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Philippines: Celebrating the Pahiyas Festival

Every year on 15 May, the small town of Lucban in Quezon Province is transformed from an ordinary place to a magical one. The people there decorate the outside of their houses with pahiyas (precious offerings) as part of the feast day celebration to honor the patron saint of the Filipino farmer, San Isidro Labrador. Pahiyas include rice, fruit and vegetables, and nowadays, even hats and baskets (the produce of cottage industry!)

The focal point is the kiping, which are leaf-shaped decorations made from rice flour paste. Bright red, fushia, orange, green and yellow, the kiping are strung together into chandeliers of color. (Afterwards, the kiping are toasted or fried and eaten.)

The Pahiyas Festival coincides with the harvest and the start of the monsoon, which usually arrives within a few days of the celebration.

Throughout the Philippines, farmers honor San Isidro Labrador who, before becoming a saint, was a farmer in Madrid, Spain. The legend goes that although he was always in church, white oxen magically plowed his fields. Catholic missionaries from Spain passed this legend on to Filipinos.

For more on the festival

Source: IRRI RiceWorld Museum

Photo: Ariel Javellana

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