Giant Lantern Festival
The "Giant Lantern Festival" features a competition of giant lanterns. Some gigantic lanterns span a breadth of 40 feet with geometric shapes and myriad colors.
The Giant Lantern Festival is said to date back to the early 1900s with the "Lubenas", a religious event. During the Misa de Gallo (a nine-day novena Mass leading up to Christmas), people would carry lanterns measuring about 2 feet in diameter around every barrio(village). These lanterns were then brought to the town church before Christmas Eve for them to be blessed by the priest.
According to historical accounts, the festival which is locally known as “Ligligan Parul” (Showdown of Lanterns) is believed to have started in 1908 when Francisco Estanislao built a giant lantern for a Christmas religious procession.
Through the years, several innovations were introduced in the competition namely the use of batteries in 1940, molding of steel wires as frame in 1950, and rotors in 1957.
Rotors are aluminum tubes that are moved so hair pins and a series of bulbs connected to these are exposed to the electricity source. The movements dictate when the bulbs will light up and project images."
The tradition of lantern making has evolved through the years from a simple bamboo and paper to a more complicated use of materials and circuitry.
The first Lantern Festival in the Philippines 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 the first Giant lantern contest. This prize was personally awarded to the winner by the First Lady Aurora Aragon Quezon.
Giant Lantern History
A video of the Giant Lantern History
In this video, you will see how the simple star-shape lantern started and been developed into a grandiose lantern.
The Giant Lantern Festival
The Giant Lantern Festival is held every year in December, on a Saturday before Christmas Eve. It is celebrated mainly in San Fernando City, Pampanga. It is a competition of giant lanterns and a very popular festival in San Fernando along with the "Penitensiya" ritual. Because of the popularity of this festival, the city is named "Christmas Capital of the Philippines".
What a sight to behold the grandiose lanterns against the dark 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.
Their radiance is cast by hundreds of thousands of blinking lights. Each lantern has a safety box and a 75 KVA generator, powerful enough to light an entire village.
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 lanterns as they rhythmically move to the dance beat of brass bands.
Some gigantic lantern span a breadth of 40 feet. They are fashioned from crepe paper, Japanese paper, straws, wood, plastic, glass, metal, capiz shell and other environmentally friendly native materials. Each lantern is expensive but truly an attractive example of Pampanga art.
Evolution of the lanterns started from the size and designs, have become elaborated. It is decided that each village gets represented by only one big lantern built through cooperative effort. Creating the giant lantern requires the skill of 50 people who will work the whole year to finish it. One resident of a village would contribute for the materials to be used, one would make the design, and one would manage the construction. With this, the lantern became a symbol unity for each village.
images from flickr.com