Giant Lantern Festival (San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines)

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blog:“Ligligan Parul” 2015: Solidarity through Light & Song at San Fernando, Pampanga

“Ligligan Parul”, or the Giant Lantern Festival is held every December at San Fernando, Pampanga—starting December 19 up until January 6. These intricate structures nearly 20 feet in diameter are brilliant displays of the city’s century old lantern-making heritage.

This year, 11 barangays (San Jose, Santa Lucia, Dolores, Santo Niño, San Juan, Telebastagan, Del Pilar, Calulut, Sindalan, Pandaras, and San Nicolas) have participated at this colorful showdown of the best giant lantern in Pampanga!

Robinson’s Starmills, Pampanga has been the official starting venue of the Lantern Festival for eight years (it’s about an hour drive from SM North taking the NLEX).

The Lantern Festival is scheduled to display in other venues such as Essel Park, Telebastagan; Greenfields, Sindalan; San Fernando City Hall, Marquee Mall, and Clarkfield, Pampanga.

“Ligligan Parul”, meaning “Lantern Showdown” is said to have evolved from a religious celebration called “Lubenas”, which refers to the nine days of “Simbang Gabi”.

During “Lubenas”, barrios made lanterns measuring two feet made with local materials like bamboo.

The rising popularity of these lanterns resulted in larger, more complex, and elaborate displays of Filipino creativity.

“Ligligan Parul” is an important cultural gem for Pampanga—in fact, San Fernando has earned the moniker of “Christmas Capital of the Philippines”.

These modern lanterns are constructed with nearly 13,000 individual bulbs synched with upbeat music and lit through intricate wiring via the “Parul Rotor”.

A “Parul Rotor” is a steel roll with covered in masking tape with exposed parts that trigger the bulbs.

The complexity of the Parul can be witnessed in the time it takes for a barangay to make one: more than 3 months.

Because the event is inherently competitive, the Parul has become a symbol of solidarity for each barangay whose residents dedicated time, labor, and love to their respective lanterns!

The competition has three rounds—in the first round, each barangay is given 7 minutes to showcase the fruits of their labor.

Note: Go to the venue early to get a good look at the lanterns; the area fills up fast within the first few rounds.

In the first round, the build up of the brilliant lights and sounds is gradual and may seem too simplistic.

If this is your first time, these giant Parul may be reminiscent of the common street lanterns you see along the mall (especially from afar). Don’t be fooled! Remember these Paruls were made to impress. 🙂

Within the next 40 seconds of the round, viewers will see what all the hullaballoo is surrounding the Giant Lantern Festival with its hypnotizing use of light, color, and music.

Team OAP will admit they got more than what they bargained for!

While most people were about 30 meters from the lanterns, you’ll learn to appreciate the sheer size and beauty of the Parul when you’re up close and personal.

In the second round, all lanterns are given 5 minutes to “dance” to this year’s seasonal music.

By this time, it was very hard to decide which Parul looked the best, as each barangay did a fantastic job!

In the third round, the Parul are lit in groups of 2s or 3s for another 5 minutes to freestyle their best patterns for the final judging.

You may be surprised by the level of control the light engineers have over each bulb. To the crowd’s delight, some lanterns even wished them good tidings. 🙂

Barangay Dolores bagged its second win as Champion this year—Del Pilar as 1st runner up, Sindalan as 2nd, and Calulut as 3rd.

It’s not hard to understand why Dolores won the second time around—its beautiful colors and elegant patterns gave life to the cheering crowds.

While each barangay had a gorgeous lantern display, Team OAP’s personal favorites were Sta. Lucia (above), Del Pilar, and Sindalan.

December tends to be rainy, so make sure to bring an umbrella, mosquito repellent and a light jacket. 🙂

Overall, “Ligligan Parul” is a great way to experience a uniquely Filipino holiday celebration through Pampanga’s rich traditions.

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