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Pampanga's  Giant Lanterns

Dazling! Awesome! The annual lantern festival in San Fernando, Pampanga continues to attract hordes of spectators from all over the country, as the competing giant parols become even more spectacular with each passing year.

The massive crowd, almost body to body, literally spills from the town plaza to nearby streets and alleys. Children as well as adults even climb trees or stand on outdoor tables, chairs, roofs of cars and jeepneys, and rooftops just ti get a vantage point to view the thrilling competition and colorful parade.

What a sight to behold- those magnificient lanterns agains the inky blue evening sky! Their geometric shapes and myriad colors flash, pulsate, and whirl into psychedelic wonders. Intricate patterns mesmerize for a couple of seconds then change again, and again and again.

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Giant Parol dwarfs a child


Their kaleidescopic radiance is cast by hundreds of thousands of blinking lights. Each parol (lantern) has a safety box and a 75 KVA generator, powerful enough to light an entire barrio. Many entries are also high-tech and cmputerized.

The popular shapes of decades ago - the rose, the bromeliad, the snowflakes and the sea urchin - which evolved from the simple five-pointed star are still around, but are somewhat "hidden" in the maze of brilliant colors and complex configurations of the parols as they rhythmically move to the dance beat of brass bands.

Some gigantic parols span a breadth of 40 feet. They are fashioned from crepe paper; Japanese paper, softdrink straws, wood, plastic, glass, metal. capiz shell and other environmentally friendly native materials. Each parol is an expensive but truly attractive example of Pampanga folk art.

A parol maker during the December 1994 contest spent P100,000 to construct his entry which had thousand of components. Various organizations and sponsors subsidize the cost. The prize for the winner was P5,000 in cash and a coveted throphy plus national prestige, immesurable in terms of material value.

The parade of giant lanterns also becomes a parade of six-by-six trucks carrying the heavy parols. Each lantern weighs 1000kg or more, and requires at least 50 people, working almost an entire year, to assemble it (January to May for electrical framework; June to July for the electrical wiring; August to December for papering).

Participants come from the barangays of San Jose, Dolores, Lourdes, Sto. Rosario, Del Pilar, San Pedro, Sto. Niņo. Sta Lucia, and San Nicolas. San Fernando clans, known for thier parol artistry for generations, compete in friendly rivalry. Awed tourists and city folks may purchase the giant lanterns if they have the means to transport them home. A price tag could read fifty or even a hundred thousand pesos or more. For those willing to settle for smaller lanterns, which are just as attractive, San Fernando and nearby towns gave an array of parols at moderate prizes.

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Pampanga parades parols of all shapes and sizes, from small hand-caried ones to...

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...a huge cross carried on a van

The tradition of the parol folk art dates back to 1928 wgeb artisan Francisco Estanislao first constructed the original, simple five five-point star lantern, lighted by either a candle or a kalburo (carbide) lamp, as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem.

In Pinoy Christmas lingo, the "Pampanga parol" has become a generic term for any elaborate star lantern.    

source: Pasko

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Pinoys aim to create world's biggest parol
  By Tonette Orejas
Inquirer News Service

THE WORLD'S biggest lantern. That's what some 100 craftsmen in the City of San Fernando – which lays claim to being the country's Christmas capital -- will try to finish in 20 days in order to make it to the Guinness Book of World Records.

The parol, which is envisioned to be all of 100 feet in diameter will not only rely on an art rooted in Catholic tradition that dates back to the Spanish era, but also the power of information technology.

The local government and private sector are both supporting the record-setting attempt.

Representatives of Walt Disney Television of Singapore, Robinson Land Corp. and Jagaa Innovators Corp., and Pampanga board member Robert David signed the project's memorandum of agreement last week.

What's the enormous lantern going to look like?

Walt Disney Television and Robinson, which are funding the construction of the lantern and applying it as a Guinness entry, are aiming for "a gigantic Pampanga lantern to be computerized in aesthetic design, in ka

leidoscopic play of colors and light ..."

CRAFTSMEN in the City of San Fernando in Pampanga prepare one of eight giant lanterns that will compete in the 'Ligligan Parul' Festival on Dec. 21. A much bigger one is being considered for the Guinness Book of World Records.

That means three things -- enormous labor, patience and creativity -- according to David, who is recognized here as among the pioneers in creating giant lanterns and carving an export market for the colorful holiday attractions.

The monumental task will be supervised by David and Jagaa's Arnold Palmares and Arnel Sicat. It involves shaping a steel frame based on the overall design of the head of Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney's most popular character.

Tens of thousands of white light bulbs connected to hundreds of yards of individual electric wires are to be fitted in every hole of the frame. The holes are grouped according to "dancing sequences" and different color patterns.

Red (for the ears) and blue (for the face) are the primary trademark colors.

Plastic sheets are to be cut and shaped to cover the holes or sections.

The work does not end there. Creating the magical effect or making the lights blink in precise synchronization with slow-to-fast musical beats is another challenge, said David. A computer will be used to control the movement of the lights.

It will be the second time that the local lantern makers are turning to technology to create the illusion of dancing lights. The first time was during last year's "Ligligan Parul (Giant Lantern Festival)" organized by the city government, David said.

The provincial official said it was Jagaa that engineered the first computerized lantern in the province.

Over the past two decades ago, the lights have been manipulated in a crude but ingenious manner. Lantern makers replaced hand-controlled switchboards with large steel barrels called "rotors" to effectively manipulate the lights.

The barrels are actually fitted with hairpins attached to the end of the wires connected to every bulb. Thus, the hairpins connect the lights to the rotor and the rotor to the source of electricity.

How is the on-off switching sequence created then? Through strips of masking tape on the rotors. Manipulated like a car wheel, the rotor is turned to the left, right or in complete circle.

In "driving" the rotor, the hairpins pass through the strips of masking tape, temporarily cutting off the electric current to a set of bulbs. The bulbs light up again when their equivalent hairpins regain contact with the steel barrel. These, in all, produce a visually delightful interplay of lights.

"Every time there is a new technology, we try to apply it and we always improve our lanterns," David said.

From lanterns made out of papel de hapon and bamboo and lit by candles or gas, according to local historian Geronimo del Rosario, the creations have kept up with the times since electricity was introduced in San Fernando in 1931.

According to accounts gathered by Del Rosario and young historian Ivan Henares, San Fernando inherited the lantern tradition from Bacolor town, the capital of the Philippines during the 1762-1764 British Occupation. This period produced the La Naval fiesta, a tradition accompanied by many lanterns to symbolize victory against invasion.

Catholic rites in Bacolor, which were introduced by Augustinian friars in the 16th century, required a procession of patron saints. Lanterns were made to light up the path leading to the church.

It was especially during Christmas that lanterns were made to approximate the Star of Bethlehem.

Making colossal lanterns has been a constant preoccupation for David.

In 1998, he made the "Millennium Parol," which adorned the Rizal Park in Manila. In 1989, he built the first fiberglass lantern which was installed at the Bren Guiao Convention Center here.

In 1990, he designed a fiberglass lantern which is actually the roof of the Paskuhan (Christmas) Village, the first in Asia and the third in the world.

Since it became a cottage industry in the 1970s, lantern-making has provided employment to over 10,000 families.

For the goal to make a computer-controlled lantern, David said Microsoft was joining the team.

"We want this to be a good showcase of Kapampangan craftsmanship," he said.

And of course, he said, to unseat a Guinness holder. The first feat was shown at Ganesh Kala Krida, Pune in India in 1998, according to a report from the city government.

That lantern, measuring 38 feet tall and 22 feet wide, was built by nine workers. It had 2,000 sheets of thermocol and 55 pounds of nails. At least 250 bulbs illuminated it.

How much Pampanga's mammoth version would cost has not yet been fixed. A 60-foot lantern is estimated to cost P5 million.

What is sure is that this Guinness wannabe is going to come to life on Dec. 22 at the Robinson's Starmills in San Fernando, David said.

"We hope to make it to Guinness and bring pride to the country and boost the local parol industry," he said.


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Giant Lantern Festival ngayong Disyembre

MAKUKULAY, kumukutikutitap, iba't ibang hugis at naggagandahang parol. Ito ang makikita nating palamuti sa bawat bahay na ating madaraanan tuwing papalapit na ang araw ng Kapaskuhan. Ang parol ang nakaugalian nating isabit sa bintana o saan mang sulok ng kabahayan na kadalsan ay pinaliligiran pa ng makukulay na Christmas lights.

Alam ba ninyo kung saan unang ginawa ang parol? Para sa kaalaman ng nakararami, ito'y unang ginawa sa San Fernando, Pampanga. Dito unang binuo ang isang ordinaryo at maliit na parol.

Marami ang humanga sa angking ganda nito kaya't hindi nagtagal ay nahikayat ang mga Kapampangan na matutong gumawa ng parol. Simula sa isang maliit na parol mas lalo pang nadagdagan ang sukat nito hanggang sa maging isang higanteng parol na ang kanilang pinagkakaabalahang gawin.

Nang dahil sa dumaraming bilang ng parol sa lalawigan at bilang pagbibigay-puri na rin sa pagiging malikhain ng mga gumagawa ng higanteng parol, minabuti nilang magkaroon ng isang pagdiriwang, ang Giant Lantern Festival. Taun-taon itong ginaganap tuwing Disyembre.

Noon pa man, dinarayo na ang nasabing festival. Mga dayuhan at kababayan nating nagmula pa sa malalayong lugar ay nagsasadya sa San Fernando masaksihan lamang nila ang taunang pagtatanghal, ang pagpaparada ng mga higanteng parol na kanilang pinakaaabangan.

Lubos ding hinangaan hindi lamang sa bansa kundi maging sa buong mundo ang mga higanteng parol ng San Fernando, Pampanga. Ito rin ang nagbunsod upang tawagin silang "Christmas Capital of the Philippines."

Ayon sa mga residente, ang Giant Lantern Festival ay nag-ugat sa Bacolor kung saan isang simpleng selebrasyon lamang ang nagaganap. Inilipat ito sa San Fernando noong 1904 at tinawag ang pagdiriwang bilang "Ligligan Parul."

Isa itong religious activity para sa mga Kapampangan na ngayon ay tinatawag nilang "lubenas." Dito makikita ang naglalakihang parol na kung noon ay may sukat na dalawang talampakan lamang, ngayo'y napalitan na ito at naging 15 talampakan na ang laki!

Ang bawat parol ay gawa sa kawayan, at iba pang modernong materyales na sadyang makukuha rin sa lugar. Sa siyam na araw bago dumating ang Pasko o ang simbang gabi kung tawagin, Disyembre 16 hanggang 24, ang mga parol na ito ay isinasama sa prusisyon at sa pagsapit ng Christmas eve, ang mga ito'y dinadala sa loob ng simbahan kasama ang patron ng bawat baryo.

May iba ring bersyon ang mga residente na nagsasabing ang Giant Lantern Festival ay nagsimula noong panahon ni Pangulong Manuel L. Quezon. Sa panahong ito nais ni Pangulong Quezon na kilalanin ang Pampanga bilang isang modelong probinsiya. At dahil dito, ginawa niyang lugar na pahingahan ang Arayat na ngayo'y kilala bilang legendary Mount Arayat resort. Bilang pagpapasalamat ng mga Kapampangan kay Quezon, nagsagawa ang mga taga-San Fernando ng Christmas lantern contest.

Nagkaloob naman ng premyo si Quezon para sa pinakamagandang parol na mapipili kung saan personal naman itong iginawad ng kanyang maybahay, si Aurora Aragon Quezon. Samantala, ngayong nalalapit na ang Pasko, sari-saring parol ang ating makikita na ibinebenta sa bawat sulok ng Kamaynilaan o saan mang lugar. Iba't ibang disenyo, hugis at higit sa lahat iba't iba ang kalidad.

Hindi pa rin patatalo ang San Fernando pagdating sa tibay at ganda ng kanilang produkto. Angat pa rin sila sa iba. Parol na gawa ng Kapampangan, matibay at di mapapantayan.


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