I’ve been wanting to see the Giant Lantern Festival of San Fernando, Pampanga for ages. Finally, I was able to do so after letting pass several Christmas holidays, to think that San Fernando is just 45 minutes away from home. Why do people crowd here annually for the Giant Lantern Festival? Read on and find out why.
The Philippine lantern or parol is a symbol of Filipino celebration of Christmas. The parol symbolizes the star that guided Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. All throughout the Christmas season, these star-shaped lanterns can be found hanging outside homes, offices, along streets, and almost everywhere. It’s vibrant colors and flickering lights has a special way of uplifting the Filipino spirit of Christmas with light and hope.
The Giant Lantern Festival
San Fernando City in Pampanga has long been known in the craft of lantern-making. Every year, San Fernando City holds the giant lantern festival. It runs for about two weeks, starting a few days before Christmas. Each barangay (the smallest administrative division in the Philippines) participant creates one big lantern through their own concerted efforts.
The Giant Lantern Festival is highlighted by a contest of the most beautiful lanterns. This year, Barangay Dolores shone the brightest at first place, slamming a three-peat win. All the entrants though deserve more than just attention and applause.
Just imagine the enormous task of creating each and every giant lantern from design of the intricate details, assembly of the frame, placement of over 5,000 light bulbs and their wirings. I am amazed most of all with how they control the switching on and off of light switches, producing unique patterns with every few seconds. Add to that the flickering of lights following the tune of the matching music medley.
Oh! And with the mention of music, I’m reminded once again of the Trumpet Song, the national song of the Giant Lantern Festival. Every barangay has a clip of that song to the delight of kids (adult alike?) who couldn’t help but sway their hips with the song. What I didn't get was the part when a cut of "I kissed the girl and I liked it" was played as all entrants to the final lantern exhibition danced their lights with the music. Think of this song being played while the lantern's light took the shape of an angel flapping its wings.
All the lanterns were switched on in the finale
Where is the Giant Lantern Festival Held?
The Giant Lantern Festival is held in recent years in Robinson’s Starmills, San Fernando City. Robinson’s Starmills is very near the San Fernando Toll gate of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX). From Manila, you can take a bus bound to Pampanga or Bataan from Cubao, Monumento-Caloocan or Pasay. Make sure to ask the conductor if the bus makes a stop at SM Pampanga. SM Pampanga is right across Robinson’s Starmills.