CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS KAPAMPANGAN WAY
Many have tried—but failed!—to take the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines” title away from Pampanga. Its uniquely Pinoy grandeur and joyous spirit continue to inspire those who have witnessed and experienced it
BY LESLIE ANNE MAHUSAY
WITH MICHELLE DELA CRUZ
PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE CITY TOURISM
OFFICE OF SAN FERNANDO
Pampanga has undeniably preserved the Christmas feels. The dazzling and colorful Giant Lantern Festival (GLF) continues to make the province a top tourist destination during the holiday season, says Joel Mapiles, Pampanga’s Provincial Information Officer.
According to history, as written in the City of San Fernando’s official website, the Christmas Lantern, or Parul Sampernandu in Kapampangan, can never be separated from the town that created it, the City of San Fernando.
The San Fernando lantern industry progressed from the Giant Lantern Festival of San Fernando. The festival, which is held every December, finds its roots in Bacolor, where a much simpler activity was held. ‘Ligligan Parul’ (Lantern Competition) was said to have started in San Fernando in the year 1904. But some say that the “Ligligan Parul” did not happen immediately after the transfer and, in
fact, began in 1908.
The giant lanterns with dancing lights started in 1931, when electricity was established in the city. At that time, the lights were controlled by individual switches that were turned on and off following a selection of tunes. In the years that followed, more improvements were introduced to the giant lanterns, such as the replacement of papel de hapon with colored plastic.
Instead of bamboo, the lantern makers weld together a steel frame, which is then lined with cardboard and foil, followed by another enormous task—placing about 5,000 light bulbs and wiring them together using hundreds of yards of electrical wires. Large steel barrels called rotors also replaced the hand-controlled switches to maneuver the lights. Strips of masking tape on the rotors establish the sequence of the blinking of the lights. Hairpins, attached to the end of the wires leading to each bulb, connect the lights to the rotor, which in turn, is connected to the source of electricity.
Nowadays, contest participants can use up to 10,000 bulbs. All entries must measure 20 feet in
height to qualify for the competition.