Words & Images by lawyer Ramon Rodolfo R. Zabella
Quezon Province is the mother of famous nationalists like Manuel L. Quezon, Lorenzo M. Taňada and Claro M. Recto. But there is another son of the province whose greatness was rediscovered only more than a century and a half after his death. He was Apolinario dela Cruz, a.k.a., Hermano Puli. Three decades before Fathers Burgos and Zamora, Hermano Puli was already fighting for equality for native priests. Aside from Fr. Mariano Gomes, Puli might have influenced the younger priests of the martyred trio.
Nevertheless, aside from producing great men, the province is also famous for its festivals. Lucena has its Pasayahan, a month-long revelry every May. Lucban has its Pahiyas while Gumaca has Araňa’t Baluarte, both held on May 15 in honor of St. Isidore, the patron saint of farmers. And because the Quezonians love to eat, they have produced some of the most delectable cuisine in the country. The town of Lucban leads in this category. Its longganisa, pancit habhab and kinulob na kalabaw are peerless. Tayabas has budin (cassava cake) and Yema cake. Lucena has Chami. Atanauan has tapa.
The province has a long history, even predating the arrival of the Spaniards. The first provincial capital, Kalilayan, now known as Unisan, was established in the 1520s, four decades ahead of Legaspi’s founding of Manila in 1565. At the time, the province was also known as Kalilayan. In 1749, due to persistent pirate raids on the seaside town, the capital was moved inland to the town of Tayabas which is nestled on the foothills of the majestic Mt. Banahaw.
During the Spanish era, only 8 cities and towns were given the title of Noble Villa, and Tayabas was one of them, even dubbed as Muy Noble Villa. These are Cebu (1565), Libon, Albay (1573), Vigan (1574), Arevalo, Iloilo (1581), Pila, Laguna (1610), Tayabas (1703), Bacolor, Pampanga (1765) and Lipa (1887). Tayabas is also the location of the Minor Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel—the longest nave in Spanish era churches in the Philippines, and an underground tunnel connecting the church to the municipio.
In the late 1870s, after the pirate raids had receded, a new coastal town was born from the bosoms of Tayabas and Sariaya. It was named Lucena, after the Spanish village from where Fr. Mariano Granja—its founder and first parish priest—came from. To digress a little, the Spanish village of Lucena was also mentioned as the staging point for King Ferdinand of Aragon’s assault on the last Muslim stronghold in Spain in 1492 and, in Voltaire’s Candide. The new Lucena would grow fast and would soon outstrip its mother Tayabas due to the introduction of the ferrocaril or railways system. In 1901, with the blessing of then Governor General William Howard Taft, the capital was transferred to Lucena.
Though never the province’s capital, Sariaya is known as the heritage center of the province. This is due mainly to the stately mansions that abound in the town. During the 1910s and 1920s, when unrestricted export of coconut products to the United States was allowed, the elite of the town travelled the world and built stately homes modeled after European villas.
The province, which until the 1970s was the number 1 producer of coconut products, maintained its status as one of the richest provinces in the country. A century earlier, in one of Lola Basyang’s tales, the province was described as “ang labis na nakaririwasang lalawigan ng Tayabas.”
For sun lovers, Mauban and Padre Burgos offer pristine white sand beaches. There are also the beaches of Jomalig and other island municipalities near Polillo. For mountain trekkers and travelers, Dolores, Tayabas, Sariaya and Lucban all have their best view of the mystical Mt. Banahaw.
If you want to enjoy a cool tropical climate away from the traffic jam and other stressful activities in the metropolis, Quezon Province is for you.