Lucban City, May 19, 2003 - STAR by Christine S. Dayrit - When God gave out the gift of creativity, the people of Quezon must have been in the front row. Once you experience the fiestas here, you immediately appreciate the artistry that abounds.

In fact, I am still on cloud nine from my recent sojourn to the progressive province of Quezon where each household engaged in friendly creative rivalry. Decking the hall or decorating the wall with multi-colored kiping (colorful, leaf-shaped, rice paste wafers) and agricultural harvest is what payas or Pahiyas literally means.

Upon the invitation of Menchie Osial, senior PR specialist of Globe Telecom, we experienced once again the explosion of summer colors as they came alive at the San Isidro Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon. The Pahiyas has earned the reputation as the fiesta to end all fiestas. The festival is important in the cultural life of Lucban as it is a meaningful thanksgiving ritual to San Isidro Labrador or St. Isidore, the patron saint of farmers, for a bountiful harvest.

The streets of Lucban turn into a sea of humanity as local and foreign tourists flock to this historic town to witness this celebration every May 15. The Pahiyas festival has prompted the Department of Tourism to include Lucban as a tourist town and cultural heritage site. This harvest festival is also observed in the towns of Candelaria, Tayabas, Sariaya, Tiaong and Lucena City.

According to the oral and recorded history of Lucban, the feast of St. Isidore was initially observed by the native Tagalogs who settled at the foot of Mt. Banahaw during the early Christianization of the natives of Lucban, Tayabas circa 1500. Known as Maluban or Columban, the entire community conducted a simple celebration as a form of thanksgiving to the anitos for the good harvest of palay, vegetables, fruits and fish.

At first the farmers would gather their harvest inside the chaplet (tuklong) where a sumptuous meal awaited them. Drinking tuba or coconut wine and kaong or cabo negro. They believed this merriment assured them of more harvest. During the time of Capt. Lukas Martin (1630), when evangelization became more pronounced, the farm produce would be brought inside the newer and bigger church where the parish priest would bless the harvest. The harvests became even more plentiful, intensifying the devotion to Saint Isidore (1595).

Later, it was agreed that the farmers’ harvests be displayed right at the doorsteps of each house where the parish priest could easily bless them as he made his rounds in the community during a procession carrying the images of San Isidro and Sta. Maria Toribia.

Other highlights of this sojourn to the province Quezon blessed with natural beauty, lush vegetation, hot springs, glorious waterfalls and gastronomic delights included a visit to the garden of Ugu Bigyan, an artist, potter and landscape designer whose workshop is located at Lusacan, Tiaong. He produces dinnerware sets, decorative tiles and accent pieces for walls and floors. Ugu‘s garden offers quaint huts where one can relax, enjoy his home cooked dishes like fern salad, clam soup with mustasa, ginataang langka, grilled tilapia and the most delicious suman with coconut sauce and sugary grated coconut.

After the delightful meal (which must be arranged in advance), we visited Sariaya’s treasures like the Lumang Bahay (Old House) with its grand paintings and elaborate furnishings. The oldest house in town owned by the Alvarez family was built in 1743 and has a museum of well-preserved religious artifacts and statues. A mixture of Spanish, Moorish, Georgian, Chinese and Filipino ethnic influences can be observed in the old estate homes. Old fruit-bearing trees and flowering plants add character to the houses. It was awesome to relive the grand lifestyle of the past – imagine how many historic events unfolded in such important homes. Under the 150-year-old chico tree, we were entertained by the students of Sariaya Institute who showcased their talents in folk dancing.

On hand to make us feel like one of the Sariayans was the hospitable Rev. Fr. Raul Rodriguez, parish priest of Sariaya, who hosted and welcomed us to the event.

Equally festive in Sariaya is the Agawan Festival, which is the townspeople’s way of sharing their blessings. The houses adorned with fruits and vegatables, palay stalks, hats, fans, brooms are a sight to behold. There were the bagakay poles laden with various items for grabs. After the procession of the image of San Isidro, the agawan begins as objects from the bagakays and those used to adorn the houses are thrown from the windows by dwellers to participants in the streets.

The Mayohan sa Tayabas Festival, was another sight to behold. In this festivity, the Tayabasin honors the glory as well as blesses the travails and sacrifices of the past. Mayohan is a season to converge in Tayabas as the navel of the province of Quezon. Mayohan begins with the Parada ng Baliskog, the Tayabas arch of welcome. Thirty-three barangays and various government and civil society organizations displayed their baliskog all brightly decorated with Tayabas indigenous material such as buli, rattan, dried flowers and kiping.

Last May 15, Mayohan again paid tribute to San Isidro with a procession reminiscent of the early Quiapo devotion to Jesus Nazareno. Multitudes of workers, predominantly male flocked to Tayabas to clamor for suman and other pabitin. Suman dropped from the sky like rain when the revelry began. Their yearly panata or sacrificial devotion to San Isidro inspires them to join the Hagisan ng Suman with the belief that the bounty gathered in their sacks will bring more success in life.

I appreciate these fiestas because I learn more about our beautiful and endearing culture. We Filipinos have such wonderful traditions worth preserving. Let us keep these vibrant celebrations of our rich culture and tradition alive for the next generations to continue.  E-mail the author at Miladay@pacific.Net.Ph.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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