Houses are adorned with multicolored leaf-shaped rice wafers and every conceivable vegetable found in the residents’ kitchens. At almost every door, vendors are selling habhab, stir-fried noodles served on banana leaves and supposed to be eaten without any utensils or hands. And at the town church, throngs of crowd flock for the day’s mass. It’s the Pahiyas Festival at Lucban, and the sleepy town in Quezon about a five-hour drive south of Manila has turned raucously merry.
One of the more popular festivals in the Philippines, the Pahiyas is held every 15th of May in honor of Saint Isidore the Laborer, the patron saint of farmers. Whether to show their gratitude, to wish for a bountiful harvest, to win the top prize for the best decoration, or just to simply join in the show, the residents of Lucban take great pains in dressing their homes with as much produce as they can muster. Visitors are very much welcome to enter the houses and eat.
In the afternoon, a blur of marionettes sweeps around a narrow platform as the sounds of trumpets, trombones and drums jar the eardrums of the audience. The march halts for a moment before colorful carts carrying vegetables of various colors roll by, followed by towering effigies of different personalities swaying to the beat. The Grand Parade is starting. The crowd gathered in front of the Lucban church breaks into a din of laughter and cheers as a truck throws out candies.
The church is traditionally the starting point of the parade, which goes around town with a motorcade of judges choosing the best decorated house. Unlike most fiestas in the Philippines, the Pahiyas follows a different route every year to give every house in town a chance to participate.
Like the passing parade, everything will return to normal for Lucban in the morning. People will return to work, tourists will return to where they’re from. But for now, everyone’s connected by this sense of merriment, and with this event, the town residents are providing a link with visitors to their identity and their culture.
That, and a chance to buy the famous Lucban longganisa.
Modeled by Sean Aron Caguin