I’ve always had a bit of a soft-spot for fiestas (probably because of who started my exploration of Philippine history).
He aptly described them as our “highest community expression”. And this is an remarked truth about fiestas: they are one of the social organizations that binds a Philippine community together. They also are one of the lingering threads that connects modern Philippines to our Spanish past and, ultimately, to our pre-Hispanic history. They are not just the our highest community expression, in their way they express much of what is our soul.
Today is the Pahiyas Festival of Lucban. Lucban is a famed center of pagan and Catholic religiousness: it is one of the unique towns in the Philippines.
The dominant leitmotif of the pahiyas is the kiping (made from rice paste and cast in multiple colors). The pahiyas and Lucban fairly explodes with colors on fiesta day.
The patron saint is San Isidro Labrador, patron saint of farmers. In the Philippines, he represents as much farmers as the introduction of the plow, and the domestication of the carabao. Much like everywhere else, agricultural development, the shift from sustenance to surplus farming, allowed bigger communities. In the Philippine setting, we sometimes point to the Spanish-era policy of grouping under the bell, as what drove town formation. But, without concurrent innovation in agriculture this would not have been sustainable. The pahiyas (and the other carabao fiestas) celebrate the two driving forces behind the formation of the Philippine nation: agriculture and Catholicism.
Pahiyas is roughly translated as “peaceful offering”. And that is what is at the heart of the fiesta: a thanksgiving and veneration of Nature and a reminder (and thanks as well) to San Isidro for a harvest.
Lucban grew in the shadow of Mt. Banahaw (a famed pagan and Catholic pilgrimage site); it was, in the 19th century, the site of the Hermano Pule revolt. The town, in it’s celebration of the pahiyas connects so many threads of Philippine culture and history together.
It is the fiesta at its syncretic best.
Note: Just got the image from Google search. So thanks to the uploader!