Sunday, May 15, 2011

[LUCBAN] Attack of the Colorful Houses

As a tribute to San Isidro for a bountiful harvest, a fiesta dubbed as the Pahiyas Festival (NOT Pahiyas FILM Festival) is held annually in the town of Lucban (Quezon Province) every May 15. This lively celebration involves the selection of a route from and back to the church, wherein each and every family with a house on the said path is given ample time to transform their abodes into colorful works of art in honor of San Isidro who traverses the same route (his statue, not his ghost) after the 7 AM mass during that day. Popular choices for decorations include kiping (colorful and edible), vegetables, and this year: a British flag with a picture of the newly married royal couple. Are they from Quezon too?

My day started at 12 midnight and I had a 12-hour sleep before that. Energy! After slacking off and having a short stopover at Burger Machine to buy food, I rode a jeep at Buendia going to the JAC Liner terminal near the LRT. You won't miss this terminal unless you have been deprived of the ability to read very large letters that form the abbreviation JAC. This bus line takes pride in being the first to offer Wi-Fi on board. I did not test it, though. I had to conserve my phone battery which proved to be quite useless later on. I was among the last to board at 1:20 AM but a chubby girl beat me to the last seat. According to the security guard, a bus departs every thirty minutes. No problem. Perhaps out of pity, the conductor allowed me to take his seat by the door. Or maybe he just did not want to be the first to die if we meet an accident. We left at 1:20 AM.

An hour later, we were already at Turbina in Batangas (or Laguna?). The trip along the South Luzon Express Way was smooth and quick. A few people got off and I was able to secure one of the seats in front. The bus conductor then loaded a movie called Naked Weapon, which involved a lot of half-naked girls impaling each other with broken toothbrushes. Now this is how you should start your morning routine! We reached the border town of Tiaong after an hour and, finally, the Lucena Grand Terminal after another. Three hours was the total travel time from Buendia sans traffic.

I ran into a former workmate as I boarded the jeep. Most of the people inside also seemed like local tourists. The jeepney ride took 30 minutes to reach Kamay ni Hesus. Ten minutes later, we reached the South Luzon State University where the jeep was no longer allowed to proceed farther. The fare is 30 pesos; 40, if your driver is suffering from a self-imposed premature memory gap.

It started to drizzle when we got off the jeep. After a very wet Bicol excursion which left me with a two-week pulmonary tract infection, you would understand how I would want to at least strangle the rain if it were to become a person. The good news is that it disappeared as I walked to the town proper. Across the city hall was a concert set being prepared at the plaza. Go straight ahead and you end up at the church. I rested there for 10 minutes before I ventured out to follow San Isidro’s path this year. It would be interesting to note that the church is actually dedicated to San Luis, a figure of whom you'll immediately see upon entering via the church’s side entrance. San Isidro is given a spot at the back of the church but I bet he does not mind since he is more popular anyway. San Luis who?

To say that this festival is colorful would be an understatement. Round every corner you would think you have already seen a house that you would declare most colorful, until you turn at another corner and see another house that is equally grandiose. And then another. And then one more! Ach! They never end! These people are dead-serious. Is there a cash prize?

In terms of design, there simply is a wide variety. Giant flowers are en vogue, like, sunflowers to be specific. Some owners take the Bahay Kubo song literally. The residents would probably be forcing themselves to become vegetarians for a month after this celebration. It is all for the sake of fun. This is indeed one of THE festivals to look forward to every year.

A good tip is to see the houses while the devout Catholics are having mass. Let's not kid each other. Not all of us are here for the Holy Eucharist. I was able to complete the path after an hour and 120 pictures. I rested for ten minutes and by 6:30 I was at it again, by then already taking videos. There were obviously more people during the second round. When I reached the end of the path, the band was ready and after five minutes, the parade began. Yes, I started where the parade ended. It does not matter because you end up at the church either way.

The marching band was followed by a group of sacristans. The sacristans were followed by old people. The old people were followed by middle-aged people carrying a girl saint that I do not recognize. Girl Saint was followed by more middle-aged people flocked around the star of the day, San Isidro. San Luis is nowhere to be found. Don't worry, San Luis. Remember, the church is yours. The queue is short and not as chaotic as some religious festivals around Metro Manila.

I was out of the town proper after buying two bunches of suman and staring at longganisang Lucban. That was around quarter to eight. A total of 2 1/2 hours spent.

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