Pampanga’s giant lanterns twinkle amid a pandemic

BREATHTAKING CHRISTMAS STARS. The Giant Lantern Festival 2020 will be the focus of the Robinsons Starmills in the town of San Fernando, Pampanga on Thursday evening (December 16, 2021). The annual festival was not held as a competition but as a virtual exhibition by lantern makers from the seven participating villages in the city. (Photo by the San Fernando City Council)

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga – Not even the 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic can pull the plug on the Giant Lantern Festival (GLF) in Pampanga, which this city hosts every year to highlight the time of joy and hope among Filipinos.

In its 113th year, the world famous “Ligligan Parul” was the focus here on Thursday evening at Robinsons Starmills to keep the cultural tradition of Kapampangan alive despite the presence of the virus.

For the second time, the event did not take place as a competition, but as a digital exhibition of seven giant lanterns by Barangays Sto. Niño, San Juan, San Nicolas, Sta. Lucia, Bulaon, Telebastagan and Calulut.

The glittering Parol (lantern) display was broadcast live on the regional CLTV36 television channel and social media sites.

Since last year, the event organizer, the GLF Foundation, Inc. and the San Fernando City Government have decided to skip the actual competition to promote and implement “Safe Tourism” amid the current global health crisis.

Despite constraints and restrictions, the opening of the annual festival was carried out successfully as it showed the strong message of hope and unity.

“Our goal is to continue our tradition and keep the spirit alive for Christmas despite this pandemic,” said Ching Pangilinan, the city’s tourism officer, in a live streaming event.

Via live stream, viewers in this province, in other parts of the country and even abroad experienced the magnificent display of spectacular lights, the interplay of colors and kaleidoscopic patterns of the giant lanterns to the rhythm of lively songs.

It won’t be a merry Christmas for Filipinos without the ubiquitous watchword, and those who watched the exhibition open in the safety and comfort of their home have shared on social media their amazement at the craftsmanship and ingenuity of the lantern makers from the seven brought to participating barangays.

Roger Ilagan from Barangay Telabastagan, that city, said the Giant Lantern Festival is a symbol of hope amid the challenges posed by the health crisis.

“I am proud to be (a) Kapampangan. The Giant Lantern Festival is part of our tradition that we will not let it die, ”said Ilagan in an interview.

“The Giant Lantern Festival is an annual traditional event that we have always been waiting for this Christmas season and we look forward to seeing it again in person through its nightly exhibitions,” said Rocelle Sebastian, a 36 year old housewife from Gapan City, Nueva Ecija.

Unlike last year, the country’s Christmas capital opens the large lantern exhibition to the public, but it still complies with existing health protocols.

Visitors can now view the nightly exhibitions from December 17 through January 2, 2022, except on the 24th drive-in.

“We have two exhibition shows a night. Around 300 people are allowed to watch the program per program. All they have to do is register online, ”she said.

Interested parties can book online at www.giantlanterns.com or on site to receive the admission ticket.

A cumulative purchase of PHP 1,000 at one of the Robinsons Starmills and Robinsons Angeles retail stores or a purchase of PHP 1,500 at Robinsons Supermarket in these two malls are required for registration.

After registration, a unique QR code will be sent to an email address.

“You have to show the QR code at the event gate to confirm your registration, health declaration and vaccination card for the personal seated and group tour,” she added. (PNA)

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