Giant lanterns outlive patrons
Two homegrown and now defunct companies, considered icons in Pampanga’s industrial landscape, had helped nurture the tradition of making giant Christmas lanterns that is on its 107th year this month, older craftsmen in the City of San Fernando said.
The La Mallorca Pambusco (Pampanga Bus Co.), which used to occupy a large compound in Purok 6 in Barangay Sta. Lucia where the tradition originated in 1908, not only lent car batteries and generators that lit the lanterns of southern villages during “lubenas” (processions for the nine-day Christmas dawn Masses) for decades.
The company also trained mechanics and electricians for its Ford and Mercedes Benz buses, with several of them becoming the best lantern makers.
The company’s chief electrician, Rodolfo David, was one of two persons credited for inventing the rotor, touted as a uniquely Filipino lighting system.
The Pampanga Sugar Development Co. (Pasudeco) and its planters, on the other hand, provided trucks that carried the lanterns when these got bigger and could not anymore be borne on the shoulders of 10 or so men. The mill stood in Barangay Sto. Niño, near Sta. Lucia.
The Campamento, a village for employees that Pasudeco built across the mill, was probably the source of light bulbs and car batteries that the US military stocked in warehouses there during World War II.
These least known facts surfaced as craftsmen, including Ernesto Quiwa, 68, talked on the evolution of the craft for a research by the Giant Lantern Festival committee.
“In peace time (before the war), my grandfather Severino [David] made 12-foot lanterns in the tradition of [the first giant lantern maker and Severino’s father-in-law], my great grandfather Francisco [Estanislao]. I was told that to light the 200 bulbs and to make these light during the entire procession, Severino borrowed 20 car batteries from La Mallorca Pambusco,” Quiwa said.
Back in 1957, when he was 10 years old, Quiwa said his uncle Rodolfo David,
Severino’s son, used the generators of the bus company to launch his invention, the rotor, to display patterns of lights in his 14-foot lantern fitted with 600 bulbs of 110 volts.
“Rodolfo’s lantern made [Barangay] Sta. Lucia the champion in the ‘ligligan parul’ (lantern festival) that year,” Quiwa said, adding his father Ruben and a dozen or so La Mallorca Pambusco workers assisted Rodolfo.
Angelo David, 84, a nephew of Severino, recalled that the big lanterns were
made across the house of Geronimo Enriquez, the bus company’s general manager.
“Now and then, Don Imong [Enriquez] went to the window to check the lan-tern. It must have brought him pride.
We, young men, played music on our guitars. People donated 50 centavos or a peso to make the lanterns, or they gave ‘monggo’ porridge to the volunteers,” David said.
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