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Pahiyás Festival 2011 (Lucbán, Tayabas)

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When he was still a Mason, Rizal once calumnied the town fiesta in his first novel. Hispanophobic elements in our educational system carried on what was but an immature satire from the national hero’s imagination. But today, who is seriously making fun of the fiesta? One could not even see such calumnies in Lucbán, Tayabas (now Quezon province) every May. In that, Rizal’s anti-Catholic clowning failed, at least in this pastoral town. Last week (15 May) was a dream come true for me. I’ve been wanting to visit this town since I was a kid. I first read about the town, particularly the fiesta that made it famous, from an uncle’s old textbook. Since then, the sights and flavor described in that textbook never left my imagination. Finally, after two decades, I was able to experience the famous Pahiyás Festival (together with my wife and my cousin and her boyfriend)! The Pahiyás Festival (“pahiyás” means “precious offering”) is celebrated every May. It signifies the end of summer and the start of the rainy season. It is in honor of Saint Isidore (San Isidro), patron saint of farmers. The people of Lucbán thank him for interceding for them for a good harvest. But according to a local (a godfather of my cousin’s boyfriend), whether or not their harvest is fruitful, they never fail to thank the Spanish saint for praying to God for them. And they express their gratitude through this colorful celebration of life and a bountiful harvest!

This landmark signifies that you're near the town of Lucbán. I have no idea what this farm produces. But the landscape is cute nonetheless.

The fiesta produced a horrendous traffic going into the town. Lesson learned: when one plans to visit the annual Pahiyás Festival, travel time from the metropolis should begin at dawn.

A backdrop of Monte de Banahaw de Lucbán seen from the entrance of the town. Professional mountaineers classify it as a Level 5/9 mountain in terms of climbing difficulty.

Monte de Banahaw de Lucbán stands 6,152 feet above sea level! Take note that this mountain is not the actual Monte de Banahaw; it is just a part of the Banahaw mountain range of which Monte de Banahaw and Monte de Cristóbal are a part of.

Southern Luzón State University is at the entrance of the town (in Barrio Culapì).

I noticed that many Filipino houses here are well-maintained. Good job, Lucbán!

Yeyette in front of the 169-year-old house of Dñª Ana María Herrera de Nepomuceno.

Municipal hall.

Lucbán town plaza. The Rizal monument (left) has the national hero's Mí Último Adiós written all over it. But it's in the Spanish original. I wonder how many Lucbeños understand it.

This colorful pancít habháb kiosk is an entrant at a local competition. Pancít habháb, a Lucbán delicacy

Old Center Pancitería, said to be the home of the original pancít habháb.

A modernized version of the pancít habháb. I didn't like it (most of the time, I always prefer original versions), but this one still tasted good!

The image of Saint Isidore on a carroza is being taken out for the famous Pahiyás parade.

The size of the people pales in comparison to that huge San Miguel Pale Pilsen replica on top of the public market!

We have the "best seat in the house"! :-)

The best-decorated houses are given prize money ranging from ₱3,000 to ₱50,000.

Cayó ná ang mayaman. :-)

My one and only! ;-)

Scene stealer.

Back to where we began.

Carabaos were also the stars of the parade!

The pancít habháb sold outside the streets are much better than those inside local restaurants. The old-fashioned way is always the best!

I bought one!

¡Gigante!

It's nighttime already. But the throng of people didn't even lessen.

Street revelers in a street party!

Lucbán delights (the food, not them): jardinera, pancít habháb, mechado de carabáo, etc.

******* Lucbán According to popular legend, Lucbán town was named after a citrus fruit called lucbán (Citrus maxima, otherwise known as sujà or pomelo; see photo below). The town of Lucbán (just a couple of kilometers from my birthplace) was founded by missionaries from the Order of Friars Minor, otherwise known as the Franciscan friars. Like present-day Taal in Batangas, Lucbán used to be on another site. The town was transferred to its present site in 1629. ******* Lucbán Church (Church of Saint Louis the Bishop)

Lucbán Church (Iglesia/Parroquia de San Luis Obispo).

Lucbán Church, formally known as the Church of Saint Louis the Bishop, is an example of a pre-modern baroque church. As can be read in the historical marker, this church was built in 1595 but was ruined in 1629. The second church was constructed between 1630 and 1640, but a conflagration severely damaged it in 1733. The present church was completed in 1738; the convent followed in 1743.

Retablo.

Santíssima Trinidad.

An image of Saint Louis (1274 – 1297) at the right side of the nave. At twenty three years old, he became a very young Bishop of Toulouse, France. What was I doing back then at his age? Already a young father of one, of course.

Impressive façade — with a human head, haha!

Saint Isidore The Farmer (San Isidro Labrador)

Saint Isidore, Patron of Farmers, was born at Madrid, Spain, of a poor family at the end of the 12th century. He was named after the famous Bishop of Seville, and from an early age was employed as a laborer on a farm outside the city. He married a lovely girl, but after the early death of their son they agreed to live in continence. Isidore went to church every morning, prayed while working in the fields, and spent the holidays visiting the churches of Madrid. One time, his fellow workers complained that his religious practices caused him to be late at work. To test the truth of this accusation, his master hid himself to watch. He noticed that Isidore did actually arrive late, but he also saw several angels assisting him.

San Isidro Labrador. Not many Filipinos know that he's a Spaniard (from Madrid).

Isidore’s generosity to the poor was so great that he often reserved for himself only the scraps they left over. One a winter’s day, while carrying a sack of corn to be ground, he saw a number of birds on the bare branches of a tree. He opened the sack and poured out half of its contents for them. When he reached the destination, the sack was still full and its produce double of the usual amount of flour! Isidore died in 1130. From that time, many miracles were worked through his intercession. His wife, who survived him for several years, is venerated in Spain as Santa María de la Cabeza (because her head is often carried in procession in times of drought).

María Torribia, commonly known as Santa María de la Cabeza, the wife of San Isidro Labrador.

(Culled from my daughter’s MY FIRST BOOK OF SAINTS published by Quality Catholic Publications; minor edits are mine).

Las turistas: me (looking a bit harassed, haha!), my wife Yeyette, my cousin Joycee, and her boyfriend Jivann in front of Lucbán Church.

Lucbán Church shortly before midnight.

After enjoying the sights and sounds of Lucbán on its most special day, one will immediately know the meaning of its old Tagalog motto: ¡yanong riquít, baling gandá!

Click here for more photos of PAHIYÁS 2011!

Nanay Norma’s critical condition

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I was supposed to share good tidings today, particularly about the meeting I had almost 24 hours ago with my compañeros regarding the founding of our new group/website. But that has to come later.

Because I think my abuelita‘s life is hanging on the balance.

Although bound to a wheelchair, she still looked rather healthy when I took this photo of her last 12/10/2010 in front of her house in Unisan, Tayabas/Quezon.

My dad’s mother, my beloved abuelita, is confined (for the nth time) in Makati Medical center, this time in the hospital’sintensive care unit (ICU).

According to mom, my dad (he’s been taking care of grandmother for the past few years in Unisan) has been sending SMS messages to her in Manila, telling her of abuela‘s worsening condition. She suddenly started to weaken right after the Holidays. She was sent promptly to Makati Med last Thursday (1/27/2010) Wednesday (1/26/2011).

My grandmother, affectionately called Nanay Norma by many people, is diabetic. Through the years, the dreaded disease has contributed much to her debilitation. And aside from old age, mobility changed abruptly by an accident last year; she fell from her bed, fracturing her hips.

When me and Yeyette visited her this evening, I was shocked with what I saw. I immediately placed myself in self-denial. This could not be my grandmother who showered me with so much affection and love… for why couldn’t she speak to me (when she was hospitalized last year, she could still talk coherently)?! Also, it was my first time inside an intensive care unit. Many “hoses and wires” were connected to her semi-bloated right arm and nostrils; she was undergoing intravenous therapy. And worse, she was moaning. She could hardly speak anymore, as if she’s suffering from “reverse trismus”: her jaw won’t shut. And I could hardly understand what she was saying. She was moaning because of breathing difficulties. And she appeared to be in so much pain. It all appeared so surreal, so unreal. It was just a month ago that I was talking to her! I so could not believe what I was seeing that all the tears that supposed to well up in me fell instead from Yeyette’s eyes.

Thankfully, my grandmother immediately recognized me in spite of her drowsiness caused by drugs.

I later learned that she has pneumonia, the same ailment that killed her husband, my late grandfather Godofredo Alas y Sarmiento, in 1997.

Dad is the only one there at the hospital who is taking care of her when we arrived. Uncle Louie was also there, paying a visit. Soon, my mom and two sisters arrived.

For the benefit of all Alas and Évora family members, below is a photo of grandma’s cardiac monitor (a usual fixature in many a hospital scene in the country, especially when one of the film’s character is about to give up the ghost). Her status will also be described below the photo:

My grandmother's cardiac monitor. This is a necessary equipment in intensive care units.

My wife took the above photo of my grandmother’s cardiac monitor before we left last night. The green graph represents her pulse rate; the normal rate is from 60 to 100. The yellow graph represents her respiratory rate; the normal rate is from 20 to 25. 102/46 (the numbers in red) represents her blood pressure. Her blood sugar is (59), but it should be maintained at 80.

However, when we got home (a few hours ago), we received an SMS (11:26 PM) from my sister Jessica: abuela‘s blood pressure worsened — it dropped to 68/46!

It’s now 4:16 AM. Time to go to sleep. We plan to go back there this afternoon; it’s dad’s 59th birthday today. Such a bad timing to cheer him up. Nevertheless, we’ll be there. We should be there.

And I’d like to whisper to Nanay Norma’s large Hispanic ears that we will attend her 81st birthday in Unisan. And that she should be there to host it.

*******

A thousand thanks to our relatives who already visited. Thank you for your prayers and moral support:
Captain Ernesto Alas
Tito Monching Alas
Ate Lilet Alas de Fernández
Uncle Paul Évora III
Tita Corina Unson (Thank you so much for Saint Anne’s oil!)

May God bless you every single day of your lives. =)

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