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Everything Lucban (First of a Series)

What is Lucban without the elaborate decorations called Pahiyas? How well do we know this place? And why should we read about it?

The history of the town of Lucban in Quezon Province begins when the Spaniards declared it a pueblo or town. But then, there are evidences that there had been life and culture in this ancient place even before the colonizers arrived. Language is one, as many of the words used in this town are ancient Tagalog that can be found in the Diccionario de Lengua Tagala written by Franciscan friar Pedro de San Buenaventura in 1613, printed by Tomas Pinpin and Domingo Loag in Pila, Laguna. Another proof is the presence of ceramic shards in various areas in Lucban as attested by local historian Leonardo Villa and Lucban Historical Society’s Jojo Raneses. There has not been any archaeological investigation done in any of those places, but these findings cannot be disregarded as evidence of Philippine prehistory.  Even the theory that three towns in Laguna (as well as Lucban in Quezon) are the places mentioned in the oldest historical document found in the Philippines, should not be dismissed.

The 20cmx30cm copperplate found in Laguna de Bay dubbed Laguna Copperplate Inscription (LCI) and deciphered by Antoon Postma, the Dutch anthropologist and linguist who presented his findings at the First European Studies Conference in Amsterdam in 1991, is now at the National Museum. Considered the oldest historical document in the country, the LCI had been declared a National Cultural Treasure. These data are mentioned by historian Ambeth Ocampo in his book Looking Back 6 Prehistoric Philippines in 2012. LCI is proof of Pre-Spanish writing and civilization in the archipelago. Recently, historians have been looking into the possibility that Kasumuran, a word etched on the LCI, may be referring to the area along Nagcarlan, Liliw, and Majayjay, or even Lucban.  I learned about this while reading about the heritage tour done by historians retracing the places mentioned on the LCI. “Intelligent speculation” was the word used by historian Xiao Chua, when I asked him about this in a recent seminar where he was a speaker.

Lucban’s present name is derived from lukban, an old Tagalog word that translates to suha, or pomelo in English. This plant belongs to citrus family with scientific name Citrus maxima. In the Philippines, it is not unusual for a toponym to be from what abound or what was significant in a place at the time that it is not yet known. As mentioned by Juan Alvarez Guerra, the name was due to the abundance of orange trees in the area. (Okay, pomelo). According to legend, it was the tree where the first men of Lucban who were from adjacent town Majayjay,  experienced a sign of good fortune. Hence the name.

In 1754 oldest census available, Lucban  was the most populated among the 16 towns of Tayabas (now Quezon) with 5, 109. Data was compiled by Governor Rodriguez Morales, according to the book Viajes por Filipinas de Manila a Tayabas by Guerra. It comprised of 23.79% of the total 21, 476 population of the Province of Tayabas. Chronicles and books written by the Spanish officials that came in the 16th century mention and illustrate what they saw during their visit. We may not be able to fully describe what Lucban was like before the Spanish Period but nevertheless we have to treasure the bits of information relating to it.

Lucban is bound by the towns of Mauban, Sampaloc, Tayabas in Quezon; and Majayjay in Laguna. Hence, the first town described by Guerra on his sojourn to Tayabas Province. Lucban was decribed to be beautiful. It still is, as any tourist and resident can attest to it. And I am not yet mentioning the world renowned Pahiyas!

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