Tayabas/Quezon Province is my roots. I grew up in Parañaque and have been connected to La Laguna Province for the past decade, but Tayabas will always be a part of me. I was born in Lucena and, as a child, have spent many happy summer vacations in Unisan, my dad’s hometown (my mom grew up in Tondo but her mother is also from Unisan). That’s why I feel very honored to have been invited to join the Quezon Province Heritage Council, Inc. (QPHC) upon the recommendation of Gemma San José of Talólong/López. It’s like a homecoming of sorts. I still am a Tayabeño.
I attended the group’s meeting last week in San Antonio, Tayabas (it was just their third since the group was conceived only recently). The meeting was held in charming Fil-Am Garden Resort owned by another member, inspirational author Julie Cox who is a native of the said town.
The meeting, moderated by interim president Danny de Luna, was very organized that we were able to tackle everything on the agenda, even wrapping up ahead of schedule. Being a new organization, much of what was talked about revolved on how to structure QPHC into a fully legal entity, including future activities and a possible merger with the Quezon Historical and Cultural Society which, at least to me, seems to have been inactive for a long time.
Also, during the meeting, the group took advantage of showing its appreciation to Ms. Cox for graciously hosting the event. The entrepreneur/philanthropist celebrated her birthday a few days prior, so it’s only fitting for her to be honored, and in a rare manner. Tina Decal of Kulinarya Tagala fame presided over an ancient Tagalog “vin d’honneur” for the hostess. Fellow QPHC member Eric Dedace described what we had witnessed and experienced:
…everybody prepared for the traditional “tagayan” ritual of drinking lambanóg facilitated by the Sariaya food heritage aficionado Ms. Tina Decal who acted as the “tanguera”. She properly enunciated its symbolic nature as a great expression and gesture of local warmth and welcoming hospitality by saying: “¡Ang init ng pagdaán ng lambanóg sa lalamunan ay tandó ng init ng pagtangáp ng mg̃a Tayabasin (Tayabeños) sa mg̃a visita!”
Incorporated within the ritual was the “hagbóng”, a traditional Tayabeño ceremony given to a lady on the eve of her birthday. As such, two bouquets of flowers, individually brought by Ms. Decal and Ms. Maricel Martín, were handed over to Mr. de Luna and Architect Juanito Martín, who stood at both sides facing Ms. Cox who had her back to the center backdrop. Ms. Decal, who stood behind the center table, then presided over that very distinctive tradition by raising her hand holding the lambanóg in a wine glass, and offering the drink with the words “¡Na’ay pô!” (Here is my drink!). And, as previously instructed, everyone replied with a “¡Paquinabañgan pô!” (Make use of your drink!). Afterwards, Mr. de Luna and Architect Martín, one after the other, raised their toasts as well to Ms. Cox in the same gallant manner, and completed the one-of-a-kind ritual by handing her the flower bouquets amid much applause. Ms. Martín then handed the gracious host her very own black QPHC T-shirt as well.
Many of us today relate the Tagalog words “tagay” and “tanguero/a” to informal drinking sessions, usually rowdy drinking sessions out in the streets or in a local sari-sari store with buddies (“baricán” is what they call it), not knowing that such words have loftier origins and usage. And who would have thought that such a ritual still exists, or at least, that the Tagálogs have very sophisticated social norms? That is why the study of history, culture, and heritage is significant not only to scholars but to ordinary citizens as well. Because much of what we do in our daily lives is rooted to our past. And knowing and understanding our past strengthens our resolve about who we are and helps us value our society even more.
I am thankful and fortunate to have witnessed this ancient ritual among like-minded people in the Quezon Province Heritage Council, Inc. I am sure that I have much to learn about Tayabas. This province is so rich in both tangible and intangible heritage, much of which are in danger of being erased by careless modernity.Our group has a lot of job to do.