Every 15th of May, the town of Lucban in the province of Quezon, on the Luzon island of the Philippines, celebrates the feast of their patron saint, Saint Isidro Labrador. San Isidro is the patron saint of farmers. And during this time of the year, this farming town holds one of the most famous festivals in the country, the Pahiyas Festival. The Pahiyas features the town’s houses adorned colorfully with the households main produce ranging from rice, fruits, vegetables, and other handicrafts. One common decoration during this festival is kiping, colored leaf-shaped decorations made from rice.
And after years of planning to attend this festival, this year my wife and I were finally able to go. Originally, we planned to go using my car but due to some car trouble, we had to opt to take the commute to get there. From my wife’s place in Calamba, we took a bus bound for Sta. Cruz. And in Sta. Cruz, we transferred to a minibus en route for Lucban. The minibus is a hybrid of a jeepney and a bus. The trip from Sta. Cruz took about an hour and a half drive through the towns of Laguna via some zigzagged and narrow highway.
Due to the festival, our minibus was not permitted by local officials to get into the town proper due to traffic being stalled in town. We then transferred on a tricycle to bring us in town and near the decorated houses. On our way to town, some drizzle has started to fall. There is a typhoon this day in Luzon which is causing the rains. We hoped then that we don’t get washed out by the rain. Crossing our fingers.
Our tricycle driver dropped us in the middle of town and advised us to walk through the streets until we see a decorated house, then we can see more after that. Later, we learned that annually organizers set the route of the procession around town and every house on this route are mandated to decorate their house fronts. And the house having the best decoration wins a certain prize money.
And so we arrived on the first decorated strip at around 7:30am in the morning. And we arrived on a spot where GMA7’s Unang Hirit is preparing for their live broadcast of the celebration with Eagle in one of the houses. This street had a beautiful set of houses filled with kiping and rice stalks. Unfortunately, the rain started to pour that we had to find shelter from the rain. Fortunately the rain was just brief, though some drizzle still drop every now and then.
Deciding on where to start, we decided to walk eastward first and planning to go back for the other side of the street. Again later we realized that the route is in circular pattern. And so, we continued walking and stopping on every house taking some pictures. They got kipings designed in layers in yellow, green, pink and other bright colors. Some houses have stalks of rice shaped like chandeliers or used to lace windowsills.
A common decoration are also basket shapes filled with farm products like vegetables and fruits. There is also a house which has a wall full of chili pepper, chayote, carrots, gourds, etc. We also found a house which is covered by straw hats.
Some notable decorations that we saw are these company of clown mascots made of vegetables. They were a hit for tourists wanting to take pictures with it. Another is a masked kid disguised as a farmer spraying fertilizer. Another is Jollibee’s Pahiyas house where the main host is none other than Jollibee. We also saw a curved bitter gourds (ampalaya) forming the word San Isidro.
Over-all, the Pahiyas experience would we say is one of the most memorable Philippine festival that we had. Aside from the experiencing the view of these great decorations is the strong rains that we encountered. The rain fell throughout the day where it fell every few minutes with instances when the rain was too hard that we had to take over for some time. We felt bad for the households who decorated their houses and their designs destroyed by the rain.