I almost didn’t make it to Pahiyas Festival this year because the major events were scheduled on a Friday and most of my friends were at work. Luckily, two days before the festival, I saw the Pahiyas Festival “Do it yourself trip” by a friend online. Before this, I had been contemplating joining a tour to Lucban, but my indecisiveness paid off this time when a cheaper opportunity turned up in the nick of time. It would have been more expensive had I availed of the Pahiyas package tour offered by several travel agencies.
Pancit Habhab Cart
We went to Lucban via Pagsanjan route which took us three hours instead of the usual four to five hour trip via Lucena. The van we took from Alabang agreed to bring us to Lucban instead of dropping us in Pagsanjan since there were many passengers en route to the festivity. It was already past 10 when we arrived so we missed the procession and the streets along the Pahiyas route were already crowded with tourists and vendors. Lucban is known for its cool and fresh climate but I guess the name Summer Capital of Quezon didn’t apply that day with the thick crowd of onlookers.
Pahiyas Festival is an annual celebration that culminates on the 15th of May in honor of San Isidro de Labrador. It is a form of thanksgiving to the patron saint of farmers for their bountiful harvest. During the festivity each household engages in a friendly competition where they get to showcase their creativity by lavishly decorating their houses with their native produce or showcasing a livelihood display of their products. Pahiyas or “payas” literally means decorating the wall with Kiping and agricultural products.
The culmination of the festival starts with a Thanksgiving mass for San Isidro Labrador at 6am followed by a procession of the image along the Pahiyas route. It is believed that houses along the procession route will be favored and blessed in the coming year hence the tradition of lavish decoration as a sign of gratitude for the saint’s blessing began. The procession is followed by a selection of the best Pahiyas followed by the Grand Parade in the afternoon.
Watching the parade is one way of catching up with the other activities you have missed from previous days. Winners of the Gayak Karosa Farmer’s Festival and the Pancit Habhab Fiesta-val are parts of the parade. Our shutters started to click the moment we entered the Pahiyas route. I thought I have seen the best one already until I saw another one from another corner and another one.
There were houses covered entirely with colored grains of palay, and another one used vegetables strung together as curtain. I also enjoyed the colorful display of Kiping, a leaf-shaped wafers made of rice that are attached together to form different shapes. One house I liked has three huge and lengthy chandeliers made of kiping hanging from its windows.
Most of the house owners were very accommodating and allowed the tourist to go up in their balcony for picture taking. At first we were trigger-happy with every decorated house we saw until we were kind of accustomed to it after just an hour of exploration and everything seemd to be the same already. It was my first time to Pahiyas Festival so I can’t compare whether the crowd this time was bigger than the previous celebrations. But there were still a couple of foreign visitors, balikbayan, local tourists despite of it being a working day, many photographers with intimidating cameras and lenses and some known politicians.
A trip to Lucban would not be complete without trying its famous pancit habhab and langgonisa. Pancit habhab is a known specialty of Lucban made from sautéed noodles with chopped pork, shrimp and vegetables mixed with just the right amount of spices. It is placed in a rectangular banana leaf and eaten without using any utensils thus the name “habhab” which means to eat with your mouth. We had our lunch in one of the crowded eateries where they also have a small factory of langgonisa in its restaurant. A serving of pancit habhab costs ten pesos while a dozen of cooked langgonisa costs 80 pesos.
Pancit habhab is best eaten with bare hands
After lunch we went to the Municipal Hall where a concert sponsored by SMART Telecommunication would be held that night. Then, we headed to St. Louis Church for our last stopover before leaving for our side trip of the day to Pagsanjan Falls. We were not able to attend anymore the 2:00 thanksgiving mass of the farmers nor see the Grand Parade but many of the participants have converged already in the church’s square like the two Higantes who were entertaining the children and onlookers with their funny antics and some colorfully-decorated pancit habhab carts.
After awhile, beautifully adorned carabaos started to arrive too. On this special occasion, the farmers pay tribute to these hard-working animals for helping them till the land. They are taught to kneel in front of the church where a priest usually blesses them.
This trip was only a glimpse of what Pahiyas Festival is all about but my experience had motivated me to come back and experience it once more.