The Pahiyas Festival is a tradition of thanksgiving to God through the intercession of San Isidro de Labrador by the farmers for the year’s bountiful harvest and for the coming years. In the old days, the people of Lucban in Quezon province observe the tradition simply by bringing farm produce to the church every May 15 each year, the feast of San Isidro, for the priest to bless them. As the population grows, the church cannot accommodate the number of people flocking the church and instead place the fruits, vegetables and other produce in front of their houses. They were blessed during the procession of the image of San Isidro. As years go by, these farm produce are hung in houses covering the whole facade. One of the major attractions in the celebration are the multi-colored leaf-shaped wafer called “kiping”, arranged in every creative way the people of Lucban can imagine of. It was called Feast of San Isidro by that time.
In May of 1963, a group of young men and women who belong to the Art Club of Lucban organized a weeklong cultural activities leading to the feast of San Isidro, the title by which the festival was originally known. The project aims to boost the economy of the town and attract more tourists to visit the town. The event was called “The 1963 Arts for Commerce and Industry Festival” and activites lined up for the event includes cultural shows and contest, fashion show, concerts, art exhibits of paintings, photography, sculpture and architecture, trade fair and parades.
One of the major achievements at that time was the participation of the artists from the Art Association of the Philippines. Bringing their artworks from Manila to Lucban was a daunting task but thanks to the Philippine Army who lent a military truck and brought precious masterpieces for a weeklong art exhibit in Lucban. The art exhibit was held in the town plaza and a nearby school building from May 5-15, 1963.
The founder of the Art Club, Fernando Cadelina Nanawa (+), who himself was an artist, with a degree in Fine Arts from the University of the Philippines in Diliman, always tell an interesting story to his colleagues and friends about an incident involving the National Artist Hernando R. Ocampo. During the return of the paintings, one of his paintings was accidentaly damaged. He was mad because of that. He demanded a significant amount of money as compensation but because the Art Club is just a small civic-cultural organization, they have no funds to pay for it. After a number of pleadings and beggings, HR Ocampo gave in and forego the damage.
The event was one of the major festivals organized by the Art Club of Lucban to popularize the town’s unique festival. The group’s efforts led to the much bigger and grandiose celebration of today known as the Lucban San Isidro Pahiyas Festival, the most colorful harvest festival in the Philippines.