We’ve been planning to visit the colorful and renowned Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon province. Yet, for years, we said “perhaps next year”. Conflict of schedule, weather and distance are some of the reasons for the hesitation. The San Isidro Pahiyas Festival is celebrated every 15th of May, which means that it could very well fall on a work day. This year, 2011, the festivities fortunately fell on a Sunday.
Directions on how to get there. The related reasons on top for our hesitation to go is the relative distance and rumored parking problem in Lucban. Lucban is not exactly accessible, not along the main roads. Either through the national highway at San Pablo-Lucena, or through the backroads of Liliw-Majayjay, Lucban is relatively secluded. However, because we’ve tackled the much lengthier drive to Bicol/Donsol, and have explored the San Pablo – Liliw – Majayjay route during the Laguna Loop trip, Lucban appeared less and less secluded. It was time to go witness the colorful fiesta celebration of Lucban, in honor of San Isidro Labrador, patron saint of farmers.
We left Manila around 4:00 a.m., passing through the South Luzon Expressway (SLE), then Sto. Tomas (Batangas) and going in San Pablo City. After San Pablo City, around 30 minutes through the towns of Nagcarlan (famous for its underground cemetery), Liliw (famous for its footwear) and Majayjay, which is the last town of Laguna going to Lucban. We arrived in Lucban a little past seven in the morning.
Finding a parking spot. Then there’s the parking issue. We’ve heard countless horror stories about walking long distances, as the main road of the town is closed during Pahiyas. They say it’s a long walk, and I’m reminded of how Cebu closes the city roads during Sinulog. Now, if you’re not inside Cebu City before the roads close for the Sinulog, I’d say that’s a legitimate long-distance walk. The walk from the parking area to the center of the Pahiyas in Lucban, on the other hand, is a piece of cake by way of comparison. So, you see, take what travelers say with a grain of salt, including what we say here. Experience is relative; the more relatives you have, the better (or worse) the experience. Kidding aside, the walk from the parking area in Lucban during Pahiyas is easily manageable.
We could have left Manila after breakfast, which would still have given us enough time to see the colorful displays, watch the parade and the evening festivities. However, we left real early to get a good parking spot, which paid off because we were right at the spot where they closed the road.
Kamay ni Hesus Shrine and the Lucban Church. Just one way in and out the town, we were made to understand. We parked at the side going to Majayjay and Liliw, both towns of Laguna, so we cannot cross and proceed to the Kamay ni Hesus Shrine, also in Lucban. That means if you intend to visit the shrine, park at the side going to Lucena. Basically the same itinerary or route of the visita iglesia for the Laguna Loop (we planned to include the Lucban Church, with the first church built in 1595 and the present church completed in 1738, but decided to reserve it for the Pahiyas).
Breakfast at Buddy’s. No breakfast stop at the SLE because we planned to experience the pansit habhab and Lucban longganisa, with the Buddy’s restaurant being highly recommended. Pansit habhab or pansit Lucban is meant to be eaten without utensils, just plain-flavored noodles on freshly-cut banana leaf, with a sprinkle of vinegar. The photo of pansit Lucban below, served at Buddy’s, is obviously not the plain variety.
Buddy’s in Lucban is right in front of the municipal hall and the fountain/statue for Jose Rizal, a minute or two from the Lucban Church. No sweat if Lucban is far away because there are Buddy’s restaurant branches in Tomas Morato Avenue in Quezon City and Kakarong Street in Makati City.
The Pahiyas Festival. It is said that the tradition of thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest existed even before the coming of the Spaniards and, obviously, the introduction of San Isidro Labrador as patron saint came with the Spaniards. Local inhabitants would display their farm products on doors and windows, creating a mix of colors. Multi-colored tomatoes, coconuts, bananas, rice, string beans and a whole lot more. Then came the more colorful component, the kiping.
The kiping is basically colored ground rice molded into various shapes and sizes. The kiping could be grouped into something that resembles a chandelier, called the arangya, or various flowers, including the sunflower. And, yes, it is edible, though you have to cook it first. We bought a box of kiping (in addition to the other items we bought in Lucban, so we can say, ahem, that we contributed to Lucban’s local economy) but we never got the interest to cook and eat it. I mean, how can we eat a work of art? It is meant to be admired, in our opinion, rather than to be consumed.
Pahiyas means “decor”. The Pahiyas Festival, however, is more than just the colorful decorations on windows, doors and even the whole facade of houses. It is more than just a tourist attraction. The Pahiyas Festival is a form of thanksgiving to a Higher Being for a bountiful harvest in the past year and a prayer for more bounty in the years to come.
A trip to Lucban for the Pahiyas Festival is never meant to be quick. The adventure will eat up a day of one’s hectic schedule. It is meant to be leisurely. Secluded open roads. Zigzags and turns. Green nature along the way, with the majestic Mt. Banahas dominating the view. The whiff of pristine, fresh air. Capped with the colors and tradition of the Pahiyas Festival. You should go next year.