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Lantern makers shine together

/ 08:47 PM August 08, 2011

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Arwin Quiwa, a third-generation lantern maker in this Pampanga capital, felt like he had made the biggest, most beautiful replica of the Star of Bethlehem.

He was overjoyed that lantern makers in the province finally organized themselves on July 30, to ensure the continuity of the 100-year-old craft and to promote the welfare of those who depend on it for livelihood.

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“This is a good step,” Quiwa, 37, said of the formation of the Pampanga Lantern Makers Association (PLMA), whose members elected him as president.

“It’s a breakthrough,” said Roland Quiambao, PLMA vice president.

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At 56, Quiambao is among the senior craftsmen, including Quiwa’s father Ernesto, the great grandson of the pioneer, Francisco Estanislao.

“It was difficult getting us all together because we were preoccupied with the industry’s problems, such as raising capital. There was also competition,” Quiambao said.

They gathered through the support of the University of the Philippines Pampanga, the city’s tourism office, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Department of Tourism.

As a nonprofit, nonstock foundation, the PLMA will set the directions of the industry, Quiwa said.

Designs, techniques and innovations are among the concerns that will be addressed, Quiambao said.

The PLMA, he said, would not control the staging of the Ligligan Parul (Giant Lantern Festival), a yearly event mounted by the private sector and city government.

Its creation is part of the city’s efforts to promote the San Fernando lantern as its Otop (One Town, One Product) showcase, said Ching Pangilinan, city tourism chief.

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“As an organized group, they will have better access to grants and funding, which could help the industry grow while preserving the tradition among the new generation of lantern makers,” Pangilinan said.

Ronaldo Tiotuico, tourism regional director, said the PLMA suggested the conduct of a weeklong event where local traders and merchandisers, arts and craftsmen, lantern makers and even kite enthusiasts could showcase their craftsmanship, art forms and trade.

“They also recommended the organization of a lantern-producing village where local and foreign tourists would stop to observe and learn about their craft in parol making and at the same time bring back home a few souvenirs,” Tiotuico said.

Some 35,000 foreign visitors enter the Philippines every month through the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, north of San Fernando.

Lantern making began as a religious craft, rooted in the nine-day dawn processions (“lubenas”) on Chirstmas Day in Bacolor, a town in the western border of this city.

In place of the small, hand-held lanterns, Estanislao, a salt vendor in Barangay Sta. Lucia, made a l0-foot, star-shaped lantern in 1908. Since then, nine to 10 southern villages join the yearly festival that went uninterrupted by martial law and the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo’s eruptions.

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