A giant lantern rises in San Fernando's lantern festival. Photo by Robin Pinzon
San Fernando city in Pampanga province showcases the biggest and (literally) brightest Christmas in the Philippines with the annual Ligligan Parul, also known as the famous Giant Lantern Festival.
Last year (2009) marks the 100th anniversary of lantern-making in this city, which is said to have been started by Francisco Estanislao in 1908. The competition last year involved nine barangays or village districts and all came out with their glitziest lantern creations that are meant to dazzle and impress visitors. Ligligan Parul gathers lanterns measuring from 18 to 20 feet high with a mosaic of colors that glow and blink to the tune of Christmas songs, making a magical show of intricate patterns.
Lantern creators in San Fernando handcraft not only the biggest Christmas lanterns but also the most complex in terms of lighting design to win the nod of the jury. San Fernando literally transforms itself to the Philippines’ City of Lights as contestants attempt to outdo their rivals for the prize and fame.
Mabuhay ang Ligligan Parul!
Belen is a big and well-loved tradition in Pinoy Christmas
Another traditional Filipino Christmas symbol is the belen — a tableau representing the Biblical Nativity scene. Derived from the Spanish term for the town of Bethlehem, it depicts the infant Jesus Christ in the manger, surrounded by the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the shepherds, their flock, the Magi, angels and some stable animals.
Belens can be seen in homes, churches, schools and even in office buildings. Belen in office buildings can be extravagant, using different materials for the figures and lavishly decorated with Christmas lights, parols (lanterns), and painted background scenery. A popular outdoor belen in Metro Manila is at the COD building in Cubao, Quezon City which attracted crowds during the Christmas season some decades ago. In 2003, the COD’s belen was transferred to the Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan when the COD building closed down. The Greenhills belen is a light-and-sound presentation with the Nativity story recorded and played repeatedly to synchronise with animated the figures. Each year, the company changes the theme, with variations such as a fairground story or the journeys of Santa Claus.
Tarlac City is also known as the “Belen Capital of the Philippines” and holds the annual “Belenismo sa Tarlac.” The event features a belen making contest and attracts the participation of commercial establishments and Tarlac residents. Giant versions of the belen with different themes are displayed by stores and on the streets of Tarlac during the Christmas season (Excerpted from Wikipedia).
Mabuhay ang Pinoy Belen!
The popular Pampanga-made Parol or Christmas lanterns
The Filipino Parol (pah-Rol) or Christmas lantern is one of the most-loved Christmas decorations in the Philippines, an iconic symbol during the holiday season and which can be found in almost all Filipino homes, offices and street corners. The Filipino Parol is supposedly adapted from the Chinese lantern and the Mexican piñata to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem
Although nowadays there is a range of Filipino Christmas lanterns made of various materials, the parol made of bamboo frames can be considered as the most distinct or unique to the Philippines. Made of bamboo sticks fastened together to form a star, colored crepe paper are cut into strips and wrapped around the bamboo frame to form a gaily-colored star. Electric lights are added or draped around the star for evening use.
Another but more expensive variant is the parol made of heat-resistant plastic filaments and often sold along the intersection of Sen. Gil Puyat and the South Superhighway. Made in Pampanga these lanterns boasts of intricate colors and patterns, and are easy eyecatchers. Also another popular parol is one made of Capiz shells, the wafer-thin pearly, opaque shells used in traditional window frames. Colored and with an electric bulb installed inside, the Capiz parols are more durable but pricier than the cheaper bamboo-framed lanterns.
Mabuhay ang Pinoy Parol!
Entrance to the Paskuhan Village
Christmas is celebrated year-round in Pampanga, the Central Luzon province known for its lantern-making industry. Pampanga is also the location for HILAGA or Paskuhan Village, a wonderful exhibit of anything and everything about Christmas.
Located in San Fernando, Pampanga, the Paskuhan Village enjoys the distinction of being one of the three Christmas-themed parks in the world and the only one that is located in Asia. The major display that can be found in the park, which first opened in 1990, are the colorful lanterns of Pampanga.
Paskuhan Village was all about Christmas until 2003 when then Philippine Tourism Secretary, Richard Gordon, decided to convert it into HILAGA Philippines. Since then, Paskuhan Village became a premium site for regional displays of northern and central Luzon. Each hall in Paskuhan Village showcases the best of the region it represents. There is a very wide display of local crafts from small trinkets to huge, elaborate items.
Aside from the displays on the exhibit halls, there is also a bird park and botanical garden right inside the village. The Natures Sanctuary is a place where visitors can commune with nature. Paskuhan Village or HILAGA is also equipped with facilities for swimming, rock climbing, dining, and shopping. The park is very visible upon exiting the North Luzon Expressway, and is situated near two shopping malls (Source: Philippine Tourism websites)
Mabuhay ang Paskuhan Village!