I wasn’t feeling so “wasted” after all.  The Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon was truly a must-do destination.  After all these years, I finally got there.  But not without some sidetrips.



The Ultimate Philippines Tours brought us to Graceland Estates and Country Club in nearby Tayabas, Quezon.  This was a sprawling estate so named because…………. Need I tell you?  All of ten hectares, featuring a Burnham Park-ish lake complete with small boats,  an al fresco restaurant overlooking the lake, and I hear some eco-trails  meandering around the vast property.   Soothing for the soul.   If only the heat wasn’t so annoying!



As our bus passed Palaisdaan sa Tayabas featuring floating tables  at a time when hunger pangs reminded us of this obligatory activity, we felt almost sorry the bus didn’t stop to  unload us.  But our uber cool local guide Tina Decal was right.  With all those buses and vans parked right outside,  we can certainly do with some peace and quiet.  We were relieved to be away from the crowds at this time of day and spend a leisurely, peaceful lunch in Graceland Estates and Country Club in the same town.   No, there was no Elvis Presley crooning while we enjoyed our lechon (thanks, Tina!), hardinera ,  corn soup, fish fillet and veggies.  But we cooled enough to get ready for another afternoon of exploring other towns of Quezon.   Oh sure, the buko (young coconut)  a la mode (with ube ice cream!) made our day.   And I am saying that even after having “sprayed” ube ice cream all over my white shirt.  Now, don’t ask me how I did that!


Having changed into another cotton shirt,  I was ready with the rest of the troop for Sariaya.  We skipped the Mahoyan Festival as we had no energy for the suman-throwing spectacle.  Instead,  we dropped in on some of the ancestral houses in Sariaya, Quezon and relived the glorious and rich past of the coconut barons of Sariaya.



The Sariaya Coconut Barons

If Negros had their sugar tycoons,  this quaint farming town at the foot of Mount Banahaw had its share of coconut or copra barons!   Judging by the number and ownership of the heirloom houses in the area though,  the wealth derived from coconut/copra farming was limited to a few families.   And so, while Negros had their Jalandonis, Lacsons, Locsins, Gascons, Hofilenas and what have you………Sariaya had their Rodriguezes, the Galas, the Enriquezes, the Alcalas, the Arguelleses.


We visited 2 of these ancestral houses. Both beautifully preserved by the descendants of these prominent citizens of Sariaya circa 1920s or so.   Pre-war.   Money was soooo good they built these mansions.  In the case of the Gala-Rodriguez House,  this Art Deco House was built for an ailing wife and mother of 7 children only for the wife to die without seeing the house completed.   This same mansion housed the office of the chief of the Imperial Army during the Japanese Occupation. There are stories about how this Japanese Army officer liked the  beautiful daughter that the family had to hide her in the cellar whenever the Chief is around.  Our local tour guide didn’t miss pointing to us the hidden passageway to the cellar right under the family’s dining table.   Since it was the HQ of the Japanese forces in this area,  this same house was a target of the US forces.   The story goes that a bomb was dropped at the back part of the house.   That big hole created by the dropped bomb is now a swimming pool separating the Mansion to an area where refreshments are served.



From the Gala-Rodriguez House, we took the back gate to walk around town and witness the Agawan Festival.  The houses here are not as lavishly decorated as the houses in Lucban for the Pahiyas Festival. We also didn’t see the “kiping” rice wafers that were used to make “aranyas” and other buntings in Lucban.  Instead, we found loot tied to bagakays on display.  As soon as the procession and the blessings are done,  the crowds grab the loot from these young bamboos called bagakay.   Too tired to join the crowds around the procession,  I watched from another heirloom house around the corner.



Rodriguez House , now called Villa Sariaya,  is such a lovely ancestral house.   With its wide and many windows lining the walls from the living room through the dining and kitchen areas,  we were thankful for the breeze that would pass in through one wide window and out another.   The family of Don Catalino Rodriguez  was also in town and the great grandchildren paraded before us in Filipiniana costumes and friar outfits, much to our delight.  The entertainment turned hilarious when some in our group donned similar Filipiniana outfits (they are rented out for only P300) for a “photo-shoot”.  What a nice interactive activity to end the day!   All these we enjoyed while partaking of the local snacks — tamales, jacobina, lemonada, etc.   Somehow, we were reminded of how life was a century ago.  Life without internet, digicams, cellphones, DVDs, etc.  A life when money was better spent on………..mansions and all those parties hosted in those pre-war days.  Oh,  life must have been real good then.   The Maria Claras of that era surely didn’t miss Elvis Presley. 😉


Thank you Tina and Spanky, for a wonderful day in Quezon!   If I were to spend another day sleep-starved and in punishing heat ,  I will spend the day with you guys.  Cheers all around!