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Giant Lantern Festival in the Philippines

December 19 - Contest of Traditional Parol Making Skill - Pampanga, Philippines


Traditional Philippine parol

Traditional Philippine parol

© Bing Ramos

The Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul) in San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines showcases the city's most famous product - the lighted stars known as parol.

The Philippines takes Christmas very seriously, and no province in the Philippines does Christmas like Pampanga. Pampanga's artisans are renowned for producing the country's biggest and most elaborate parol.

Every year, the cream of the crop make their debut in the Giant Lantern Festival, as different divisions (barangay) of the city compete to produce the year's winning parol.

The simple star design of the first parol have evolved into explosions of electric lights - some flower-shaped, some very vaguely star-shaped, and some are open to interpretation!

The biggest parol can be as large as 40 feet in diameter, assembled from crepe paper, softdrink straws, bamboo dowels, glass, plastic, capiz shell, and assorted electronics.

Making these parol are matters of personal reputation for the town's parol workers - they'll spend countless man-hours and thousands of dollars creating a parol that won't last out the Christmas season.

History of the Christmas parol

The first known parol was created in 1928, when Francisco Estanislao created the classic five-pointed star parol to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem that led the Wise Men to the baby Jesus.

The province of Pampanga took an early lead in the manufacture and design of parol - later, more innovative designs, like those featuring cells of blinking lights, came from Kapampangan artisans, and made a big splash everywhere in the country.

In Pinoy Christmas lingo, the "Pampanga parol" has become a generic term for any elaborate star lantern.

Heavy competition

Today, the barangays of San Jose, Dolores, Santa Lucia, Santo Rosario, Santo Niño, San Juan, San Nicolas, and San Felipe each will compete with their own parol.

This year, the Lantern Festival will be held at the Robinson’s Starmills Mall in San Fernando, Pampanga, with the festival opening on December 19.

How to get there: San Fernando is a 1.5-hour ride by car or bus from Manila through the North Luzon Expressway. Victory Liner and Philippine Rabbit can take you to San Fernando from stations in Cubao, Quezon City (in Metro Manila).

More information: Call the Philippine Department of Tourism at +63 (2)524 2345, or email ncr@tourism.gov.ph.

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