It's that time of the year again in my beautiful island country, the Philippines, where most festivals are held in the month of May. These festivals more locally known as "fiesta" (which means "feast" or "to party" in Spanish) are held during this month and usually , it's the Spaniard's way to encourage the local people to spread and promote Christianity in their towns by assigning a patron saint in each of these communities.
Since it's the Catholic faith who actually instilled these traditions. the celebrations are usually religious in nature although it could also be cultural and regional in some sense, and the events are based on the kind of produce or goods that are available in a specific place. And amazingly, and largely due to the creativity of the Filipino, what was intended to be just an intended remembrance becomes a very colorful and exciting gathering that both local people and tourists alike are looking forward on witnessing, a yearly occurrence which turns into a fanfare, a holiday which is enjoyed from all walks of life.
Such an event would be found here in this quaint b
ut colorful town in Quezon province, called Lucban, which is located at the very foot of Mt. Banahaw, a mountain believed by most as miraculous and blessed. Lucban in itself has her own charm, her own history. According to a popular legend , three hunters who came from a neighboring town in Majayjay Laguna, got tired from their long journey, rested under a tree where a crow had landed on. When the hunters saw the bird, they quickly ran because it was believed that seeing a crow on a tree was a bad omen and would therefore bring bad luck. So, they moved on to another tree where a couple of kingfishers were singing, and this time, they thought it was a sign of good fortune, so they opted to stay in that place and then called it "Lucban".
And true to it's word, Lucban has since then, proved worthy of its claim. It indeed has been "fated" to showcase the bountiful harvests that the province of Quezon has bee endowed with thru a festival called "Pahiyas:, the origin of which came from the idea that since the Catholic church during the 16th century could no longer afford to go from house to house to bless the bountiful harvests of the farmers, they would have to display it in front of their houses so that the priest who would bless their produce would see them immediately. Through the years, the townspeople had done the same ritual but since they wanted to catch the attention of the priests first, they had become so competitive that they exerted all efforts to make their plentiful harvests more appealing and colorful, thus the Pahiyas tradition was born.
The first time I heard about the Pahiyas festival, how colorful and how creative the decorations were in the houses, and how festive the atmosphere was, I told myself this is going to be part of my bucket lists. That dream had been lingering in my travel fantasies for so long. I even envied some of my co workers because they've experienced this festivity for more than once in their lives while I was kept to just wish that one day I would be able to marvel at all the colors of this event right in front of my very eyes.
It was just in my imagination for a long time, until a friend of mine whom I've never seen for 28 years, told me that she and her sister could go with me to this wonderful place and events. You just couldn't fathom the smile and joy in my face hearing that. I couldn't believe that after all these years of figuring out how I'd get there, I finally would be fulfilling a lifelong wish. Maybe, you'd think I'm exaggerating, or I'm making a big deal out of going to a place which isn't too far from most people's standards, but given my circumstances where I mostly travel by myself, having that chance to accomplish this feat is such a blessing.
So, there it was May 15, 2013. My first ever Pahiyas festival with my High school classmate and friend, Angelica and her younger sister Monica. Couldn't believe I was finally there in Lucban, Quezon, marveling at all the colors and those uncanny creativity of the participants who didn't mind all the expenses they would incur or the meticulous details that goes with every grain, every fruit and vegetable that are hanged and displayed on every house. Each adornment was more than just a decoration, it was actually a work of art, an exhibit of a bountiful and blessed harvest that were filled with so much passion and color. For those of us who could only gasped in amazement and awe upon seeing that artistry, it was all just for show, but the farmers who tilled and toiled their lands to harvest such splendid produce, these were products of their blood, sweat and tears, a realization of the old cliche', "reaping the fruits (and veggies) of their labor.
Alas! Another dream come true! Gone are the days when I would keep on imagining what it would be like to be stunned by the sheer loveliness of this feast's. I could finally add this to my bragging rights. So every time, someone would ask me, "Have you seen the "Pahiyas in Lucban, Quezon". And then I would beam with and joy, and say "Oh yeah! I've been there, and done that"!
A few years after, I started to miss seeing this event again. I missed looking at those simple houses getting glammed and dolled up. I could remember the hues like a pallet of a painter's masterpiece. And then again, I wondered, when could I could have this chance of reliving that fantastic memory. And as if, those words were gentle whispers into God's ears, I met a wonderful woman who later became a friend, and a sister. And as if that surprise was not enough, I learned too that she lives in Lucban, Quezon. Wow! Is that a coincidence? And true enough, she invited me to be with her during the Pahiyas anytime I wish to. And the rest was history. After that trip to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia and Brunei, we had been visiting each other from our own places and traveling locally together ever since. The distances weren't as much as it had been on our first journey but the time we had as sojourners were all well spent
And so, after much planning and some delays along the way, since we were both busy with our careers, our own endeavors, the time had come when Fritz would eventually fulfill her promise of hosting me in her cute abode, in the town where she calls her 2nd home, Lucban, Quezon.
And so, after exactly 4 years, on May 15, 2017, I am back here to once again be dazzled and be blown away by all the colors around me, to be a spectator of the brilliance and craftsmanship of the Filipino and to experience first hand, what it's like to be Christian whose faith in God flourishes more as I understand His miracle into play. These plentiful wonderful, tasty and delectable harvests did not just spring up from somewhere, these were planted, mowed and reaped thru the veins of a peasants and farmers who thrived despite the scouring heat of the sun. Theirs were hands filled with mud and calloused by the incessant plow of their fields. And after much waiting, they would finally obtain what they had worked hard for.
And so amidst all the beauty that this Pahiyas festival had lavishly brought to both local and foreign tourists, in spite of the fascination and enchantment it brings to us, and the magnificent color it paints in our bewildered eyes, we must not forget that in every part of this undeniable charm lies a pair of beautiful skillful, rough hands that were the very tool, that had provided for the nourishment we needed, the same instruments that they used to make them families lives as beautiful as their bountiful harvests.