Pampanga Christmas lanterns bring message of peace
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — Peace for the country and the world are the messages expressed by giant lanterns, built as tall as a two-story house, which were displayed to 50,000 spectators on the 110th year of the spectacular, one-of-a-kind event held in this Pampanga provincial capital on Saturday.
Each of the lanterns in this year’s “Ligligan Parul” (Giant Lantern Festival) “danced” for seven minutes in sync with medleys of Christmas songs, tunes popularized by Japanese anime or Korean pop group Momoland’s latest hits.
The lantern of Barangay San Nicolas featured the image of Jesus Christ and displayed the assurance that “Jesus loves us.”
Barangay Sindalan’s entry declared “Peace on Earth” and featured an angel while the song “Amazing Grace” rang out.
Barangay Sta. Lucia’s creation flashed images of Jesus and a cross, followed by the national colors then the statement, “United we can.”
The lantern of Barangay Sta. Lucia prayed for peace and hope, then displayed an image of Jesus wearing the colors of the flag that was surrounded by images of people, their hands linked in unity.
Barangay Telabastagan’s work featured an angel and flashed the words “peace” and “Glory to God,” while Barangay Del Carmen’s lantern proclaimed Jesus as “Our Savior” and then superimposed the image of Jesus on the cross.
Barangay Del Pilar’s lantern, designed by craftsman Roland Quiambao, slowly unveiled a bird as Michael Jackson’s song “Heal the World” blared out. The lantern of Santo Niño greeted everyone “Merry Christmas” and then exhorted “Love Pampanga.”
The lantern of Barangay San Jose, the last entry made by Anne Sason-Torres, the first woman to design a giant lantern, displayed a colorful image of Jesus encircled with the phrase, “Jesus have mercy on us.”
The festival dates back to the Catholic processions of saints held during the nine-day Christmas Masses. The practice, called “lubenas,” survives in the northern parts of Angeles and Mabalacat cities, and Magalang town.
Some say the giant lanterns were representations of the biblical Star of Bethlehem, which guided the three wise men to the infant Jesus more than 2,000 years ago.
Artisans soon produced bigger lanterns to attract more Mass goers. Francisco Estanislao is the acknowledged pioneer, crafting the first giant lantern in 1908.
This year’s judges chose the lantern made by Arnel Flores for Telabastagan as the most beautiful lantern and earned him the P150,000 cash prize.
The lanterns of San Jose, San Juan and San Nicolas emerged as first, second and third runners-up, respectively.
Most winners relish the battle for the bragging rights of having made the most beautiful lantern, said Ching Pangilinan, the city’s tourism officer.
The 2018 Ligligan Parul stayed true to tradition by continuing the use of rotors and a circular contraption, which make thousands of light bulbs go on and off or simulate movement. A giant lantern can have as many as 10 rotors.
“It is not the intricacies [of the giant lanterns] but the innate artistry of craftsmen that astounds me,” said Alex Patiu, chair of the giant lantern executive committee.
Robinsons Land Corp. provided a subsidy of P200,000 for each of the 11 competing villages. Expenses for making each lantern run to P500,000.
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