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Environmentalists protest Mt. Banahaw quarrying at Pahiyas Festival

By Nimfa Estrellado Members of the Save Bundok Banahaw Network (SBBN) and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) marched through the stree...

By Nimfa Estrellado

Environmentalists protest Mt. Banahaw quarrying at Pahiyas Festival
Members of the Save Bundok Banahaw Network (SBBN) and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) marched through the streets of Lucban, Quezon during the Pahiyas Festival on May 15, 2024, calling for sustainable practices and conservation efforts to protect Mt. Banahaw from illegal quarrying. (Photo from Save Bundok Banahaw Network)

LUCBAN, Quezon - Amidst the vibrant hues and jubilant atmosphere of the Lucban San Isidro Pahiyas Festival on May 15, a coalition of environmental advocates, led by the Save Bundok Banahaw Network (SBBN) and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), staged a powerful demonstration to raise awareness about the destructive illegal quarrying activities threatening the sacred Mt. Banahaw.

As festival-goers admired the elaborate kiping displays, the protesters marched through the streets, their banners contrasting sharply with the festive backdrop. Their message was clear: corporate greed and environmental destruction must be halted to safeguard this cultural, economic, and historical treasure.

The SBBN vehemently condemns the unlawful quarrying and other harmful activities occurring within the Mt. Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape, home to a diverse array of flora and fauna. Residents of Sariaya reported destructive quarry operations near Lagnas River in April, including the use of dynamite that jeopardized their homes.

In response, the network launched a petition on May 10 to halt illegal quarrying in Sariaya, emphasizing the link between deforestation in the mountains and escalating temperatures caused by climate change. They highlighted the growing frustration among Quezon residents who suffer the consequences of global warming while corporations profit from environmental exploitation.

Leveraging the platform of the Lucban San Isidro Pahiyas Festival, a celebration deeply rooted in gratitude for a bountiful harvest, the SBBN aimed to expose the stark contrast between the festival's joyous spirit and the ongoing environmental degradation threatening the region's natural resources.

They stressed that without immediate action, the destruction of agricultural lands in the mountains will lead to crop failures, endangering future celebrations of Pahiyas, a festival dedicated to thanking San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of farmers.

Lucban's sustainability initiatives

In stark contrast to the environmental concerns raised by the protesters, the local government of Lucban showcased its commitment to sustainability through various initiatives during the Pahiyas Festival. Reforestation projects, waste management programs, and the promotion of eco-friendly practices among residents and visitors highlighted the town's dedication to preserving their agricultural lands and natural resources for future generations.

These initiatives aim to mitigate the impact of climate change and protect the environment, ultimately safeguarding the traditions and cultural heritage associated with Pahiyas. By prioritizing sustainability, Lucban is taking proactive steps to secure a prosperous and environmentally conscious future for its community.

Pahiyas Festival, a tapestry of tradition and environmental awareness

The Pahiyas Festival, with its vibrant kiping displays, traditional music and dance performances, and diverse array of activities like the Ubrang Lucbanin Art Fair with its focus on Banahaw's biodiversity, provided a platform for both cultural celebration and environmental advocacy.

The festival's very name, "Pahiyas," rooted in the local term for decorating houses, served as a poignant reminder of the interconnectedness between human creativity and the natural world. The festival's origins, dating back to the 1970s when the term "Pahiyas" was first used by Fernando Nanawa, underscored the importance of preserving traditions while adapting to contemporary challenges.

The juxtaposition of the environmental protest and the festival's sustainability initiatives created a dynamic space for dialogue and action. As the vibrant colors of Pahiyas faded, the message of environmental protection resonated, urging all to unite in safeguarding the natural treasures that underpin this cherished cultural celebration.

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