Weather is a key factor in the success of the Philippine fiestas. The Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon falls on the month when the summer ends and the rainy season begins. But for the townspeople of Lucban, the May 15 fiesta has never been cancelled on account of inclement weather.
Despite the rough winds and heavy down pour of rain brought by the approaching typhoon Cosme on Southern Luzon, the streets of Lucban look as if the rainbow had spilled its color on the houses. Without the uses of lights, there is no greater color spectacle in the Philippines than the Pahiyas.
In the dynamic and artistic town of Lucban, the feast of San Isidro Labrador blossomed into the “pahiyas,” the most original folk celebration found in the country.
Alejandro Roces in the book Fiesta tells the story of Madrid’s patron saint, San Isidro Labrador. “San Isidro is said to have worked only for a wealthy landowner named Juan de Vargas all his life. San Isidro was always in church so his co-workers complained that his piety was keeping him from his work.”
“Vargas went to see for himself and saw that he actually came later than the others. But as he advanced to reprimand him, he saw not San Isidro’s plow, but two others, pulled by teams of snow-white oxen, guided by invisible plowers. He realized that San Isidro was getting supernatural aid and fell on his knees. Most representations of San Isidro depict this scene.”San Isidro has been known as the patron saint of farmers and the festival of San Isidro has become to be known as the “Pahiyas” which means “precious offering.”
The Pahiyas has become the central event in the cultural life of Lucban. The thanksgiving to San Isidro as patron saint of farmers dates back since the 1500. According to oral tradition, the native Tagalogs who settled at the foothills of Mount Banahaw were the first to celebrate the pahiyas during the early Christianization of Lucban, Tayabas (the old name of Quezon Province).
During the pahiyas, all the homes showcase a unique folk art. The route of the march varies every year so that every single street gets its turn to be the processional path. It is along these streets that the façade of homes are decorated with the farmer’s bountiful produce such as root crops, vegetables, rice grains, fruits and Lucban-fame local sausage the longganisa.
These organic décor are either strung together to form a curtain or garland or they are arranged to form a tableau sometimes accented with straw dummies dressed in all sorts of attire.
The leitmotif is the kiping, rice paste that has been shaped into a leaf and tinted in brilliant tropical colors. The kiping are adorned and strung together to form all sorts of shapes, from chandelier called arangya to huge flowers.
According to Roces, these exterior decorations are traditional folk art but they have the trappings of modern art. For the fact is that the pahiyas is nothing else but a three-dimensional collage, or what is known in modern art as assemblage or construction. Modern art sometimes simply consists of giving new high-sounding names to old art.
Information source: Alejandro Roces in Fiesta