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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pahiyas Festival, Lucban, Quezon


Pahiyas Festival is a colorful feast celebrated every 15th of May by the people of Lucban, Quezon in honor of San Isidro Labrador. It is the farmers' thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest with a grand display of colorful rice wafers, fruits, vegetables, and handicrafts adorning every house in the town.
History
The festival's name comes from the Filipino terms hiyas (jewel) and pahiyas (precious offering). This feast is an ancient farmers' harvest celebration that dates back to the 16th century. According to legend, San Isidro Labrador magically plowed the field whenever he went out of the church. This is the story that the Spaniards passed on to the Philippines from Mexico during their colonial period. Since then, the Pahiyas Festival has been a source of excitement for the locals and visitors of Quezon Province.

Customs
The highlight of the festival is a procession along the streets of the image of San Isidro Labrador, to ensure the people's bountiful harvest in the coming seasons. The procession features a pair of giant papier mâché figures of a farmer and his wife. This is followed by the image of the patron saint and his wife Sta. Maria de la Cabeza, who carries a basket with triangulo biscuits, which are given to the children during the procession. This culminates with generous sharing of food among the townspeople.

All the locals' houses are decorated with agricultural harvest (fruits, vegetables, rice grains, rice stalks, flowers, and ferns) and colorful rice wafers, called kiping. These thin wafers made from rice dough are usually arranged into two or three layers of chandeliers called aranya. The locals use different kinds of leaves to add flavor and color to the kiping. They also produce varieties of tastes and textures by using different ingredients such as kabal, coffee, talisay (umbrella tree), cocoa, and banaba leaves.

Each house tries to outdo each other in decorations in an annual competition as they vie for the honor of being recognized for their creativity. After the competition is over and the awards are handed over to the owners of the winning house, the decorations of the house will be thrown away to the huge flock of people as free treats. For the other houses, after the festival, those kipings that were used as decorations are cooked and eaten as rice chips. Also during the festival, the people display their harvest in front of their homes so that the parish priest can bless them as the procession passes by.

Note: This is No.9 of a series of articles on Philippine Festivals and Fiestas.

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