By Star Torres | Photos from Department of Tourism Region IVA
The towns of Sariaya and Gumaca boast fiestas that rival the best in the region
Many people associate Maytime festivals with the Pahiyas of Lucban town in Quezon Province. This celebration of nature’s promise of abundance against the backdrop of mystical Mt. Banahaw is considered to be one of the most colorful affairs in the country. Yet, jovial fiestas are not exclusive to Lucban. In fact, each and every town in the country has a merry way of partying. Nearby towns also have their distinct way of enjoying themselves comparable to more popular ones, complete with their own attractions, activities and delicacies to offer. And since Quezon is just a couple of hours away from Metro Manila, the Department of Tourism has promoting these destinations for their own unique traditions. On the second week of May, the towns of Sariaya and Gumaca hold the weeklong festivals of Agawan and Arana’t Baluarte, respectively, in honor of San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of farmers and invoked for a bountiful harvest. AGAWAN SA SARIAYA Sariaya lies on the border of the provinces of Laguna and Quezon. Its people are known for their ingenuity when it comes to making crafts and whipping up culinary delights.
For the duration of the Agawan, the town’s main streetsdisplay well-crafted bags, dresses and furniture that are made by the locals.
But it is the produce that is the highlight of this fiesta. The rich harvest of fruits, vegetables, native candies and rice cakes — especially the native leche puto, a combination of favorites leche fl an and puto—and colorful kiping—those hangings made from colored rice paste—are displayed on the route tobe taken by the procession of the image of San Isidro. And the name “Agawan” is apt considering that the highlight of the day is the custom where locals reach out and grab the array of produce on display as the holy image passes by. It is believed that the more one is able to collect in the ensuing ruckus would mean a more abundant year to come. The whole affair ends on the 15th of May with a fashion extravaganza spotlighting the intricate gowns by local designers made with indigenous fabric.
GRAND ARCHES OF GUMACA
Gumaca’s Arana’t Baluarte—meaning chandeliers and bastion, respectively—is also celebrated on May 15 eachyear. A few days before the culminating activity, the townspeople erect around town huge arches that aredecorated with farm produce, native delicacies and kiping. The most extravagant displays win prize from the DOT and the local government at the end of the affair. And just as in Sariaya, the arches are torn down by the crowd as they reach out for a treat after the image of San Isidro Labrador passes under it. More than the frenzied fun, the fiesta is also marked by performances of folk dances and songs that tell the town’s history
THE NEXT TOURISM HOTSPOT
DOT Region IV director Rebecca Labit said festivals such as Sariaya’s Agawan and Gumaca’s Arana’t Baluarte are some of the many reasons why Quezon should be on any traveler’s bucket list. Not only are its fiestas worth exploring, but there is also a wealth of well preserved churches and ancestral houses dating back to the Spanish colonial period. Its culture and tradition are also worth experiencing.
The area’s potential as a top tourist destination is not lost on the private sector. Labit pointed out that a number of restaurants have sprung throughout Quezon. This includes Kamayan sa Palaisdaan Resort with its reasonably priced seafood dishes and native delicacies, and Air Summit Gourmet in nearby Tayabas where guests enjoy a fine dining experience on board a replica of an airplane. More than its food, she stressed that Quezon Province has numerous possibilities when it comes to eco-tourism. The DOT is assisting new and existing players in the hospitality industry to comply with the department’s assessment and accreditation systems. She said the government is active in aiding private stakeholders promote world-class service and amenities, helping companies earn more, but also give to quality accommodation and service to tourists. In spite of the challenges of modernization, these festivals also reflect the commitment of the people of Quezon to nurture and protect their environment, culture and history.