Bright colors and extravagant decorations are an essential part of every Filipino festival, but nothing screams color more than the Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon. Originating from the word “payas”, which means to decorate, every 15th of May, residents would adorn their houses with vegetables, fruits, and kiping–traditional leaf-shaped rice wafers. This festival is conducted to celebrate and give thanks to San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of laborers and farmers, for a bountiful year.
Pahiyas Festival History
Before it became the vibrant festival we all know and love today, it had its humble beginnings. Traditionally, farmers would bring a portion of their harvests to the foot of Mt. Banahaw in Quezon, which is known to be the most sacred mountain of the Philippines. Farmers offer their thanks to the anitos for a bountiful year; failure to do so may cause bad luck and a meager harvest.
When the Spaniards introduced Christianity to the Filipinos, this tradition greatly changed. Farmers now bring their produce to their local parishes. Priests would then bless their harvest for another bountiful year. When these churches would be overflowed with vegetables and fruits, the farmers would opt to display their harvests in front of their houses, leaving their houses flourished with bright hues and shades. This tradition would become the colorful Pahiyas Festival.
Apart from the usual offering of harvest and decorating of houses, a grand parade occurs on the day of the festival. The parade starts at the St. Luis Parish Church, headed by muses from different barangays in lavish and elaborate gowns made from agricultural products and kiping. This is followed by a bunch of carabaos dressed appropriately for the festival. There might also be a bunch of street dancers in the middle of the parade. The image of San Isidro Labrador is also toured around town as part of the parade before going back to the church.
The main attraction, of course, are the colorful houses along the streets of Lucban. What started as a tradition to decorate houses, became a friendly competition among neighbors where they compete for the best-dressed house for the Pahiyas Festival.
How to Get to Lucban, Quezon
Lucban, Quezon is roughly a five-hour drive from Manila. If you’re commuting on public transportation, you can ride a bus to Tayabas or Lucena from Cubao. You can also ride a bus from Pasay, depending on what is more accessible to you. From Tayabas or Lucena, you can ride a jeepney from the towns’ central terminals.
If you’re privately driving to the province, you can use Waze or any GPS application to help you navigate the roads to Quezon. The fastest way to get to Lucban would be through SLEX, cutting your five-hour travel time to three.
Where to Eat and Stay in Lucban, Quezon
Lucban, Quezon may be your average-sized town, but because it’s a tourist hotspot, there are a lot of hotels and lodgings around the municipality. If you’re planning to join the festivities, it’s advisable to make a reservation months before the Pahiyas Festival to avoid high rates. For reference, transient houses can charge from Php 500.00 per night, and hotels can charge from Php 2,000.00 per night. Please do note that prices may change during the festival dates.
Apart from the Pahiyas Festival, Lucban is also known for its delicacies. This only means that you have more reasons to visit the province! You’ve got tons of restaurants to try in town, but here’s a list of local delicacies you should try when you’re in the area!
This local take on the classic Filipino pancit is a must try! They use Miki noodles, giving a different texture and bite to the dish. It’s topped with vegetables and meat to give a savory flavor that will leave you wanting for more. Another local take on pancit is the Pancit Chami, which is one of the signature dishes of Lucena City.
This delicacy is perhaps the most famous food from Lucban. It’s got a distinct garlic flavor combined with a tangy taste that makes it perfect for breakfast (and lunch… and dinner).
Budin is one of Quezon Province’s local delicacies and you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to get a bite of their famous cassava cakes. These cassava cakes are cut into triangular pieces to make it easy for you to consume while walking!
The geographical location of the province allows for bountiful harvest not only on land, but also in water. So, the abundance of fresh seafood is not surprising at all! This smoky dish is made from shrimp cooked in coconut milk and is paired with rice.
Hardinera is a local take on meatloaf dishes. Made from pork and other ingredients like boiled eggs, liver spread, raisins, and cheese, this dish takes the spotlight during festivals. If you’re lucky, you might even get a taste of this local favorite during the festival!
What to Do in Lucban, Quezon
You’ve got tons to do in Lucban, and not just during the Pahiyas Festival! Here are some of our suggested activities you can do before, during, and after the Pahiyas Festival!
During the Pahiyas Festival
Attend the mass at the St. Luis Parish Church.
This morning mass, which usually starts at 6 AM, signals the start of the Pahiyas Festival. Afterwards, the grand parade commences.
Watch the Grand Parade.
Going to a festival is incomplete without watching the grand parade. Witness muses in ornate gowns, dressed carabaos, and street dancers going around town! The parade usually starts in the morning right after the mass at the local parish.
Go on a photowalk.
All the colorful houses and decorations would look good in photographs, so get your cameras ready!
Tour the streets.
Residents decorate their houses not only for the sake of the festival, but also to win the competition for the best dressed house! Take advantage of this by touring around the streets and marveling at the beauty of these homes.
Get to know the locals.
No one knows the town and its history better than the locals! Don’t be afraid to ask the residents about Pahiyas and Lucban’s culture. You’ll definitely appreciate the festival better when you do. Who knows? They might even invite you inside their homes for a feast!
Before and After the Pahiyas Festival
Go on a food trip.
Quezon is also known for their local specialties like cassava cakes, pancit habhab, Lucban longganisa, kakanin, and other delicacies. Make sure to taste them at least once before heading back to the city.
Visit other towns in Quezon.
If you have spare time on your hands, we encourage you to head to other towns in the province! You can go on a road trip to take in the province’s scenic routes; or if you’re feeling a little sea-craved, you can head east and visit the beach!
Pahiyas Festival Tips and Tricks
If you’re visiting Lucban, make sure to travel at least a few days before the festival so you won’t have to experience the surge in cars and tourists.
Bring cash, not cards.
While there are ATMs around and establishments that accepts cards, the surge of tourists may make it an inconvenience to withdraw money. Make sure that you have enough in your wallet to last the day! You might also be encountering casual vendors, so make sure you have barya and small bills handy!
Expect large crowds.
Pahiyas Festival is one of the biggest festivals in the Philippines, and one that tourists flock to to experience. Expect that there will be large crowds in the area, so don’t forget to pack a little bit of extra patience for the day!
Bring your own water bottle.
The best way to enjoy the festival is by going around town! You’re probably going to do a lot of walking, so bring your own water bottle to avoid dehydration and tourist-priced bottled water. You’re also helping the town stay clean and eco-friendly by not purchasing bottled water!
Wear something cool, comfortable, and colorful.
The festival is celebrated during one of the hottest months in the year, so it’s best to wear something you’re comfortable wearing under the sun! You can also pack extra shirts for when you need a change of clothes.
The best way to get to know a province’s culture is by joining the locals in celebrating their festivals! Plan your visit to Lucban and witness the colorful Pahiyas festival!
Kat is a writer, traveler, and a foodie. If she’s not cramming her finals, you can find her reading the latest contemporary romance novels, binge-watching some doctor show on Netflix, or planning her itinerary for her next hypothetical trip with her friends.