*Warning: picture-heavy post*
It started with a conversation I had with my preceptor on my training. She said in passing that this year’s Pahiyas festival would coincide with the last day of our (anticipated) three-day vacation. When I asked her how far Lucban was (since she hailed from Quezon province), she said 4 hours one way and I told myself, why not?
I was desperate to leave Manila even for a couple of hours so I asked some friends if they would be willing to spend 1/3 of the day seated in a bus just to see the colorful houses of Lucban. Ramm said he would be very happy to come with me so my mind was already conditioned that Wednesday would be Pahiyas day. Unfortunately, due to some circumstances, he failed to show up at the time that we were supposed to meet and he wasn’t answering any of my calls or replying to my messages. I was having second thoughts of going alone but I was really excited. In fact, I woke up before my alarm got off, spent the next hour waiting for Ramm and the next hour and a half surfing the internet just to get my mind off the celebration but the itch just wouldn’t go away. At around 5:30 AM, I finally said screw this, I’m going.
During my jeepney ride to the nearest LRT station, I was anxious and my thoughts were contradicting. I don’t know how to get there except for some tips I found on the internet. You can do it. It’s a four-hour bus ride and I don’t have anyone else with me. You survived in Mindanao, a place where you didn’t understand the language and you’re chickening out in Luzon? But, I had Dai with me. But no money, now you have some extra moolah to blow. I can still go home and go back to sleep. No you can’t, the train’s here. I wasn’t really sure the trip would push through until I stepped inside the train. After that, there’s no turning back and all the negativity dissipated.
I rode a Jac liner bus bound for Lucena City. I was one of the first few passengers but the vehicle quickly filled up and we we left the terminal after 10 to 15 minutes. Fare was 209 pesos. During the first 20 minutes of the trip, I was telling myself to breathe. If I was able to get through four hours in a regular bus with no air-conditioning on a hot and humid day where people brought all sorts of stuff and animals with them, I was sure as hell I could manage comfortably seating in one that has air conditioning and free Wi-Fi.
I was supposed to go to the Lucena Grand Terminal and then ride a jeepney to Lucban from there but when we reached a place called “Arias”, the driver said there were already minibuses bound for Lucban/Tayabs beside Jollibee. I took his advice and was lucky enough to be the last passenger in a minibus ready to leave. Ah, the joy of travelling alone, you can practically squeeze yourself in vehicles so you wouldn’t have to wait. Works for impatient people like me. The fare was cheaper (30 pesos compared to 50 from Grand Terminal to Lucban) and the journey, faster.
From the church, I turned to one corner and voila, the decorated houses welcomed me. I pat myself on the back for being able to locate this particular street. There were a lot of people but I was expecting more (the kind where I had to shove others just to take a decent picture, hehe). I was very glad my expectations weren’t met.
Pahiyas is a yearly festival celebrated every 15 May in honour of the patron saint of farmers, St. Isidore the Laborer. This festival showcases a street of houses which are adorned with fruits, vegetables, agricultural products, handicrafts and kiping, a rice-made decoration. The houses are judged and the best one is proclaimed the winner.
Fortunately, I don’t say no to hospitality. According to manong, this was Lambanog, a wine made from coconut which is normally 80 to 90 proof (40 to 45% alcohol, whew!). It was delicious and smooth, no bitter aftertaste so no need for peanuts and chaser. Sadly, people only pass by the sign when they should be downing the shot. If not for my laziness to carry a heavy bag, I would have bought a bottle or two of Lambanog for my friends.
If you’re not very keen on seeing the parade in the afternoon (I wasn’t because I could only imagine the cramped space), the best way to roam the area is before lunch because the heat is not that harsh and the density of the crowd is low. When I left after lunch, more people arrived and the sun was shining bright like
a diamond the fireball that it is.
I enjoyed walking through the streets of Lucban at my own pace without worrying if my companion is tired or bored, clicking away my camera, asking whoever was near to take my photo, talking with strangers, basking in the beauty of the decorations, marveling at the effort put for the festival, people-watching and smiling idiotically at nothing in particular. Everyone was so friendly and even if a policeman told me to be vigilant because snatchers are everywhere, I still felt safe.
No Bob, not everyone is going to hurt you. :]