The Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul) in San Fernando Pampanga is an annual festival held every December (Saturday before Christmas Eve) showcasing the city’s most famous product – Parol. Every year, different barangays compete for the most elaborate giant lantern. Because of the popularity of the festival, the city has been called the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines”
The San Fernando lantern industry evolved from the Giant Lantern Festival of San Fernando. The festival finds its roots in Bacolor where a much simpler activity was held. Following the transfer of the provincial capital from Bacolor to San Fernando in August 1904, this lantern event followed as well. "Ligligan Parol" was said to have started in San Fernando in the year 1904. But some say that the "Ligligan Parol" did not happen immediately after the transfer and in fact began in 1908.
|Lubenas, the origin of Pampanga's Giant Lantern Festival|
This predecessor of the modern day Giant Lantern Festival was actually a religious activity which we know today as “lubenas.” The lanterns measured just two feet in diameter, a far cry from the fifteen feet that we see today. These were created in each barrio from bamboo and other locally available materials. During the nine-day novena before Christmas, which coincided with the simbang gabi from December 16 to 24, these parols were brought around each barrio in procession to their chapel. Before the midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, the lanterns were brought to the town church together with the barrio patrons.
In the years that followed, more innovations were introduced to the giant lanterns. The use of colored plastics and fiberglass replaced the traditional papel de hapon and bamboos. Large steel barrels called rotors also substituted the hand-controlled switches to manipulate the lights. And lanterns have grown in size, approximately 20-feet today, and illuminated by about 3,500 to 5,000 light bulbs.
Today, the barangays of San Jose, Dolores, Santa Lucia, Santo Rosario, Santo Niño, San Juan, San Nicolas, and San Felipe each compete with their own parol.