San Isidro Pahiyas Festival 2016: Cultural Adventure

Probably the most popular festival in Quezon, San Isidro Pahiyas Festival or more commonly known as Pahiyas Festival is a harvest festival celebrated in the town of Lucban every 15th of May. It is held in honor of San Isidro Labrador who is the patron Saint of farmers. 


The San Isidro Pahiyas Festival is famously known for houses that are adorned with colorful leaf shaped decorations called kiping. For those who don't know it yet, kiping is made from rice paste (thus it's edible) and is quite similar to that of a tortilla (even tastes like one). The uniqueness of using kiping as a decoration made the festival one of a kind. Aside from that it add this instagram ready feel to the houses which in an effects adds promotion to the celebration through social media. 
Intro: How to make kiping
Streets of Lucban during Pahiyas Festival
Visitors enjoy the Instagram friendly houses
The crowd checking out the grand winner
The word pahiyas is from the Filipino word hiyas or jewel and when added with the prefix pa- means a precious offering both of which fully describes the celebration's meaning. This festival is said to be dated back to the 16th century. Several stories about its origins were passed down from generations and is still believed by most until today. One such origin story tells of San Isidro Labrador magically plowing the field of the faithful farmers who dutifully attends mass. Another (more popular and "romantic") story tells of a farmer who didn't miss going to mass and giving offering of his produce even if it means almost taking his farm for granted and being poor. Because of this, his fellow farmers would laugh at him and think of him as a fool if not crazy. Come harvest time, they were shocked to find out that the pious farmer harvested ten times the amount of their harvest despite him having a smaller field. (Lucky for the farmer people then didn't accuse him of stealing from their lands). It was then that he revealed that San Isidro Labrador and some angels helps him plow the fields. This it was said, sparked farmers to improve their religious life (and also give some of their produce as offerings). 

Here are some of the beautifully decorated houses during the 2016 Pahiyas Festival:







The highlight of San Isidro Pahiyas Festival is the procession along the annually changing route. Lucbanins believe that when the image of San Isidro Labrador passes by their house, they are ensured of a bountiful harvest in the coming seasons. The procession features a pair of giant papier mache figures representing 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 filled with triangulo biscuits that are given to children during the procession. This culminates with generous sharing of food among the townspeople. 
With the beautiful ladies of Quezon Tourism

Kiping + lights = beauty
Going back to the decorated houses, the local government awards the outstanding houses with monetary rewards ranging from 15,000 to 100,000 pesos. During the night, these houses would also outdo each other in what is called the Pahiyas Kutitap. This means, different colored lights are added and lit up creating a much better and more dramatic effect to their already beautifully decorated facade. After the competition, the winning house will shower the decorations to the people as free treats. For other houses, they will cook these decorations and eat them as rice chips complete with dips (like that of a nachos).
The grand winner for 2016 Pahiyas Festival

I got to experience the San Isidro Pahiyas Festival 2016 because of the generosity of the Quezon Tourism Office. I was invited along with hand picked media folks to participate in the Experience Quezon 2016 Media Tour. I particularly loved the Pahiyas Kutitap experience due to the beauty that it adds up to the night. Given the chance, I would love to revisit and participate in the festival annually. 

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