Thursday, December 22, 2016


PARUL MASTER. Jesus Maglalang of San Fernando, poses with his award-winning parul creation, his trade since 1946. Photo taken by Pete Reyes , People Magazine. 1979.

The world-renowned Giant Lantern Festival is inextricably linked with the history of San Fernando. Ever year, come December, tens of thousands of visitors flock to the capital city to witness the annual of “Ligligan Parul”, the culminating contest to determine the year’s best lantern from a field of entries entered by all the barangays.

For hours, every one will watch transfixed, as the lanterns twinkle, dance, blink, morph into myriads of shapes in a kaleidoscope of colors, in perfect synch with a musical piece. And, every one will be certain to come away in awe at the enthralling lantern performance never seen in any part of the world, except San Fernando, dubbed as “The Christmas Capital of the Philippines”.

The “Ligligan Parul” of yore were held non-stop from morning to evening—and the lantern that remained lit after so many hours would be declared the winner. The popularity of the parul thus jumpstarted a lantern-making industry in San Fernando  in the 60s that flourishes to this day.

The full support of Fernandinos and the City Government through its local tourism office assures the continuation of this honored lantern tradition that has added much value and verve to Pampanga’s culture of festivals.

Some of these important personalities associated with “Ligligan Parul” include whole families: David and Quiwa Families (Brgy. Sta. Lucia), Garcia and Paras Families (Brgy. Dolores), Maglalang and Santos Families (Brgy. San Jose),and  Dizon, Datu, Policarpio, Limzon Families (Brgy. Del Pilar).

It is interesting to note that the Davids from Sta. Lucia, were crafting ‘paruls’ as early as the 1930s. The patriarch, the late Rodolfo Davis, is credited with inventing the rotor, which revolutionized the design and lighting mechanisms of paruls, allowing for countless color combinations and animations. David’s son-in-law, Severino, devised the first battery-powered giant lanterns in the early 1940s.

By 1958, David had perfected a new lantern design, papered with papel de japon, and now known as ‘parul sampernandu’. The flat, circular lanterns are designed with individual compartments housing a lightbulbs that light and ‘dance’ using the ingenious rotor technology devised locally.

Beginning in 1946, Jesus “Mang Suseng” Maglalang started crafting lanterns that became very popular with people outside of San Fernando. His client list included Pres. Ferdinand Marcos, Juan Ponce Enrile, Baltazar Aquino and Fernando Poe Jr.  A perennial winner in the lantern festival, Mang Suseng starts working as early as February just making his designs. Amazing, but no 2 paruls are alike, as he gets inspirations from church motifs, chandeliers, and even psychedelic art.

The Quiwas, on the other hand, pioneered the use of plastic in lanterns. Quiman Lanterns,the family business, is now led by Ernesto Quiwa, an Outstanding Fernandino Awardee in 2009, and his fifth generation parul maker sons, Arvin Francis and Eric Quiwa.

At the forefront of preserving our parul tradition is Rolando Quiambao (b. 2 Sep. 1955), a business graduate. A variety of unfulfilling jobs led him to his nephew’s parul workshop where he quickly learned the trade. Soon, he was manning his own shop, set up through a loan from DSWD’s Self-Employment Assistance-Kabuhayan Program. His business slowly, but surely took off.

Nothing could faze Quiambao who carried on with his business despite the Pinatubo aftermath and rising productions costs. He gave work to his neighbors at a time they needed it most and is recognized today for sustaining interest in the parul tradition, often with much personal sacrifice.

His painstaking efforts have been richly rewarded: his parul creations became the stars of several editions of “Ligligan Parul”, winning in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006.  As a result, Quiambao was named Outstanding Fernandino in the field of culture and arts in 2004, topped by a 2005 Most Outstanding Kapampangan Award for the same category.

The tradition of lantern-making is alive and well the whole year-round in the capital city. We salute these  pioneering starmakers, who have made it their mission to ensure that our Christmases will remain dazzling and bright, and that our hopes will never dim—thanks to their inimitable “stars of wonder, stars of light”—the San Fernando Parul.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


COOL LIGHTS. The Meralco Tower all lit up for the annual carnival. The invention of neon and fluorescent lamps, which were more efficient than ordinary incandescent bulbs, is often attributed to Filipino Agapito Flores, whose story has since been debunked. A 1940  feature in a Kapampangan daily may shed new light on this Flores controversy.

For decades, the name of Agapito Flores, of Guiguinto, Bulacan has been associated with the invention of the first fluorescent lamp. This Agapito was said to have worked first as a machine shop apprentice, then relocated to Tondo where he took up a vocational course to become an electrician. Allegedly, Flores was granted patent in France for a fluorescent bulb which the giant General Electric Company bought for millions.

However, no records exist of such transactions involving a Filipino by that name, and there are also major discrepancies with regards to the timeline of his supposed breakthrough invention in lighting.

There were several pre-cursors of the modern-day fluorescent lamp . As early as 1856, German Heinrich Geissler performed several experiments in arc tube type lamps. This was followed in 1895 by Daniel Moore of New Jersey (first commercial arc tube), Peter Cooper Hewitt  ( patented the first low pressure mercury vapor lamp in 1901--the very first prototype of today's modern fluorescent lights), Edmund Germer (improved  the fluorescent lamp in 1927), and George E. Inman (builder of a prototype fluorescent lights fit for public use, 1934)

Obviously then, there was not just one, but many inventors of the fluorescent lamp, at various stages of its development.  Many of the patents granted them were bought by General Electric to control their use and stifle competition.

But did a Filipino really contribute to the invention of fluorescent lighting? Why is there no solid evidence about Agapito Flores that caused his story to be debunked? Yet, National scientist Dr. Benito Vergara of the Philippine Science Heritage Center, recalls that "As far as I could learn, a certain Flores presented the idea of fluorescent light to Manuel Quezon when he became president.”

A 1940 front page news from “Ing Pamitic”  a local Pampanga daily may shed some light on the issue:

FILIPINU YA PALA. Marajil eyu balu qng Filipinu ya pala in mecatuclas (inventor) caring sulung gamitin ñgeni a palaguan dang neon Light at Fluorescent Light. Deting tauli ila deng maputi salang gagamitan dana deng caraclan. Iting Filipinung inventor ya I Dr. Gabriel Del Pilar Flores a maqui dayang capitna Castila at capitna Filipinu, dapot ciudadanu Filipinu.

Ing Dr. Gabriel del Pilar Flores megaral ya king Universidad ning Sorbona, Paris, Francia. Iting Universidad metung ya karing maragul dili queti qñg yatu at metung neman caring cabalitan. Ding dacal a estudiantes a manibat caring mialiuang bansa a magaral Europa lasa carin la pupunta lalung-lalu na ring manibat caring balen ning Sur America.

Iting balita mebasa qñg metung caring bilang na ning Milwaukee Journal, America. Queta pang banua na ning 1932 geua ing amanuan dang marimlang sulu. Dapot nung e quetang 1937 ya micalat a pañgagamit qñg comerciong picabaluan a Neon Light.  Queting mesabing banua, qñg Exposicion Paris, ing bulalag qñg meto sicluban a Torre Eiffel, manibat lalam angga qñg taluctuc na micatcatanan ya caring bayung sulung geua na ning calaji tamu.

(HE IS A FILIPINO. Perhaps you don't know that a Filipino invented the widely-used lights today known as neon light and fluorescent light. The last are the ones that emit white lights used by most. This Filipino inventor is Dr. Gabriel del Pilar Flores, with both Spanish and Filipino blood, but who consider himself Filipino.

Dr. Gabriel del Pilar Flores studied at the University of Sorbonne, Paris, France. This university is one of the biggest and most renown in the world. Most students who study in Europe often enter this university, especially those who come from South American countries.

This news is based on one of the issues of Milwaukee Journal, America. It was in 1932 that this so-called “cool light” was invented. But it was in 1937 that the commercial use of neon lights became widespread. In the said year, at the Paris Exposition, the Eiffel Tower was shown to the whole world, arrayed from  bottom to top, with these new lights invented by our fellowman.)

This short article thus reveals that indeed, there was a Flores involved in the invention of the fluorescent bulb—Not Agapito---but Dr. Gabriel del Pilar Flores.  This Dr. Flores could have been the same Flores that received a French patent, as France was where he went for advanced studies. Or, he could have been a member of the team at General Electric in Britain that helped fine-tune the light bulbs. One can also check on his Sorbonne school records, or retrieve the old issue of Milwaukee Journal to find out more details about his role in the development of the product.

It has been a long time coming for this Filipino to reclaim his rightful place in the pantheon of the world’s greatest inventors. It took a local Pampanga paper to make us see the light.