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Giant Lantern Festival

Stargazing at the Christmas Capital of the Philippines

by: Angela Nacpil

Dubbed as the biggest, the brightest and most colorful Christmas event in the country, the Giant Lantern Festival is one of the grandest festivals celebrated in Central Luzon that both locals and tourists look forward to annually. The Giant Lantern Festival gathers all the barangays in San Fernando, Pampanga to compete and celebrate a night of spectacular lantern parade.

The Christmas Lanternor locally known as Parul Sampernandu started way back in the early 1900s in Bacolor, Pampanga. The tradition is known as Ligligan Parul and it happens during the nine days novena before Christmas. The parols were paraded from one town to another and on Christmas Eve, the parols are brought to the town church, together with the town patrons for a grand parade. This tradition eventually evolved and although the townspeople still go from town to town to visit churches up to this day, the Ligligan Parul is now more famously known as The Giant Lantern Festival.

Even the materials used in each lantern have changed significantly throughout the years. What started as frames made up of bamboo sticks are now made of steel. The vibrant wrap of the lanterns from Papel de Hapon or Japanese paper now turned into colorful plastic wrappers.

These gigantic and magnificent lanterns are also made up of thousands of small, different bulbs controlled by a rotor. These are maneuvered manually so the lights of the lanterns could "dance" along with a Christmas tune.

These lanterns however go beyond giving its thousands of spectators a good show. In fact, the real story can be found behind the gigantic lanterns because for every lantern shown on a festival lies behind a great lantern maker which spends countless hours of hard work in designing one giant lantern. The patterns could vary from intricate stars to flowers, or even words. Together with a lantern maker is a dedicated team that makes sure that each light is working and dancing perfectly before it's presented to the people of San Fernando.

The time and effort of each local lantern maker and rotor operator, combined with the warm support and appreciation of the local people is what makes the Giant Lantern Festival such a beautiful event in Pampanga. Being able to preserve the tradition and turn it into one special event is a precious gift that needs to be shared not only locally but with the entire country.

The Giant Lantern Festival is held every December in San Fernando City, Pampanga.

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