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Woman lights up all-male, 110-year-old lantern festival

/ 05:38 AM December 08, 2018

INGENIOUS DEVICE The rotor, a sort of lights sequencer, is regarded as the brain of giant lanterns in the Pampanga capital of San Fernando. —TONETTE T. OREJAS

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—The “Ligligan Parul” (Giant Lantern Festival), held in this Pampanga capital for the past 110 years, will no longer be an all-male event.

For the first time since 1908, a woman has designed the entry of Barangay San Jose, one of 11 villages competing to earn the bragging right for producing the festival’s most beautiful lantern.

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“My lantern is beautiful. It shines,” said Anne Sason-Torres, 36, describing her 6-meter creation.

“It will make heads turn,” she said.

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Inspiration

Her lantern has 10 rotors—a contraption developed in Pampanga, which makes lights go on and off through rows of hair clips that serve as contact points of electricity. The lantern is fitted with 9,430 light bulbs.

Torres, a mother of two girls, said she had been inspired by her father, Cesareo Sason, a lantern maker who died of a heart attack on Oct. 24, 2015 at 58.

Sason learned by watching Susing Maglalang, an older neighbor in San Jose, one of those credited as inventors of the rotors.

Maglalang’s stepsons, Marcelino and Rolando Ambrocio, served as Torres’ chief electrician and rotor maker.

Sason, a village councilor, made lanterns for a living.

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To help improve the craft, Torres took technical drafting courses for two years at Don Honorio Ventura Technological State University, the oldest vocational school in Asia, in Bacolor town.

Torres said she had been treated by her father like “one of the boys.”

Sason taught Torres everything there was to know about lanterns, including lanterns’ electrical systems.

Sason’s wife, Mila, now 63, made small lanterns, helping out her husband by sticking color paper scraps or plastic sheets on metal frames.

Before dying, Sason told Torres about his wish to see her design a giant lantern and win the competition.

“He told me it didn’t matter that I was a girl,” Torres said. “Excellence is not a monopoly of men,” she added.

Tough competition

She is competing against the Quiwa men—third, fourth or fifth generation members of a family of lantern makers who are related to Francisco Estanislao, the acknowledged pioneer in the tradition who had used honeybee wax for candles and car batteries for power.

The annual contest involved lantern makers of the villages of Telabastagan, Sindalan, Calulut, Del Carmen, Del Pilar, San Juan, San Nicolas, Santa Lucia, Santo Niño and San Pedro.

They will produce lanterns using a P200,000 subsidy from Robinsons Land Corp. as well as donations of cash, food and supplies from neighbors.

“I’m making my father’s wish come true but I’m also out to open the way for women lantern makers,” Torres said.

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