text | Carla Ocampo
photography | Lester Valle
This 2011, mid-May in the Philippines was munch-mania.
Thousands of the country’s foodies (and, photography hobbyists out on a food trip) trooped to two much-awaited displays of bounty: Manila’s annual International Food Exhibition or IFEX, AND the centuries-old fiesta celebrated religiously in the town of Lukban, Quezon— Pahiyas— happening back-to-back and snatching sweet success in spite of the summer rampage of tropical storm Aere (“Bebeng” within our area of responsibility) that clawed at the hem of the two independent events’ set dates.
The IFEX (MAY 12-14)
Cooked up by the people from CITEM and the country’s DTI, the IFEX is a yearly event that brings together the best export-quality food brands from all across the archipelago under one roof. It introduces products otherwise unthinkable within the Manila-centric consumer IQ… from Mindanao’s sardine products, to the entirely exotic “mango ketchup”!
This year’s IFEX was proclaimed to be the biggest yet. Finally plucked out of Pasay City’s World Trade Center and nearby convention venues— where it was stationed for the past several years— IFEX 2011 was strategically held at the SMX Convention Center, just beside the Mall of Asia.
Consequently, curious mall rats and passers-by came by the hundreds, conveniently just crossing from the mall to the convention center… but the huge turnout could also be attributed to the remarkable online presence of the IFEX weeks before the exhibition. It had a Facebook Like Page and a spanking new website updated every so often.
Another breakthrough was the introduction of a smiling mascot: a huge walking Philippine Yellow Mango who— garnered from private jokes among CITEM’s creatives— was named “Mang Jo” (“Mang” means MISTER, only more imbued with the respect-for-elders mentality so typical of Filipinos).
The mascot was a stroke of genius; the Philippines, it is said, has gifted the world’s palate with at least two unforgettable and unique flavors: the spicy-salty kick of Philippine Adobo, and the sweet bliss of Philippine Ripe Mangoes. Now, an Adobo mascot would have been quite difficult to pull off, no? So there.
PAHIYAS (MAY 15)
Online, the most impressive and most reliable reference for the history of the Pahiyas (and how kiping is made!) can be found at pahiyasfestival.com, a website maintained by Lukban locals discussing even the origins of the kiping recipe— apparently a Filipino adaptation of the tacos and taquitos of Mexico. Using rice instead of corn, the recipe for kiping dates as far back as the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade.
The Kayumanggi Trails Team marched along the roads of Quezon, into this kaleidoscopic festival that celebrates a bountiful harvest and honors St. Isidore the Farmer in thanksgiving. Still, coming at the heels of a tropical storm, this year’s Pahiyas bore a thin air of melancholy.
“Maninipis ang mga pahiyas ngayong taon!” a middle-aged man ruefully exclaimed to the members of his household, fanning themselves as they sat on their bamboo benches under the blistering summer heat. The decorations are not too grand this year, he had meant.
The man is a Lukban local.
Team KT would like to maintain that the right to rave— or rant— about the Pahiyas should be reserved for the locals themselves, who have seen every edition of the festival, year after year.
Nonetheless, we still would like to express our amazement and gratitude to the people of Lukban, for their capacity to continue on with this one-of-a-kind festival, in a country that has seen one too many street dancing competitions in tired festival themes.
Lukban’s Pahiyas, sticking to the same colors and reasons that has sustained it since the 16th century, will remain one of the greatest festivals of the Filipino people.
© 2011 The Kayumanggi Trails | All Rights Reserved