Pampanga’s Giant Lantern Festival contest returns with bigger prizes | Inquirer News
LIGLIGAN PARUL 2022

Pampanga’s Giant Lantern Festival contest returns with bigger prizes

/ 04:35 AM September 26, 2022
TRADITION LIVES ON The COVID-19 pandemic failed to stop the Giant Lantern Festival held in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga, every December, which evolved from the tradition of crafting big lanterns in local villages starting 1908. In this file photo, seven villages persisted with staging the festival in 2021 minus the competition. This December, 10 villages will compete for prizes of up to P300,000. —TONETTE OREJAS

TRADITION LIVES ON | The COVID-19 pandemic failed to stop the Giant Lantern Festival held in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga, every December, which evolved from the tradition of crafting big lanterns in local villages starting 1908. In this file photo, seven villages persisted with staging the festival in 2021 minus the competition. This December, 10 villages will compete for prizes of up to P300,000. (Photo by TONETTE OREJAS / Inquirer Central Luzon)

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, Philippines —  The competition for the Giant Lantern Festival in this city will return in December, a first during the COVID-19 pandemic, with bigger subsidy and cash prizes for villages vying to be the best.

The world’s unique Ligligan Parul (Giant Lantern Festival) in this Pampanga capital is set to resume those happy features when it is staged on Dec. 17 in a mall here.

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The 10 villages competing in the festival — Bulaon, Calulut, Del Pilar, Dolores, Pandaras, San Juan, San Nicolas, Sta. Lucia. Sto. Niño and Telabastagan — stand to receive P300,000 each, or double of the amounts in 2020 and 2021, as subsidy to produce the mammoth creations, Mayor Vilma Caluag announced at the launch of the Ligligan Parul on Friday night.

The city government and the Giant Lantern Festival Foundation pooled the money from public funds and private donations, said Ricardo Pineda Jr., the foundation’s president.

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“The fund support was increased because the prices of materials are more costly now. The additional funding can also help the craftsmen produce more beautiful lanterns,” Caluag said in an interview on Friday.

Village officials can raise more funds or supplies, depending on how much residents in their communities are willing to share.

Up for grabs are P300,000, P200,000, and P100,000 in prizes for the top three lanterns in designs, light patterns, and in sync with the music, the mayor added.

In December 2019, the last in-person staging of the festival, prizes were P150,000, P100,000, and P50,000 for the top three winners.

Doubling the prizes makes for bigger bragging rights for the winner, said Ernesto Quiwa who, at 75, is the oldest lantern maker around here.

Traveling lanterns

The lanterns can be seen from the Robinsons Starmills grounds starting in the evening of Dec. 17, the same night that winners will also be announced. The grounds can fill up to 30,000 spectators, according to Maria Jade Lourdes Pangilinan, the city tourism officer.

Residents can also watch the spectacle online as it will be aired on social media and on CLTV 36, a local television company. Robinsons Starmills has hosted the event since 2008.

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The lanterns will remain on display on the mall’s grounds for two nights before it will go to venues in the northern and southern parts of the city. On Dec. 23, the lanterns will be brought to the patio of the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Fernando where they will remain until Christmas Day. After Christmas, the lanterns will go the rounds of villages up to Jan. 3, 2023.

No contest years

The city did away with the competition in 2020 and 2021 but seven villages — Telabastagan, San Juan, Bulaon, Sta. Lucia, Calulut, Sto. Niño, and San Nicolas — still built and displayed their giant lanterns to continue the tradition that began 114 years ago, or in 1908, by acknowledged pioneer, Francisco Estanislao.

The seven villages used their lanterns to express gratitude to medical and security front-liners in the battle against COVID-19.

The giant lanterns evolved from religious practices in Pampanga, the first province to be christianized by Spanish colonizers in 1571. Devotees made bigger lanterns to approximate the Star of Bethlehem in the Bible story of the birth of Jesus Christ more than 2,000 years ago.

Proteges’ time

This year, the seasoned artisans and Estanislao’s immediate descendants are out but their proteges are taking part in the competition: Florante Parilla, Teddy Aguilar, Efren Tiodin, brothers Marcelino and Rolando Ambrocio, father and son Arnel and Mark Niño Flores, Edmar David and brothers Byron and Engelbert Bondoc.

None of them finished electrical, mechanical, design or related courses but they have been producing amazing works using a rotor — a barrel-shaped aluminum sheet that bears dozens of designs that flash the light when connected to a power source.

Competitors can build their lanterns up to 20 feet in diameter, or higher than a two-story house, which can fit from 10,000 to 20,000 light bulbs and hundreds of kilometers of wires.

The festival is seen to be more exciting now as Barangay Dolores, the grand slam winner after emerging champion from 2014 to 2017, is rejoining the festival, said village chief Allan Patio.

Pandaras village chief Edsel Miranda, an openly gay man, said the colors of the LGBT++ community will be used in their entry.

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