History of the Pahiyas

According to the oral and recorded history of Lucban, the Feast of Saint Isidore was first observed by the native Tagalogs who used to settle at the foot of Mt. Banahaw during the early Christianization of the natives of Lucban, Tayabas circa 1500. Then known as “MALUBAN” or “COLUMBAN”, the whole community of Lucban conducted a simple celebration as a form of thanksgiving to the ANITOs for the good harvest of farm products such as palay, vegetables, fruits, and fish.

Pahiyas during the 1950s

At harvest time, the farmers used to gather their harvests inside the chaplet (“tuklong”), where they used to converged and partake of a sumptuous meal. They drink “tuba” (natural wine) from the flower stalks of coconut, buri or cabo negro (kaong). The natives believed that by conducting this yearly merriment they are assured of another bountiful harvest for the following year.

When the first church was established in the present location, during the time of Captain LUKAS MARTIN (1630) under the supervision of Fr. Alfonso de San Miguel (1628), evangelization of the natives became more pronounced. The natives cooperated with the helped the parish priest. During harvest time, the natives bring their select farm-produce inside the new and much bigger church where the parish priest used to bless the harvest as a form of thanksgiving to the Lord. As a result, the following year, the farmers experienced another plentiful harvest, thus intensifying beliefs and devotion to Saint Isidore (1595) as the intercessor of God’s blessing to them.

As the years pass by, changes in the manner of celebrating and ceremonies of the Saint Isidore Festival were effected because the Church has become inadequate to accommodate the burgeoning harvests. So that after due consultations with the parish priest, it was agreed upon that the farmers harvests be displayed tight at the door steps in front of the house, where the parish priest can easily bless them as he make a round of the houses in the community as the procession, carrying the images of Saint Isidore and Sta. Maria Toribia, and the townspeople, passes by. Not contented with this change, the townspeople went on to outdo each other door steps that made the procession more lively and colorful.


Before the end of the 16 th century the Manila-Acapulco Trade, more popularly called, the “Galleon Trade” was at its peak between the Philippines and Mexico, where the Philippines had booming commercial trade with selected Latin-American and Asian nations. But because of fear of the Spanish government that money from these trades might go only to the said nations, instead of Spain alone, they promulgated and  implemented a law known as the “DOCTRINE OF MERCANTILISM” whereby the Spanish government controlled the Galleon Trade and limited the Philippines to do business with China and Mexico . The only port of entry allowed for the Filipinos was Acapulco , Mexico . (Agoncillo & Guerrero, 1960).

In the year 1734, Captain Francisco de los Santos of Lucban, Tayabas boarded the Galleon bound for Acapulco, Mexico for an observation tour of home industries with commercial value. He tagged along with him Juan Suarez, a native of Lucban who has propensity in culinary arts and has a flair making finger foods of Lucban. While the two were in Acapulco , their fancy was caught by the production of “TACOS” or “TAQUITOS”, (Barquillos-making). After several training, Mr. Suarez learned the basics of the trade.

That year, upon their return to the Philippines, and upon reaching Lucban, Tayabas, Mr. Juan Suarez lost no time and attempted to make the “tacos” and “taquitos” using local materials (rice galapong). Being naturally creative, he tried to improve the processes as well as the ingredients. Thus, instead of the tubal shape of tacos, Mang Juan experimented on the thin lateral shape of the tacos by using the leaves of banana (saba) cut into squares of 10″ each. The ground rice mixed with water and atsuete as food coloring, is made to slide evenly and thinly over the squared banana leaves. Then each leaf steamed over a container of boiling water for several minutes. After which the cooked rice water on the leaf is laid to a mat to dry overnight. The following day the dried wafer is removed from the banana leaf, punctured in one corner and tied with a buntal fiber each, bundled together in groups of 25’s and dried further.

The word “KIPING” was derived from the root word “KIPI” or “KINIPI” and “KINIKIPI”, a local term which means “to dehydrate the extra water content out of the dough by putting heavy object on it”. The drained dough is then kneaded by putting the desired color and by adding enough water to make the dough semi-liquid. Once in this state, the semi-liquid form is poured in measured amount over the squared banana leaves, tilted a bit and made to spread thinly over the entire surface of the leaf. The process is repeated with every square patterned banana leaf. Then, each leaf with the semi-liquid ground rice is steamed on squared bamboo sticks over a boiling water in a covered pan, big enough to contain several leaves at a time for ten minutes. Then, the cooked kiping still sticking on the banana leaf is laid to a mat to dry overnight. The next day, the dried kiping is removed from the leaf, tied with buntal fiber on one corner, each bundled together, laid on a board and put a heavy object over it press the kiping flat. After six hours the heavy weight is removed and lo, the KIPING is made! The bundles of KIPING are hanged on a clothes line to dry finally.

In preparing the Pahiyas decoration, the KIPING of different attractive colors are so arranged as to create a beautiful, artistic design such as a giant flower with leaves, a chandelier in monochromatic or contrasting colors, in short chandeliers or drooping shape from above the windows down to almost touching the ground level at the façade of the house. Arranged creatively and artistically, such chandeliers of KIPING are a beautiful sight to behold. Much more so when these chandeliers are placed with green vegetables or dove-tail leaves or “tilob” used as background that make the design more colorful and astoundingly attractive.  Because KIPING is made of rice, it can be eaten when properly prepared and cooked. It can be fried like a kropeck; can be roasted or can be sweetened with sugar and coconut milk to serve as a delicious dessert.

Modern Pahiyas

Poster of the 1963 Arts for Commerce and Industry Festival and group photo of the Art Club of Lucban members
Poster of the 1963 Arts for Commerce and Industry Festival and group photo of the Art Club of Lucban members

In May of 1963, the Art Club of Lucban, through its founder and president FERNANDO CADELIÑA NAÑAWA, organized a festival that includes a trade fair, cultural shows, various contests, parades and art exhibit to spice up the celebration of the San Isidro Festival. Dubbed as “the 1963 Lucban Arts for Commerce and Industry Festival”, it aimed to boosts tourism in Lucban and to make known the celebration of San Isidro Festival which was the common term used during that time. Notable of which during the first grand celebration of the festival was the art exhibit where, for the first time, artists from Manila particularly the Art Association of the Philippines , brought their precious art works to Lucban for the art exhibit. It has never been duplicated since.

 Another huge festival was organized by the same club in 1968.  The Lucban Harvest Festival and Fair were the biggest celebration of the San Isidro Festival so far.  Guest of Honor during the celebration that started on May 11 and lasted until May 15, 1968 was Executive Secretary Rafael M. Salas.  Also in attendance were the Governor of Quezon Province, mayors and various government officials of the national, provincial and local government and offices.  Other cooperating organizations include The Desert Club, The Lucban Jaycees, the Lucban Academy, Lucban Barrio Council, D’ Loopasae, Ltd, and D’ Uncle Club.

Souvenir program, Lukban Harvest Festival & Fair, May 1968
Souvenir program, Lukban Harvest Festival & Fair, May 1968

It was also Nañawa who coined and first used the word “PAHIYAS“, derived from the local vernacular “PAYAS” meaning “decoration or to decorate”. The “PAHIYAS” has since been used to describe the colorful festival of Lucban.  Though there was no factual recorded history of its first used, it was during the middle part of the 1970s when the festival became known as the Pahiyas Festival.

The festival was originally known as San Isidro Festival.  So when the words San Isidro was inadvertently dropped, the Catholic Church interceded and urged the local government of Lucban to include it, thus becoming the Lucban San Isidro Pahiyas Festival as its official title.

The Tradition

To make the San Isidro Pahiyas Festival more meaningful, the townsfolk decided, that instead of just putting the agricultural harvest in front of the door steps of every house along the procession route, the entire façade of the house was decorated for a much grater impact to the viewing public.

This strategy attracted more local and foreign tourists than ever before. This further elicited creativity of the townspeople in an effort to outdo each other in decorating the façade of their houses. There are those who decorate their home with commercial products such as hats, bags, mats, bolos, langgoniza, and other home industries products. To add more local color, there are those who used ” ANOK” as part of the decorations.

The local government unit, in its desire to boost tourism in Lucban, has initiated a yearly contest in the most beautiful and relevant PAHIYAS in town. Big prizes are at stake, like a live carabao, cavans of rice or palay, refrigerator, colored TV, gas range, washing machine, cash money and more for the deserving décor winners. These served as incentives to the people to do their best in making their PAHIYAS the most deserving.

As practiced by Lucbanin, preparation for the Lucban San Isidro Pahiyas Festival starts weeks before May 15th every year. An Agro-Fair dubbed “TIYANGGE SA LUKBAN” is established at the public plaza. Displayed in this fair are agri-products such as ornamental plants, vegetables crops; including handicrafts and home-made delicacies and finger foods.

Pahiyas during the 1950s
Pahiyas during the 1950s

The celebrations, although outwardly festive in character, are essentially religious in nature.  Highlight of the celebration is the procession held in the later of the afternoon during which the images of San Isidro and his wife, Sra. De la Cabal, carried around town.

The liveliest part of the tradition comes immediately after the procession.  As soon as the end of the procession passes each house, men and children hurry to the houses to perform the “Kalas”, a spirited competition to bring down the decorations and romp away with them as they would with prizes while homeowners struggle against them.  This part of the celebration is the day’s elegant finale, symbolic of the rejoicing and merriment that follows a big, abundant harvest.

* Scarecrow-like human being replica made out of rice straw, coco coir or saw-dust. ANOK gives in conversational form or casual comments about local or national issues, harvest, etc.

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