History of the Pahiyas, the Untold Story

An old history book of Lucban, entitled “Kasaysayan at Tala ng Bayan ng Lucban, Quezon (Pantaleon Nantes, 1952) mentioned three major feasts celebrated in Lucban not only by Catholics but even by the Aglipayan, Protestants, Adventist and other religious sect. Prayers were offered, masses and processions were held, parade around town with marching bands, games, balls, contest and other fiesta activities.


First is the town fiesta held every August 19 in honor of the patron saint San Luis Obispo ng Tolosa. Second is on December 8, feast of the Immaculate Conception and because the image is housed at the municipal building until today, the town mayor together with the municipal council and employees were leading the celebration. Third is the feast of San Isidro de Labrador which falls on May 15. This celebration is quite different from the other two as houses where the procession will pass were adorned with different plants, fruits and other farm produce.

The feast of San Isidro, to the Lucbanins in the past, is known to be just that, the feast of San Isidro. So when the day nears, you would hear people asking “San Isidro na sa inyo, punta kami.” (Its San Isidro in your place, we would come.) or “Daan ba sa inyo ng San Isidro?” (Is San Isidro, referring to the procession, passing by your house?) or words to that effect. Generally, San Isidro is referred to as the saint and the feast itself. The feast is celebrated only by the people of Lucban, simple and without any accompanying events to amplify its significance.

The Modern Pahiyas
In May of 1963, a group of young Lucbanins, all members of the ART CLUB OF LUCBAN organized some events to spice up the celebration of the San Isidro. Led by its founder and president FERNANDO CADELIÑA NAÑAWA, the group, together with the MEGANS, Ltd., has put up an art exhibit of paintings, sculptures, photography and literature. This particular exhibit is so unique because the exhibitors were artists from the Art Association of the Philippines, the biggest association of art professionals in the Philippines, a major feat that has never been duplicated until today even in other parts of the country. There were also folk dances, songs, fashion show and film showing in what was then called “giant TV.” A cottage industry exhibit was also held.


Poster of the 1963 Arts for Commerce and Industry Festival
Click here to see the PHOTO GALLERY

The event, entitled “1963 Arts for Commerce and Industry Festival” which is the very FIRST grand celebration of the San Isidro, lasted for 11 days, from May 5-15. There were no recorded events the following 4 years but in 1968, the festival was held, again organized by the Art Club of Lucban.

Dubbed as “The Lucban Harvest Festival and Fair”, it was graced by no less than the Executive Secretary during that time, the Hon. Rafael M. Salas. It was more grander, complete with a souvenir program with a message from then President Ferdinand Marcos congratulating and acknowledging the organizer’s effort in advancing the welfare of the community and the development of our country.

Activities during the said festival, spread from May 11-16, 1968 were chess competition, sabong, on-the-spot painting contest and games for children, basketball games, free movies, balls, singing and dance contests, contest for farmers and parade.

From then on, the celebration of San Isidro has never been the same for the Lucbanins. More and more attractions, contests and events were added to drum up the festivities. Tourists from nearby towns started to come to witness the festival.

According to many Lucbanins, it was FERNANDO CADELIÑA NAÑAWA who coined the word “PAHIYAS”, meaning decoration, a word associated with the way the people of Lucban artistically decorate their houses during the San Isidro Festival. There was no written account, published or unpublished referring to how the word came to being but no doubt, it was the Art Club of Lucban through the dynamic leadership of Nañawa, who should be considered to be the “FATHER OF THE LUCBAN SAN ISIDRO PAHIYAS FESTIVAL”, who started the what is now famous colorful festival we are enjoying today.


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