Pahiyas Festival 2018: Through the Eyes of a First-Timer
Choose Philippines | May 18, 2018
By Marie Francia
The last few hints of summer heat were supposed to be in full swing during this time, but on the day of the most colorful festival in the country, it rained – hard and loud. Locals, however, believed that it must’ve been San Isidro Labrador’s, way of saying, “great job for a bountiful season, Lucban.” Talk about silver linings.
Smile Despite The Weather
Although we were welcomed with a deluge of liquid sunshine, no amount of rain could ever dampen the spirits of the excited locals who were out on the streets early in the morning of May 15, adding finishing touches to their dressed-up houses. They were all smiles despite the weather, exchanging stories and kipings (leaf-shaped wafer made of rice) while making sure their decors were still in place.
Ask The Locals
The rest of the town went about their businesses. Aling Lita’s Pansitan featuring the famous habhab, was already serving tourists and her neighborhood Lucban’s famed dish as early as 8 in the morning. She was luring the rest of the sightseers with her charming voice, hollering “pansit” in a sing song manner. Charmingly, she was complaining about how the other habhab sellers mimic her tactic, “ako ang original nito, tapos gagayahin lang nila ako,” she said with a smug. Glad that Aling Lita was the first one I saw selling the pansit because she was definitely a good starter for a Pahiyas first-timer like myself.
Of course, like a true stereotypical tourist, I asked the locals on where to find the best Lucban longganisa. And to my surprise, it wasn’t what Google taught me (I did my research prior to the trip). The shop was called C. Obleas, along A. Racelis ave. right at the back of the municipal hall. It was first and foremost a house with only a small kiosk in front. Curious, I walked near the door and asked them how long they have been in the biz (in my head, the real question was why aren’t you Facebook popular when you happen to be the ‘best’ around town?). The lady inside sitting casually on a Monoblock chair said, “more than 20 years na iha. Nakapagtapos na nga ako ng mga anak ko sa college dahil dito, saka ito lang ang shop namin, dito lang talaga sa bahay, ayan diyan lang sa labas, maliit lang” I heard pride in her voice and that was my cue to smile and thank her for the little kwento and for the longganisa that I bought.
I was already walking away when she called me again to give me a bag to put the pasalubongs I was obviously having trouble with balancing in my arms. Oh, you know, just little acts of kindness that make your heart flutter.
Expect Nothing Less
Even though already a little flustered around noon, we walked some more and found ourselves caught in the middle of a row of houses who we’re being #extra. And just when I thought I’ve seen the most imaginative, I kept on shaking my head as I move along the streets – they were only getting better and better. It was exactly what I expected, maybe even more.
But what has really gotten into me was the houses with the littlest of decorations, just a couple of strings of kipings, flowers and grains and that’s the rest of it. It was awe-inspiring because amidst all the extravaganza, they were a gentle reminder of one of the most important things about town fiestas like this – inclusiveness. Knowing exactly that they belong, they probably couldn’t care less whether they have the most beautiful design, as long as they were a part of it.
Immerse In The Culture
Then came the parade who we initially thought wouldn’t push through because of the weird weather changes. Hours before the scheduled parade, a sudden rainstorm clouded the rest of the town and merrymakers got stuck inside the houses of very welcoming locals. And just in time for the most anticipated part of the festival, the heavens cleared up much to the relief of everyone in town.
The parade started led by majorettes, drummers and members of the local government followed by the rest of the entourage – town performers, beautifully-decorated floats, carabaos and local beauties wearing Lucban-made gowns and heavy-looking headpieces that are well-deserving of the world’s attention.
And while the rest of the carousers continued to party in Pahiyas, our trip has come to an end. On my way to our service van, I only had one ringing thought in my head – if there was anything special about this whole merriment, it’s not the knickknacks and the trinkets hanging over the walls and windows of the houses, no matter how impressive they were.
Pahiyas is real colorful because of the people in it, their candor and their spirit of generosity – who else opens their houses for complete strangers? Only in Pahiyas!
Images by Deniel Cuvin