The only memory I had with Quezon Province where the nights when my bus bound to Bicol stops over Gumaca for an order of lomi you should chow down 15 minutes and a cup of instant coffee to warm you from the chilling night. This was just the scene I can associate with the province until I get to tour a portion of it early this year.
Four days, sun-kissed skin, and a heavier weight after, Quezon filled my travel memories with first time adventures, tasty food encounters, interesting culture and traditions, and new found friends.
From waves to roads
Three hours away from Manila is this province that boasts a myriad of offerings—from sumptuous and mouth-watering cuisine for the curious and hungry tummy, beach outings and nature-tripping, and, of course, to the rich culture that is uniquely and proudly Quezonian.
Kick starting our Quezon adventure is an afternoon of catching waves in Real. A surfing spot in Real is gaining attraction for those who wanted to have his first shot at tackling the waves. Real’s calm to crazy waves are what make beginners and professionals alike come back for. Partner it with friendly locals and young surfing instructors who don their chiseled and tanned body.
When one prefers peace and quiet but with the scenic blue ocean at the backdrop, Infanta has one to offer. Its calm sea is perfect for an afternoon dip or a quick beach side jog. Many resorts can accommodate occasions like wedding by the beach, team buildings, volleyball, sea scooter, and whatever activity you might want to try.
After enjoying the calming sounds of the waves, a road trip is still perfect for the itchy feet. Quezon is popular for its Bitukang Manok road located in Atimonan. This road, famed to be deadly and dangerous for its zigzagged path, leads you to the Atimonan Nature Park. There lies the jump off point of Mt. Pinagbanderahan. In just a three-hour trek from the foot of the park, you get to witness stunning vantage point of other neighboring towns, plus a view of Mt. Banahaw and the islands of Mindoro.
If you are not the hiker type, the soon-to-be-opened herbal garden might just satisfy you. This will boast the local’s very own herbal and medicinal plants. A café in the area is also in the offing, a reason why we should come back soon.
When you are done with the highlands, rest a night somewhere in Pagbilao, preferably at the peaceful family farm of Cortijo de Palsabangon, which gives you a clear view of the mountain ranges by the morning and the breathtaking sight of the night sky.
When going to Lucban for the Pahiyas Festival, you can also take a quick look at the Malagonlong Bridge as you pass by Tayabas. This 445-feet stone arch bridge, also known as Puente de Malagonlong, was built in the time of the Spaniards and is considered as one of the older bridges in the Philippines.
Food and products
Come to Quezon and you’ll leave a pound or two heavier. In Infanta, you get to taste their suman. Drop by Tayabas and try pancit habhab, or Sariaya’s pinagong or what they call as turtle bread.
Mila and Boyet Liway are not only known for their delicious yet affordable pancit habhab (pancit Lucban sans the plate and the fork), but also to their one-of-a-kind way of preparing every serving. Customers will look in awe as Ate Mila throws in quail egg toppings per serving— like an exhibition—without even looking. It’s her uniqueness, plus easy-on-the pocket pancit habhab that impresses us more.
‘Tagayan ng lambanog’ ritual
Say you’re going to Quezon and your friends will likely to request a bottle of lambanog, coconut vodka, as your pasalubong. This is probably my most memorable experience as I was introduced to Quezon’s tagayan (drinking) ritual.
Drinkers will gather around the host (tanggera or tanggero) as he gives shot glass to each person. The culture of drinking lambanog is something Quezon province upholds until today.
Sharing a bottle or two has its appropriate terms. When taking a shot, you say, “Naay po,” or “Here’s my drink to offer” to where your drinking buddies will answer, “Pakinabangan po,” meaning, “Enjoy and make good use of it.”
No, they don’t campaign for people to just get drunk. People of Quezon want to inculcate the value of socializing with camaraderie, through their signature local vodka.
Festivities in a Day
During May 15, Quezon offers an incredible experience of hopping from one town to another to experience three festivals all being celebrated in a day—all to honor San Isidro Labrador, Patron Saint of Farmers.
From Lucban’s world-renowned Pahiyas festival to its neighboring town’s equally impressive festivals, Quezon got you covered if you wanted to experience a festive vibe.
Arana’t Baluarte in Gumaca
People from Gumaca celebrate bountiful blessings though their creative display of their crops. Arana is the chandelier where they will decorate their colorful crops, while Baluarte or the bastion or fort, is the grander display of all Aranas.
The spectacular sight of Baluarte, with all crops’ colors harmonizing with each other is such a sight to see in the town’s participating streets. But aside from the enjoyment of decorating Arana’t Baluarte, the most exciting part comes when the day comes to an end. People get ready with their bayongs and sako for all the crops they see from every baluarte can be theirs—all for free.
Pahiyas Festival in Lucban
Who wouldn’t know Quezon’s most famous Pahiyas Festival? It is a display of houses and establishments creatively adorned with kipings in different colors and sizes. This festival is more stunning during the Pahiyas Kutitap or Pahiyas at Night where participant house makes their decorations glow.
Mayohan sa Tayabas
Have you seen people throwing hundreds of suman from the balcony? Tayabas’ very own festival will get you crazy.
After a mass for the patron saint, devotees shall parade San Isidro Labrador’s image around town to honor him and when it passes by the balcony of the municipal hall, town officers will throw in hundreds of suman for them, all in just a matter of minutes.
Other festival you may also check that day is the Agawan Festival in Sariaya. This is similar to Pahiyas but what makes it different is that kipings are not just being displayed. They are actually being “snatched” for friendly competition.
These are all yours for the taking. Come to Quezon and see it for yourself!
Where to stay:
•The Park at Real
•Cortijo de Palsabangon at Pagbilao
•Graceland at Tayabas
•Blue Pavillon at Infanta, Quezon