By Anna Valmero
LUCBAN, QUEZON—The streets of Lucban literally burst into an array of colors, welcoming throngs of people who trooped here to witness the annual Pahiyas festival.
Greeting tourists are the colorful kiping (rice wafer), images of the patron saint San isidro Labrador and different fruits, vegetables and even life-size farm animal mock-ups adorning more than 300 houses competing for the best Pahiyas design.
The sound of drums and merrymaking were also heard from different streets, while others turned their stereos and played lively music to cheer up the crowd.
Like any other fiesta in the country, the Pahiyas is an influence of the Spanish who told native settlers that San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint for farmers, plowed the fields after every mass to ensure a bountiful harvest.
In his honor, the town made the fiesta brighter by the creation of kiping and the colorful decorations using crops and other farm produce.
According to the history book “Kasaysayan at Tala ng Bayan ng Lucban, Quezon” (by Pantaleon Nantes, 1952), the feast of San Isidro de Labrador every May 15 is one of three major fiestas celebrated in Lucban.
As an agricultural land, the people grow and harvest their best produce in time for the festival, which takes its name from the Tagalog word hiyas (jewel) and pahiyas (offering).
Like in the years before, the festival was the town’s way of showing gratitude to their patron saint San Isidro Labrador for a good harvest in the past year and the town’s way of seeking blessing for the upcoming year, says Lina Corporal, who sold fried kiping during the festival.
Kiping or rice wafers are made from flattened rice dough and then mixed with food coloring, before they are arranged in chandelier-like aranya. If you want to see how kiping is made, it is best to visit Lucban a day or two before the feast.
Brittle, soft and crunchy, the kiping is said to be similar to the Mexican tortilla but thinner and more colorful. Deep fried and added with a pinch of salt or sugar for flavor, vendors like Lina sell kiping as snack.
For only 10 pesos per order, passersby, especially first-timers, tried out the fried kiping, a welcome treat while walking and taking photos of the Pahiyas-designed houses.
During the fiesta, you will also see people peddling Lucban specialties like longganisa and pancit habhab. According to Lina, the Pahiyas fiesta is always a good opportunity for vendors like her because of tourists.
Also, by indulging in local food, visitors are able to have a richer experience of Lucban beyond taking photos of the coloful kiping and Pahiyas decorations.
Locals usually allow guests to go up their house to have their photo taken while smiling at the decorated window on the second floor – a proof of the warm hospitality of the people of Quezon.
This year, most of the houses were adorned with vegetables such as sayote, eggplant, string beans, upo, and squash—all fresh from the farms and gardens of the locals.
Some would even offer guests a taste of their homemade delights and specialties such as Auring Barticos, who offered friends and strangers alike a taste of puto and pinangat na laing straight from her kitchen.
Ramon Rajinan, meanwhile, took a different approach to the usual design by focusing on the use of eggshells and the motif of an ant factory. The result? His house grabbed the attention of onlookers as it stood out to be neat and beautiful at the same time.
Mang Ramon says he used the egg shells from the factory where he works to cut on expenses, and chose to sell most of his produce instead of using these as decorations.
By tradition, the Pahiyas vegetable decorations are taken off once the procession of San Isidro which is similar to the Agawan festival of nearby town Sariaya, said Gemma Padre, who hosted LOQAL.ph at her ancestral house in Sariaya.
All of the produce must go, since it is believed to attract good luck, so the people at the procession— even those not from Lucban – bring along sacks and bags as they gather the treats, according to Tita Gemma.
Truly, the spirit of the Pahiyas festival goes beyond the merrymaking and the colorful decorations. It is a time to give thanks for a good harvest and a time to share blessings to others that help cultivate the value of gratitude and sharing among Filipinos.
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