Lucban’s Pahiyas erases post-election blues

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THE PAHIYAS festival in Lucban, Quezon, celebrates the feast of the farmers’ patron saint San Isidro de Labrador. This year, the festival erased the election hangover especially of losing candidates. DELFIN T. MALLARI JR./INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

LUCBAN, Quezon—The festive atmosphere here on Wednesday, the feast of the farmers’ patron saint, San Isidro de Labrador, was pure celebration, albeit still commercialized, but showed no more traces of the feverish and divisive election experienced by the country on Monday.

All streets and electric posts in this bucolic town at the foot of Mt. Banahaw,

160 kilometers south of Manila, surprisingly bore no more memories of the campaign propaganda materials of candidates.

Moises Villaseñor, who is on his last term as Lucban mayor, said the town people volunteered to clean up the mess of the election in time for the annual Pahiyas festival.

Last week, Alberto Bay  Jr., acting Quezon tourism office head, conducted a media campaign and invited losing and winning candidates and their supporters to spend their post-election relaxation in this town and experience the Pahiyas fiesta.

They came, especially the losing parties.

Lynda Santos, campaign manager of a defeated mayoral candidate in Central Luzon, said they came for the jovial mood “to escape the intrigues and insults from the winners back home.”

She said that as soon as they realized their sad fate in the election, they immediately set the Lucban trip and traveled in a convoy of four vans, all political campaigners of the losing candidate. All expenses for their trip were shouldered by their “boss.”

Popularly known for its exquisite display of multicolored “kiping” (colorful rice-based wafers arranged in chandelier-style artwork) and fresh farm harvest in every house along the procession route, the Pahiyas festival is an annual festivity held on May 15 as the farmers’ tribute to San Isidro for a bountiful harvest.

Aside from the kiping and farm produce, native bags and sausages, the people’s main sources of livelihood, are displayed in the townsfolk’s homes.

The Department of Tourism has included the event as a must-see tourist destination owing to the town’s rich cultural history, color and gaiety.

Guyito, the popular, carabao-like mascot of the Inquirer, helped revive the age-old tradition of putting back the farmers as the center of the Pahiyas celebration.

In the afternoon during the main Pahiyas parade, Guyito, aboard his own wooden sledge (paragos) being pulled by a real carabao, led the participation of 19 carabaos with each pulling a sledge festooned with fresh farm produce and flowers prepared by the farmers’ families.

In the past five years, the Inquirer has been sponsoring the annual spectacle called “Bikas Gayak,” which means “well-adorned,” as a tribute to the farmer and his carabao, the country’s symbol of a hardworking Filipino.

Guyito shared the limelight with beautiful women, to become the most-photographed figure by townsfolk and visitors in every stop of the annual event.

Erwin Reyes, Inquirer’s senior business development officer, said the company gave three LED television sets to the winners of this year’s company event and consolation prizes to the nonwinners.

Farmer Leonard Sombrano, a “Bikas-Gayak” participant, said the prize was just a bonus. “What is important for us is that the focus of the feast is now back to San Isidro and the farmers,” he said.

Several giant figures made of papier maché of some local businesses also became an annual part of the festival parade.

Balikbayan or overseas-based Filipinos were all over the procession route, taking photos of houses with attractive displays. Among them was Cynthia Fuentes, a retired nurse in Chicago who said it was her first Pahiyas and promised to return next year with all her grandchildren.

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