A show of peace, love in giant lantern fest
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Craftsmen in this Pampanga capital on Saturday loudly proclaimed their messages of peace and love for the country through 10 giant lanterns that showed patterns of dancing lights for a one-of-a-kind Christmas festival rooted in a 1908 Catholic tradition.
The Ligligan Parul (Giant Lantern Festival) at Robinsons Starmills here proved to be the first occasion when all competing entries from various villages beamed such messages, including one made famous by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The lantern of Barangay Calulut radiated the contours of the face of Jesus Christ, capping that with Mr. Duterte’s campaign slogan, “Change has come” over a Philippine map.
The Sta. Lucia lantern, designed by 22-year-old Karl Ernest Quiwa, featured a happy smiley.
Dolores’ winning lantern misspelled the word “chosen,” but its white cross in the middle wowed the audience.
The Telabastagan lantern opened with an image of a rosary that turned into an angel, ending with the Philippine flag and the greeting, “Mabuhay ang Pilipinas.”
The Sto. Niño lantern showed the face of the Child Jesus, encircling it with “Peace on Earth.” San Nicolas’ lantern first displayed an angel, then a greeting of “Happy Birthday Jesus” followed by a set of lights flashing the Philippine colors.
The Sindalan lantern expressed hope for people’s unity, with people in “kapit-bisig” (linked arms) stance and call for love to begin. After depicting Jesus in a large red cross, its lights shifted to yellow, blue and red and also flashed the phrase, “Mabuhay ang Pilipinas.”
Del Pilar’s lantern illuminated a large star in the middle, belted out the soundtrack of the Japanese anime classic, “Voltes V,” and concluded with a “Merry Christmas.”
San Jose’s lantern was laden with messages. Around a big angel with flapping wings were the words, “World Peace” and “Glory to God.” For several seconds, the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the Child Jesus enthralled before closing these with the country’s flag and statement: “It’s more fun in the Philippines.”
The San Juan lantern lit up with an angel and a call to peace, emphasizing these later through a big white cross with a red heart at the center. “God is love” is its last statement.
Dolores’ grand slam
Tricycle driver and lantern maker Teddy Aguilar, 45, and his team gave Barangay Dolores its first-ever record of winning a grand slam after it came out a champion for the third straight year. Barangay Del Pilar and Sta. Lucia had dominated the festival’s competition round since 1931.
Dolores, San Fernando’s central business district, took home P150,000, a paltry amount compared with the nearly P1 million the village and its residents pooled to make a 20-foot round lantern fitted with 14,140 light bulbs.
“It’s the honor of being hailed as the brightest, most beautiful lantern,” said Aguilar, a high school dropout who apprenticed under baker-turned-lantern maker Arnel Flores.
Aguilar was born to Catholic parents in Sta. Lucia where the tradition of giant lantern making was started in 1908 by salt vendor Francisco Estanislao.
Aguilar believed that the mammoth creations should approximate the Star of Bethlehem which, according to the Bible, guided the Three Wise Men to the Child Jesus in a manger more than 2,000 years ago.
Calulut and Sindalan copped first and second runner-up honors, respectively.
For years, the giant lantern tradition in San Fernando has been sustained by the Giant Lantern Festival Foundation through subsidies from the city government, Robinsons Starmills and a host of private companies and individuals. Villagers also pitched in donations in kind or cash.
San Fernando Electric Light and Power Company Inc. shouldered the cost of electricity when the lanterns were displayed outside of the official venue.
“The transformers and all other supplies needed for the entire season, including installation, removal and transfer from different venues, were donated by the company,” said Jose Lazatin, the firm’s senior vice president and general manager.
“We are proud to claim we are the Christmas capital of the Philippines,” Mayor Edwin Santiago told a crowd of 100,000 people, some of them foreigners.
Shown live on free and cable television channels and streamed live via the Internet by CLTV36, the festival generated viewership from Asia, Middle East, America and Europe.
A panel of 10 judges selected the winning lanterns based on the interplay of light and color with the music, design, color combination and uniqueness.