Pampanga lantern makers create jobs in ‘Christmas capital’
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, Philippines — This city, dubbed the “Christmas capital of the Philippines” and popular for its showcase of huge and colorful lanterns during the Christmas season, has tasked five homegrown lantern makers to dress up 15 sites, enabling the creation of jobs for local workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dressing up the city for the holiday season used to involve just two to three lantern makers in the past but this year, five bidders — Arvin Quiwa’s Quiman Trading, Roland Quiambao’s Rolrens Lantern and General Merchandise, Eric Quiwa’s Big 3 Enterprises, David Mallari Lantern Makers and Ren Patio Muñoz’s Wish Craft Events and Design — won the right to do so.
The holiday decorations on the streets cost the city government P7 million, according to Joebee Henson, vice chair of the technical working group on Christmas decorations.
The projects helped them hire around 50 workers, Quiwa and Quiambao said in separate phone interviews on Saturday.
They said they may each directly employ over 100 more workers when local governments in various regions approve their contracts to supply Christmas lanterns in public places.
Mayor Vilma Caluag said lantern makers from within and outside of the city were given the opportunity to participate in a bidding.
“In the end, Fernandino lantern makers emerged as winners because of their good designs and craftsmanship,” Caluag told the Inquirer in an interview on Saturday.
Brothers Arvin and Eric Quiwa are fifth-generation descendants of Francisco Estanislao, the pioneer maker of giant lanterns who began his creations in 1908 or 114 years ago, a study by cultural researcher Raphael Emmanuelle Kalaw showed. Quiambao trained under the masters like Mario Datu.
They worked either under Crising Valencia and Rodolfo David (Estanislao’s grandson), both of whom were credited to have invented the rotor, a unique contraption that produces a myriad of light patterns for giant lanterns.
Mallari and Muñoz learned the craft from Ernesto Quiwa, Estanislao’s great-grandson and the oldest lantern maker to date.
The lantern makers have started dressing up this city since Sept. 15, particularly the lampposts along the Dolores stretch of the Jose Abad Santos Avenue, which will be lit up on Sept. 23, during the lighting ceremony for the Ligligan Parul or Giant Lantern Festival that will be staged in mid-December.
Councilor Rosemary Calimlim, who chaired the technical working group, has also enjoined local businesses through a council resolution to display lanterns in support of the industry.
After the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, the city’s annual crowd-drawing Giant Lantern Festival went online. In 2021, the event was a combination of online and in-person celebrations. Organizers have yet to announce how the festival will be staged in December this year.