Giant Lantern Festival

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Entry in 2012 "Ligligan Parul" Giant Lantern Festival

The Giant Lantern Festival (Kapampangan: Liligan Parul) is an annual festival held in December (Saturday before Christmas Eve) in the City of San Fernando in the Philippines. The festival features a competition of giant lanterns. Because of the popularity of the festival, the city has been nicknamed the "Christmas Capital of the Philippines".

History of Giant Lantern Festival[edit]

The San Fernando lantern industry evolved 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. Following the transfer of the provincial capital from Bacolor to San Fernando in August 1904, this lantern event followed as well. "Ligligan Parol" was said to have started in San Fernando in 1904. But some say that the "Ligligan Parol" did not happen immediately after the transfer and in fact began in 1908.

This predecessor of the modern day Giant Lantern Festival was actually a religious activity which we know today as “lubenas.” The lanterns measured just two feet in diameter, a far cry from the fifteen feet that we see today. These were created in each barrio from bamboo and other locally available materials. During the nine-day novena before Christmas, which coincided with the simbang gabi from December 16 to 24, these paruls were brought around each barrio in procession to their visita. Before the midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, the lanterns were brought to the town church together with the barrio patrons.

This tradition gradually evolved as the lanterns became bigger and the designs more intricate. Later, one big lantern was made for each barrio, which was created through a cooperative effort. Each resident contributed to its construction, from the concept and design, to the materials and labor. In the end, these lanterns became a symbol of unity for the barrios.

It was in 1931 that electricity was introduced to the San Fernando lantern, thus sparking the birth of the first Giant Lantern Festival. The added illusion of dancing lights highlighted the bright colors and intricate designs of these Giant Lanterns. At this time, the lights were controlled by individual switches that were turned on and off following the beat of the music. The barangays of Del Pilar, Sta. Lucia and San Jose were among the first barangays to participate in the festival: The Story behind the Giant Lanterns of the City of San Fernando, Pampanga.

The first lantern festival was held to honor President Manuel L. Quezon. At that time, Quezon made Arayat his rest area and converted Mount Arayat into a tourist resort. As a show of gratitude to Quezon, the people of San Fernando held a Christmas lantern contest to honor the first family. Quezon himself donated the prize for his lantern contest, which was personally awarded to the winner by First Lady Aurora Aragon Quezon.[1]


In the years that followed, more innovations were introduced to the giant lanterns. Colored plastics replaced traditional papel de hapon. The use of colored plastics will continue on until 2010, wherein fiberglass and handmade paper will make their first appearances on the lanterns.[2]

Large steel barrels called rotors also substituted the hand-controlled switches to manipulate the lights. And lanterns have grown in size, approximately 20-feet today, and illuminated by about 3,500 to 5,000 light bulbs.

2010 Competitions[edit]

The festival for year 2010 was held on 18 December 2010 in Robinsons Star Mills Pampanga.[3]

The 2010 festival showcased revised rules for the festival. Among them are:

  • The subsidy of the city government to participating barangays was increased from PHP 1.2 million to PHP 1.5 million.
  • The size of giant lanterns was increased from 18 feet to 20 feet in diameter.
  • New materials such as fiberglass and handmade paper are also used.

2012 "Ligligan Parul"[edit]

Winners of 2012 contest

Originating from the 1908 Francisco Estanislao pioneering of the lantern-making industry,[4] the 104th-year "Parulan" and “Ligligan Parul" ("Showdown of Giant Lanterns)" Parade and Festival (GLF) for year 2012 was held on 15 December 2012 (7:00 p.m.) in Robinsons Star Mills Pampanga's Rear Alfresco.[5][6] with 11 barangays having participated.[7][8][9][10]

The original bamboo was replaced by a steel frame, lined with cardboard and foil with 10,000 light bulbs wired by 100 yards of electrical wires amid the Rotor (electric) (large steel barrels that switch and maneuver the lights, using masking tapes and hairpins).

Jake Cuenca, Marianne “Maan” Hontiveros (CEO of AirAsia Philippines), Mr. Raul Sunico (President of Cultural Center of the Philippines), Manila Hotel General Manager Atty. Hemogenes Pobre, Wilcon Builders Depot President and CEO William Belo and Pacific Paints Boysen Paints CEO Willy Ong, Ardel Fadri, William Belo, Atty. Hermogenes Pobre, Dir. Kiyoshi Takeuchi and Ms. Kumiko Kuroda, Willy Ong, inter alia, led the Board of Judges, created by Executive Order of San Fernando, Pampanga Mayor Oscar Samson Rodriguez. Maria Elena "Ballsy" Aquino-Cruz and the Festival Parade's Chair, Yoly David Reyes led the distribution of the prizes and trophies.

Brgy. Del Pilar claimed the Champion trophy and giant check of P120,000, while Brgy. Telabastagan and San Jose received the P 60,000 and P 40,000 runner-up prizes, respectively.[11] About 100,000 spectators, including foreign diplomats and tourists viewed the world-class, one-of-a-kind spectacle which began at 7:00 p.m. with performing orchestra, rock-band, music and dance numbers. The Festival ended with a display of fireworks.[12] at the Rear Alfresco of Robinsons Starmills.[13]

Part of the Festival, was the Inter-School Lantern Parade - a Friday afternoon march from the Pampanga High School to the City Hall with the lanterns made of garbage or trash (plastic bottles, discarded seashells, recycled paper, tin cans, bottle tops and straws and even water lily).[14]

Rolando Quiambao stands as the famed lantern masters of the City of San Fernando, whose workshop still produces the dazzling lights of the lanterns for a good line of patrons or "suki" locally and worldwide (exports to United States and Europe distributors).[15]

The Competitors[edit]

The competitors are defending champions Sta. Lucia, Calulut, Del Carmen, Del Pilar, Dolores, San Jose, San Juan, San Nicolas, San Pedro Cutud, Sto. Niño, and Telabastagan. Each of the lanterns cost P500,000 (but the city government subsidized the costs at P125,000).[16]

Each "parul" has a safety box (75 KVA generator, powerful enough to electrify an entire barangay, even made high-tech and computerized). The shapes vary fromn the rose, the bromeliad, snowflakes and the sea urchin which rhythmically dance to brass bands and solemn music).

Gigantic parols span an average breadth of 40 feet (crepe paper, Japanese paper, soft-drink straws, wood, plastic, glass, metal, capiz shell and other native materials (with average weight of 1 ton, requiring at least 50 workers to assemble in 365 days (January to May, electrical framework; June to July, electrical wiring; August to December, the papering).

The first biggest lantern in the world was maded in Ganesh Kala Krida, Pune district in India in 1998 (38 feet tall and 22 feet wide 2,000 sheets of thermocol and 55 pounds of nails and 250 bulbs). A 60-foot lantern costs P5 million. 100 craftsmen in City of San Fernando tried to create a 100 feet diameter Parul. Pampanga board member Robert David in 1998 made the "Millennium Parol," and in 1989, he built the first fiberglass lantern (Bren Guiao Convention Center). In 1990, he made a fiberglass lantern (roof of the Paskuhan Village, the first in Asia and the third in the world).[17]

The 2012 Giant Lantern Festivals's Notable Barangays' Entries

See also[edit]


External links[edit]