Pampanga dazzles anew in the 115th Giant Lantern Festival

Joann Manabat

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Pampanga dazzles anew in the 115th Giant Lantern Festival
Barangay Telabastagan, led by lantern-maker Arnel Flores, is hailed as the grand winner of this year's Giant Lantern Festival

PAMPANGA, Philippines – 10 giant and colorful Kapampangan Christmas lanterns lit up the night sky as the City of San Fernando celebrated its 115th Giant Lantern Festival (GLF) at the Robinsons Starmills open grounds on Saturday, December 16.

The annual GLF, locally known as “Ligligan Parul,” officially marked 115 years of lantern making and Kapampangan craftsmanship from 10 participating villages: Bulaon, Calulut, Del Pilar, Dolores, San Jose, San Juan, Sta. Lucia, San Nicolas, Sto. Nino, and Telabastagan.

Pampanga dazzles anew in the 115th Giant Lantern Festival

Barangay Telabastagan, led by lantern maker Arnel Flores, was hailed as the grand winner of this year’s GLF and won P300,000, a trophy, and bragging rights. The 1st runner up is Barangay San Nicolas, followed by Barangay San Juan winning P200,000 and P100,000 respectively.

Flores, who recently had an operation due to diabetes, said he will not stop joining the GLF competition and will keep on making lanterns for as long as he can. 

A devout Catholic, Flores offers his talent, craftsmanship, and service to God and his family, he said.

“I am so happy. Even though I couldn’t stand because of my operation, I gave my best. As long as I do it for Him,” Flores said.

Pampanga dazzles anew in the 115th Giant Lantern Festival

The Christmas lanterns, locally known as “parul,” started in 1908 when salt vendor Francisco Estanislao, the first recorded lantern maker, made lanterns from bamboo and coco cloth for Simbang Gabi. Since then, Pampanga’s capital has progressed into the annual GLF which was held to honor the Kapampangan craft of lantern making

The Christmas spirit illuminated

Spectators watched with glee as the Christmas spirit illuminated the night sky with a kaleidoscope of patterns to the beats of different musical stylings – from pop to novelty tunes, gospel songs and Christmas carols, as well as Kapampangan music.

Young spectator NJ, 25, traveled from Baguio City to witness the giant lanterns.

“Curiosity brought me here. For me it’s refreshing because this is not the usual festival I see in Baguio. We have a flower festival there but to see lights in the giant lanterns is something new to me. I can say that this has a potential to be a spotlight in the Philippines,” said NJ.

“It’s beautiful and attractive. I also watched last year and San Juan won but I think San Nicolas will win this year,” said Divine, 15, a highschool student.

A nightly exhibition of lanterns

Each lantern maker also received P400,000 worth of subsidy from the local government, the Giant Lantern Festival Foundation Incorporated, and Firefly Electric and Lighting Corporation which were given in three tranches for the duration of their lantern making and preparation. 

The local government of San Fernando has assured complete preparedness for this year’s GLF where each giant lantern has been inspected during the last stage of the participants’ lantern making process.

City tourism officer Ching Pangilinan said in a statement that the priority has always been to preserve the culture and tradition as it is the heart of the festival.

“As much as we want to introduce innovations in the festival organization, we are still very strong on the common community goal of preserving this Kapampangan tradition and Fernandino culture that we want to pass on to the next generation,” Pangilinan said.

Alvin Mendoza, co-chairperson of the GLF executive committee, said the preparation started as early as July and one of the guidelines that they modified is the lifting of the limit on the number of bulbs.

Mendoza also added that the lantern making tradition in San Fernando carries on as they encourage the youth to take part in lantern-making within their barangays and build their interest in the tradition.

“We no longer have a limit on the number of bulbs, but a limit of at least 8,000. It’s now 350,000 to 400,000 watts,” said Mendoza.

“Here in San Fernando the lantern makers continue to move forward, from young to old, mostly they are a family of lantern makers. That’s why we encourage them to build their giant lanterns in their barangays to inspire the young ones as well.” 

The nightly exhibition of the giant lanterns is set from December 17, 2023 to January 1, 2024 at the Robinsons Starmills. The lanterns will also be showcased at the Metropolitan Cathedral on December 24, at the town center in Brgy. Calulut from December 27 to 28, and at Marquee Mall in Angeles from December 29 to 30. The GLF is the last among the three major festivals in December culminating in the celebration of Pampanga’s rich history and tradition, culture and arts. –

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