Lukban, Philippines – Dry season has come to the main Philippine island of the Luzon and with it celebrations in thanksgiving for harvest, family and life. In particular, the town of Lukban hosts “Pahiyas” or the citywide San Isidro harvest festival. Located 26 Km northwest of Lucena City or 160 Km southeast of Manila, Lukban’s nearest attraction is Mt. Banahaw (2,158m). However the town is bustles as a hub for livestock trade and local production of native handcrafts. These products are sold locally as well as exported worldwide. But really Lukban’s breadbasket is harvest time with the bountiful crops grown from rainy season into the dry. Pahiyas rejoices this plenty.
It’s a trek to get to Lukban, I won’t lie to you. Getting around the Philippines in general takes time unless you are flying to a certain destination. Buses encounter more traffic daily with increasing population and tourism while infrastructure is lagging in keeping up. The bus out of Manila (cost P 210) brings you to Lucena City eastern bus station where you catch a long jeep (P 30) with 30 other Philippines for a half hour ride to Lukban’s town center. Cabs at this point may be available but not readily and will cost you probably double what is cost to take the bus to Lucena.
It’s near the town center that I met my friend Joyce Oblefias. I met Joyce in Singapore at the Mitraa Inn Hostel where I called home for a spell. Joyce works at Mitraa and returned for a visit to her family and the festival. It is here that I also coordinated with my English mate Matthew Levitt also whom I met in Singapore at the Mitraa. So it was a reunion of sorts. Joyce, her immediate family and 180 cousins (kidding but sure did seem like it) graciously provided a homestay for Matthew and I during the festival and the days leading up to it.
May 15th is their and the town’s time to boast. Throughout the narrow streets you’ll find aqueducts, tricycles (motorbikes with sidecars) children shootin’ hoops, peddlers hustlin’ and enough colors to paint the world over. Locals decorate their homes with a variety of items including bamboo, coconuts, banana leaves and most importantly “Kiping” or rice leaves that are dyed in variety of colors. You’ll find purples, pinks, oranges, yellows, greens and reds tinting the town especially along designated parade routes.
Yes everyone loves a parade (parada) especially Lukban where two or more happen daily on the 15th and days preceding. Farmers show their finest livestock with marching bands leading the call to all the locals to come out along the routes. You’ll be sure to see costumed mascots and decorated floats filling out the line. Of course women dressed in traditional “Kimon At Saya” and men in “Barong” will model their fashions throughout the route. The Kimon At Saya and Barong shine bright during the day from their primary color of yellow but are accented by intricate patterns of colorful fabric.
And the sun beats down I assure you. Today is over 35 C with medium humidity. That does not stop anyone from enjoying their day. But bring a hat and sunglasses…you’ll need them.
In the shady small front porches and indoors friends and family enjoy their food and drink, my favorite part. Joyce’s family prepared a number of traditional Philippine dishes for us to share. Let’s look at the menu:
Suman – rice rolled and tied in banana leaves, then steamed and unwrapped. Rice comes out slightly sweet in a firm roll, nice with a touch of sugar. Good at any part of the day but especially breakfast with coffee.
Embutido – Seasoned minced pork rolls. Not quite a sausage but more of a long hamburger if you will. Served throughout the day; goes really nice on an egg sandwich.
Hardinera – Baked pork small dish casserole. A dinner time main baked with garlic, hard boiled egg, capsicum, onion and other vegetables. Yes more please.
Balot – Eggs with baby chicks inside hard boiled. This is a Philippine delicacy. I’ve not tried, not really sure if I drew line or not but didn’t real appeal to me. Matthew had some and enjoyed it. He said that the consistency is “soft and salty.”
Sabin Sabin – sweet desert cake made with a rice base. Again good at any time of day, especially at breakfast with coffee.
Of course most dishes are served with white rice and some sort of vegetable (mainly green beans).
And your drink menu:
Red Horse – Philippine Malt beer
San Miguel – Philippine Ale beer
Lambanog – Coconut wine
Tanduay Rhum Dark – Philippine Rum
So after a quality feed it’s time to walk the streets in the late afternoon into the evening. Music will fill the air around any area from locals with guitars or bands up on stage. Now the show really starts as the decorated houses light up the streets for those spectators walking the route and enjoying the atmosphere. A citywide competition awards the choice houses in a number of categories usually depending on size of the home. The grand prize is 100,000 Philippine Pesos or about US$2500.
And as the night continues on family and friend toast to their good fortune of another season as the children stay awake playing well past their bedtime. Well, it is school break after all! No worries, after a long season of working their crops this is a celebration worth their effort.
Joe Grzesik (JGrez) is an artist developer focusing online on front end development and keeping up with new techonolgies. Photography has been his most recent and strongest passion. He’s shot thousands of photos throughout the years only recently display a larger portion of his library here on Joup.