Pampanga Christmas Lanterns | The Star Wonders
Pampanga Christmas lanterns are more than just embellishments of the most loved season of the year. It is also about how the Kapampangans created the Filipino Christmas that we all enjoy today.
In what might just be the most iconic symbol of Pinoy Christmas, the “parol” or lanterns flicker everywhere, but hardly anyone remembers that a Kapampangan first created it.
Yes, in 1908, Francisco Estanislao from Villa de Bacolor in Pampanga created the first pattern of the 5-pointed star. It was framed in bamboo sticks & covered with dyed coconut fiber. Lit on the inside with “kalburo” (carbide), it illuminated their paths to the church to attend the Misa de Gallo.
Pampanga Christmas Lanterns: Making Christmas Bright
Filipinos aren’t shy about our love for Christmas. In fact, we are known to celebrating the longest Christmas in the world. As soon as the ber-month kicks in, the usual suspects of the season fill the air — lanterns, lights & Jose Mari Chan.
“Parol”, from the Spanish word for lantern “farol” was once called “paritaan”. While it’s the universal representation of the star of Bethlehem, Filipinos created a unique expression of it.
All roads lead to Pampanga for everything “parol”. In fact, everyone takes the Pampanga Christmas lanterns as a benchmark of quality craftsmanship. They perfected this artistry that it earned them the title, the Christmas Lantern Capital of the Philippines.
Giant Lantern Festival
San Fernando City is synonymous to Pampanga Christmas lanterns. It is home to the famous Ligligan Parul, a festival of giant lanterns since 1931.
“Parul Sampernandu” is a lantern unique to this town where small elaborate design elements are pieced together.
At the heart of it is the “tambur” framed by angular shapes called “siku-siku”. Then surrounded by another layer called “palimbun”. Finally, it is outlined by “puntetas” usually made of oyster shells.
It’s impossible to talk about Ligligan Parul without mentioning Rodolfo David, Ernesto Quiwa & Rolando Quimbao.
In 1957, Rodolfo David invented the rotor or the mechanism that makes the lantern lights dance to the changing patterns & music.
Owning an Istilo Quiwa lantern is like hanging a light of success stories that run in the blood.
Ernesto Quiwa or fondly called “Kong Erning” is the great grandson of Francisco Estanislao. He is honored as The Golden Man of Parol for championing the lantern industry of Pampanga.
He is a grandslam winner in the Giant Lantern Festival & has adorned the Christmas homes of many presidents. His sons Arvin & Eric as well as grandsons Mark & Carl are making names for themselves too in the world of Pampanga Christmas lanterns.
On the other hand, Rolando Quiambao is a rags-to-riches kind of story.
He was once an OFW, a jeepney driver & did odd jobs to get by. He grew from being a lantern repairman to becoming the owner of RolRen, the biggest Pampanga Christmas lantern shop today.
Ing Lubenas Ning Pasku
In Angeles City, lanterns made of “papel de japon” & bamboo frame is a craft that is still very much alive. While creative detailing changed over the centuries, it still keeps the traditional 5-pointed star covered in white paper.
And nowhere is this spectacle better experienced than during the annual Ing Lubenas Ning Pasku. This Christmas tradition is practiced since the 1800s & plays as the origin of the “simbang gabi”.
Lubenas is a 9-day novena initiated by native secular priests when Spanish missionaries vacated their parishes by a royal decree. This changed the highly religious 1-day Christmas celebration into a longer festivity.
Processions incorporating indigenous motifs into Catholic rituals & other elements dawned since.
And there’s one name to beat in this league — Kong Odi Ramirez. Creating authentic Angeleño parul for more than 50 years, this all-handmade craft is truly adorable. For sophisticated paper-cut art parol, Angeles is the best in Pampanga Christmas lanterns.
Macabebe is a town in Pampanga that also keeps the bamboo & Japanese paper lantern tradition. However, theirs doesn’t have the usual tails attached to the lantern.
From Bethlehem to the Philippines, Pampanga Christmas lanterns truly created a distinct cultural representation of our yuletide spirit.
And from Pampanga to the universe, Catriona Gray’s national costume ensemble showcased how the humble parol is a big part of national pride.
While we thank Spain for introducing Christmas, the Americans too deserve the recognition for secularizing it in the 1900s. But had it not been for the Kapampangans who created the parol & the lubenas, Christmas in the Philippines wouldn’t have been the same.