. They traveled days and nights through deserts, mountains and dales, guided only by a heavenly star. Finally, they found the Holy Infant in His lowly birthplace in a Bethlehem stable as the angel had announced to the shepherds.
The Three Wise Men—themselves kings of earthly kingdoms---recognized even then the Infant Jesus as the King of Kings. They worshipped Him, offering gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts, according to Catholic beliefs, signified three things: gold for Christ’s kingship; the incense, for His divinity; and myrrh, for His humanity.
And so it was that the Magi started the centuries-old tradition of gift-giving on Christmas. From the obscure little town of Bethlehem, the practice has spread throughout the world, like the Faith which was born there.
Different localities in the country celebrate Three Kings Day in their own way. But the essence is the same: gift-giving and revelry. Also, it is a feast exclusively for the children.
The local Spanish community observes the feast with gift-giving to children in Manila and the suburbs. The gifts are distributed at the Casiño Español by three men personifying the Three Kings.
In Gapan, Nueva Ecija, the Feast of the Three Kings is also the town fiesta. Legend has it that once bandit-ridden, the town was freed from such a scourge by three young men who appeared from nowhere and routed the bandits. These three mysterious men, the townspeople believed, were the Three Kings.
Hence, the annual celebration in Gapan with the the images of the Three Kings as the center of the festivities. According to the townsfolk , the images, all carved out of hardwood, have been there for centuries. The images were originally owned by one family, but now Gaspar is under the care of Marcela Baison, Melchor belongs to Conchita Manikis and Balthazar is owned by Consuelo Cabañez.
The Three Kings of Gapan are considered protectors of the town rather than as gift givers. Hence, the absence of gift-giving during the traditional feast day.