Lucban is a small town in the province of Quezon in the Philippines, about 163km south of Manila. It is known for its cool climate, delectable foods like lucban longganisa and pansit habhab and the fiesta to end all fiestas, the colorful harvest festival – the Pahiyas Festival.
The town is also home to numerous visual artists, some of whom achieved national and international recognition and awards. There is also some findings of a long history of arts in Lucban, originating even during the prehistoric times, where stones excavated in some parts of Lucban, are engraved with ancient writings and symbols, proof that the inhabitants of the town during those times were already highly artistic. These facts, and the still growing number of artists prompted the provincial government of Quezon to declare Lucban as the “Art Capital of Quezon province.”
Sadly though, there is no permanent venue where artists can showcase their talents except on few occassions where art exhibits were held in the park, in open air and paintings are exposed to elements. Well aware of this predicament the artists are facing, Francis Charles Nanawa, an artist himself and has long been supportive of the arts and culture of Lucban established the Pahiyas Art Gallery.
Located at the center of the town, the art gallery is housed in an old Spanish house used as a school library and recently was an events center until COVID struck which made it unused for more than 2 years of lockdown and uncertainty in the events industry. It officially opened on May 14, 2022 with an exhibition of artworks in various media by upcoming and established artists from Lucban and other towns in Quezon. Also on display were miniature Pahiyas houses and dolls in Parikitan costumes, a project of creative Lucbanins during the COVID lockdown when no Pahiyas Festival was celebrated. From then on, various exhibitions and art workshops were held every month.
Some notable exhibits held at the museum were about the Baybayin, the ancient Filipino writing. A workshop on the ancient writing was also conducted by Dr. Bonifacio Comandante, Jr, a well known inventor, marine biologist and expert on Baybayin. The gallery was also fortunate to be included in Manilart 2022, a prestigious national art fair in the Philippines, as a satellite exhibition venue. Titled ReIMAGINING, the visual art exhibition by Lucban and Quezon province artists showcased artworks and sculptures that reflect an environment-friendly world and invited us to reimagine a better and healthy future, along with other artworks that depict the life, culture and tradition of the town and the province in general.
The Pahiyas Art Gallery, as envisioned by Nanawa, is to become not just an art gallery but also a cultural center where songs, plays, films, dances and other performances may be held to widen and strengthen the people’s appreciation of the arts and culture of the Filipinos. A plan to house the Pahiyas Museum on the same location is also underway. Through the planned Pahiyas Museum, visitors will be presented with a collection of objects, memorabilia, photographs and information about the history of the festival and how it developed into one of the Philippines top tourist destinations. It also aimed to correct and informed the public accurately of the many misconceptions about the Pahiyas.
Art appreciation by most of the Filipinos and many art-related events are concentrated mostly in the Philippine capital of Metro Manila. Nanawa observed that although artists abound in the town of Lucban, they are not much appreciated and on some occassions, rarely noticed or totally ignored. Though the trend is becoming to change, with the sprouting of art fairs and festivals in major cities outside of Metro Manila, Nanawa is very hopeful, that the art will soon be widely recognized, specially those created by Lucbanin artists, whom he believes, are comparable, and may be even at par with other artists in the city. And maybe someday, the likes of Oscar Zalameda, Ismael and Vicente Villasenor or Mark Salvatus will be born again and bring honor and prestige to the town of Lucban in the field of arts.