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.

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