Colorful Harvest : Pahiyas Festival
Philippine fiestas are always described as colorful. But nothing comes close to Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon Province when color is being talked about. Literally, the streets of Lucban are almost blinding in psychedelic colors every 15th of May when the feast of San Isidro Labrador is celebrated.
I have heard so much about this fiesta and in my 35 years of waiting, I have finally witnessed it happen. I went early to Lucban with a group of photo enthusiasts to make sure I get a good parking space and so not to miss any activity. Everything kicked off with a hearty breakfast of Longganisang Lucban (with extra helpings of rice) and Pandesal with Kesong Puti. It was a wonderful way to start an anticipated long day of walking under the summer heat.
Lucban is just a small municipality in the Province of Quezon. It takes pride of its agricultural produce and each year they celebrate this abundance in honor of the patron saint of the farmers, Sr. San Isidro Labrador. What makes it a unique celebration aside from the usual pageantries is its use of these various agricultural bounties to decorate their homes. The star of the show is “kiping” or thin strips of rice dough fried and coated in bright colors. These are then assembled to turn it into a huge decorative item displayed outside every Lucbanen’s house. Pahiyas, is the Filipino word for decoration and in this festival it is used in the context of creative show-off of their homes to every visitor to Lucban.
As the sun gets hotter, the streets also get filled with people coming from all directions. It suddenly became a colorful maze snaking through tight foot traffic. Seemingly, everyone became a tourist in the area even the locals taking photos of his next-door neighbor’s house paneled with colored banana trunks and kiping turned into a huge chandelier. During this time, never expect to get a single photo of a decorated house without an unwanted tourist in buri hat filling in your frame. Surprisingly, I have never seen vegetables and fruits like the ordinary talong, sayote, banana and tomato this heavily photographed.
As my camera was running low on memory, my bags also got heavier with whatever souvenir I could grab from the tiangges on super bargained prices. It was an awkward experience shooting on one hand while the other is holding a huge bayong filled with lambanog, longganisa, broas, espasol and bananas while tucked in between my thighs were brooms of different kinds. During fiestas in the provinces, it’s not only your load that gets heavy, your tummy does too! It is customary to visit a friend or a relative’s house to sample their food. One may also just walk-in to a stranger’s house and do the eat-and-run thing which is just completely okay (as it is understood that you still are visiting other houses).
After lunch from 3 houses, I was back on the streets to catch the procession of the Saint. Amidst the frenzy of fiesta goers, Sr. San Isidro emerged in an almost breathtaking picture floating in a sea of devotees praying, chanting, crying, shouting in jubilation. As in any fiesta parades, it will never be complete without the sagala of beauty queens doned in their lovely gowns made of local materials. If the entire day of walking and eating isn’t enough for you to complete a festival, wait until night to witness how the Lucbanens would party. As night falls, the adorned houses turned even more magical as they light their fruit & vegetable decors with illuminating the small town in splendor. Street parties were staged and capped the entire extravaganza.
Now after all the merry-making, the problem was how to get my car out of the multitudes of people and after-parade carrozas on the street. It was the probably my pay-off for the gluttony of food, shopping and parties the whole day. Only when I got so far from Lucban I realized how much fun it was to celebrate the Pahiyas. Truly a festival I will never forget.