Pahiyas sa Lucban Festival (Feast of San Isidro de Labrador)
May 15th 2003.
The Feast of San Isidro de Labrador, patron saint of the farmers, is celebrated each year on this date in 4 towns in Quezon province, Philippines. The most famous of these harvest festivals is in Lucban, a town situated at the foothills of Mt. Banahaw, about 100Km south east of Manila.
If you are in or around Manila for this date, a trip to Lucban, a couple of hours south of this radiant city will provide you with a good day of entertainment. ‘Kippings’ constructed of large leaves made from rice paper and dyed brilliant colors are assembled into extraordinary blooms, fringes and arrangements which adorn every house along the route of the festival. Fruits, palm fronds, bamboos and grasses form displays of animated people and animals, entire wall surfaces from street level to rooftops are bedecked with colour and texture, windows and doors are fringed and from each house groups of proud residents enjoy the admiration of the passers by. It is a great privilege to have one’s street chosen to be part of the festivities and the pride and enthusiasm of the residents is reflected in the creative beauty expressed by each household. My companions and I thoroughly enjoyed the visual beauty of this festival, as well as the ever-present Filipino humor manifesting itself in dancers and decorations, strange animals and fantastic creations of ‘vegetable’ people.
If you can get there, go! Allow a full day for this trip.
Because of the time of year and season, it is bound to be very hot and sunny. Sunburn is a real risk. You must take a shady umbrella or wide rimmed hat. I always prefer the umbrella because of the complete protection it offers me. My companions were not protected and had to buy one of the local hats, as did everyone else there. Take water to drink. Food can be quite difficult to find along the route but there are quite a few places that cater for the crowds with mediocre meals and fast service. These are nearby but you will have to ask where. People generally are most helpful in this regard.
To get to Lucban, take the Southern Expressway to the end (Calamba) and then head south to Sta. Thomas (this is the main highway to Batangas). From Sta. Thomas there are two ways to get to Lucban. One traverses the mountain route directly to Lucban. From Sta. Thomas take the major left fork in the road to San Pablo - don't get onto the new toll way. From San Pablo pass through the scenic mountain towns of Rizal, Nagcarian, Liliw and Majayjay. The road between Majayjay and Lucban is rough and unsealed, but a conventional saloon car can do it.
The other way is from Sta. Thomas via Lipa. This is more tedious and not so pretty. - more "citified". There are other towns celebrating the same fiesta so traffic is much slower. The actual distance is also greater.
If you travel by car there is ample parking on the edge of the town. You have to pay, but it is not much. No trouble finding the site of the festival – just follow the crowds.
Because it is a town fiesta, the usual hoards of vendors have set up in the streets selling everything from plastic hairclips to second hand clothes. These oceans of vendors and spenders are, thankfully, outside of the Pahiyas festival areas, but can be easily found if you are inclined.
Photographs by Robert Paraiso. Pictures of Janet and Michael :-)