The Philippine Pahiyas Festival

The Pahiyas Festival is celebrated in the town of Lucban, Quezon. The word Pahiyas literally means “decoration” and the celebration includes colorful rice wafers, fruits, grain and vegetables, and woven palm hats. There is also a procession of San Isidro Labrador, a patron saint of farmers who assures them of abundant harvests.

Lucban – Lucban San Isidro Pahiyas Festival

In Lucban, Quezon, Filipinos decorate their homes for the annual Pahiyas Festival. The word Pahiyas comes from the Filipino word “payas”, which means decoration. The festival started as a ritual wherein the natives would bring their harvested fruits and vegetables to the church, where the patron saint of farmers and laborers, St. Isidro Labrador, would be blessed.

Although the original festival was a pagan festival, it has evolved into a colorful grand festival complete with cultural shows, contests, parades, and exhibits. The festival’s organizers credit Fernando Cadelina Nanawa, a Lucban-based artist, with coming up with this unique concept. The festival is a cherished Filipino tradition.

Origins

In the Philippines, the Pahiyas Festival is a colorful celebration celebrating the local agricultural harvest. In a community-wide competition, house owners decorate their exteriors with colorful leaf-shaped rice wafers and local products. The winner of the competition wins prizes like a live carabao or a new house appliance. The Pahiyas Festival is one of the most popular Filipino celebrations. It is also one of the most popular cultural events in the Philippines.

The first major festival in Lucban took place in 1963. It was originally called the Lucban Arts for Commerce and Industry Festival and was aimed at promoting the town’s tourism. This annual event features parades, street displays, and exhibits of Lucban’s rich harvest and local art. The festival’s name comes from the local vernacular word pahiyas, which means “to decorate.”

Characteristics

The Pahiyas Festival has many distinctive characteristics, including the parade of floats, which are pulled by carabaos. The floats, which have been a part of the festival for several centuries, are important to Philippine agriculture, as most farmers do not have the resources to purchase expensive equipment. The festival also features a procession of colorful costumes, which are fashioned from native items and organic materials. The costumes serve as promotional vehicles for Lucban and Quezon native products, and emphasize the beauty of the interior.

Before the emergence of the modern version of the Pahiyas festival, Lucban residents had practiced the ritual away from the public eye. But in the 1960s, the Lucban art club re-conceptualized the Pahiyas festival, making it a visual spectacle. Today, this festival is an important tourist attraction in Lucban, and has become an integral part of Lucban’s culture.

Traditions

In the early morning of May Day, people in Pahiyas, the province of the Visayas, decorate their homes with kiping, colourful rice flour ornaments strung like flowers. The leaves are also adorned with edible items like fruits, vegetables and even live livestock. The decorations are a part of the pahiyas festival and are shared among the locals. The word pahiyas itself means “payas”, which is a shortened form of the Filipino word kiping.

The pahiyas festival is rooted in religious belief. Farmers from the region would gather at the foot of Mt. Banahaw in order to thank the patron saint of farmers, San Isidro Labrador. According to legend, he had angels plough his fields as a result of which he became known as the Farm Labourer. The pahiyas festival became a popular gathering in towns throughout the Philippines, as the local people celebrated with the best of their harvest.

Food

The names of the different foods served during the Pahiyas festival come from the origin of the celebration itself. This ancient festival began as a gift-giving rite for the Spanish friars in the town of Lucban. After the festival, the Lucbanins would use kiping (pronounced “payas”) to decorate their houses. Kiping is a delicate leaf-like paper decoration that has a similar texture to wafers. The leaves are then coated with a colorful rice paste and then dried out. Once the festival is over, kiping is a popular food item.

The festival was originally celebrated in the village of Lucban, Philippines, to honor San Isidro Labrador, patron saint of farmers. During the celebration, villagers would decorate their homes with colorful rice wafers, fruit and vegetables, and various objects that symbolize abundant harvest. As a result, the festival quickly spread throughout the Philippines. This year, the celebration was more than just a traditional harvest festival, though.

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