Pahiyas Festival – A Most Popular Festival and Celebration in Lucban, Quezon, Philippines
By Maria Gisela M. Galang
Have you heard of the Pahiyas festival in the Philippines? How about attending the most colorful harvest festival on this side of town? Hiyas is a local word for gems and before making it to the Pahiyas festival.
I was associating it with a celebration of colorful gems of some sort. It turned out Pahiyas is from the local word “payas” which means decoration or to decorate.
This is because the feast is observed by the people of Lucban, in the province of Quezon, by decorating their houses with fruits and vegetables, flowers, and colorful kiping. Kiping is an edible leaf-shaped wafer made of rice that is dyed in different colors.
Lucban is a City Known as the Art Capital of the Province
Quezon is a province on the island of Luzon, Philippines located in the Calabarzon region (comprising the provinces of Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Quezon and Rizal). Lucban is one of its municipalities and is known as the art capital of the province.
What used to be a pagan festivity turned to an annual festival observed on the 15th of May. It is in honor of the patron saint of farmers and laborers, San Isidro Labrador. This observance can be traced way back to the 15th century.
Farmers used to offer their bountiful harvests at the foot of Mount Banahaw, the tallest mountain in the Calabarzon region. It straddles the nearby municipalities, Lucban included.
Eventually, when the Spaniards brought Catholicism in the country, the produce were brought to the church for the blessing of the priest. In time, with the volume of the harvests ever increasing, their accommodation inside the church was no longer possible. Thus the farmers displayed their harvests in their houses instead. The parish priest will then go around the community to bless the houses.
The practice has since evolved. So much so, that it became an annual competition of the house with the most colorful design. The feast of San Isidro Labrador is also observed in
other towns in the Philippines where he is also the patron saint. However, it is not as colorful as it is in Lucban, Quezon.
May is Marked with the Most Number of Fiestas in Honor of Patron Saints
May could be our merriest month in the Philippines as it is marked with the most number of fiestas in honor of patron saints of towns in the country. A religious event of Spanish influence. Not as colorful as the fruit and vegetable gemmed houses of Lucban though. Also, the multicolored, ready to eat kiping are unique to Lucban.
Excited and eager to experience the colorful event, the 15th of May we took an early morning bus going to Lucban. The trip took four hours from Manila. We were welcomed to a hearty breakfast of “longsilog” – the famous sour and garlicky lucban longganisa (local pork sausage) with a sunny side up egg and garlic fried rice. All washed up with hot Barako coffee.
Energized, we happily started the walk to a long row of colorful houses and structures lining the main street leading to the church of San Isidro Labrador. The celebration is pulsating in the air. While the Higantes (giant papier-mache puppets) are native to nearby Angono in Rizal province. They are a sight all around.
The local marching band with pretty majorettes are patrolling the streets inviting one and all to the fascinating day ahead. Our walk with the view of the majestic Mount Banahaw added a touch of mystic as this volcano, according to folklore, is believed to be a holy mountain with miraculous healing powers.
The town plaza is geared up for the cultural show and contests that are to take place in the afternoon, lasting until late in the evening.
Houses are even Show Places for the Pahiyas Festival
All the houses are nicely dolled up with kiping, the harvests of fruits and vegetables. That’s together with flowers and all things imaginable, depending on the owner’s creativity and theme.
We have way too many favorites among the houses to single out just one. They are all winners. It can take a month, at a minimum, to make the decoration for just this day’s event. For the effort alone, they deserve applause.
Of course, we can’t leave without getting a taste of the kiping, with a picture to show for it. I like mine plain but my friend like it best with a dash of vinegar. We had pancit habhab (noodle dish) for lunch, so-called because it is not eaten with fork and spoon but eaten only with one’s mouth.
It is also served in rectangular cut banana leaves instead of plates. We also had our fill of the street food lining the area side by side with the stalls selling weaved bags, hats, mats, souvenirs, longganisa, fruits, and vegetables.
There was also a parade of beauties. Carabaos (water buffalo) take center stage too. For what is a celebration of bountiful harvests without due recognition to the beast of burden who, modern equipment notwithstanding, help the farmers with their cultivation of nature’s bounties.
Pahiyas: The Most Colorful Festival in the Philippines!
by Lakwatsero Duo
Published on Youtube on May 19, 2019
Lucban celebrates the Pahiyas Festival every May 15 in honor of the patron saint of farmers, San Isidro Labrador.
Beginning with a 6:00 am mass at the Lucban Church, this festival showcases a street of houses that are adorned with fruits, vegetables, agricultural products, handicrafts, and kiping, a rice-made decoration, which afterward can be eaten grilled or fried. The houses are judged and the best one is proclaimed the winner. This year, the winner received PhP100,000.00.
Every year, tourists roam the municipality to witness the decoration of houses. Nowadays, the Pahiyas Festival is a week-long celebration starting every 15th of May.
Back home in Manila, our Folks are waiting for our Stories and Souvenirs
Folks back home in Manila are waiting not only for our stories but for pasalubong (gifts/souvenirs) as well so we got them some yema cake and the breakfast favorite lucban longganisa.
We have to remind ourselves, lest we forget, having gotten too enchanted with the gemmed houses, to attend the fiesta mass at the San Isidro Labrador church and give thanks for the chance to be part of this merry event. Best of all, as a tradition in entering a particular church for the first time, we had the privilege of making three wishes. Yup, got three gems granted!
Gigi Galang is an upcoming writer traveling the world and writing of her travels. We’re wondering where her next destination and story will be about. Stay tuned for more from Gigi.
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