There is nothing that spells Paskong Pinoy than the beautifully crafted lantern we call parol. For most of us, it is more than just an ornament during the Christmas season. It symbolizes the happiness of still being together despite the hardship we had to endure, the ardent wish that things will get better come the new year, and the hope that we will survive whatever life throws our way.
It is said that the first parol was crafted by an artisan from Pampanga, named Francisco Estanislao, in 1908. He created the lantern using bamboo sticks and papel de japon. Utilizing kalburo (carbide), the lanterns were used by the barrio people to light their way to the lubenas, the nine-day novena before Christmas (also known as Misa de Gallo).
Soon, it became a tradition and eventually a festival.
When electricity was established in San Fernando in 1931, the parol evolved with the designs becomingmore intricate.
Before the pandemic, I was able to visit the atelier of the Quiwa Family, one of the families who champion parol making in San Fernando, Pampanga. There, I learned that making a parol is not an easy task. More than creativity, it needs dedication and hard work.
From conceptualizing the design to actually crafting the lantern, it is quite challenging. Once a parol maker has finalized a design, the framers would trace the pattern with a steel frame, which the welders would put together. Making the patterns/frames has to be precise because this is the foundation of the parol.
After putting the two frames together with ample distance between them for the bulbs and electric wiring, they would do the kulong, or the process of putting cardboard between the steel frames dictating the shape and design. Palara that serves as reflector would be pasted on each compartment. Next, the bulbs would be prepared, washed, and painted.
A small parol needs about 300 bulbs; a medium-sized, at least 500 bulbs. For the 20-feet high lantern usually seen at the Giant Lantern Festival in Pampanga, they need 5,000 to 7,000 bulbs.
When the bulbs are installed, the parol maker would begin the electrical route, lining up the electrical lines from the generators to the rotor, the “brain of the lantern” as it dictates the “dance” of lights. While all the electrical stuff happening at the back, papering is being done at the front. Transparent and colorful overlay plastic sheets are used to make the “face” of the lantern.
Truly, it is a labor of love.
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Experience the Parul Sampernandu at the Giant Lantern Festival, locally called Ligligan Parol, happening now until Jan. 2at Robinsons Starmills.
Launched online on Dec. 16, this year’s Ligligan features seven giant lanterns representing seven barangays of San Fernando City, namely Telabastagan, San Juan, Bulaon, Sta.Lucia, Calulut, Sto. Nino and San Nicolas.
Apart from bringing good cheers and embodying the essence of the Christmas spirit, the parol reminds us to “Stay Safe” and “Be Vaccinated.” One parol (from Brgy. Sta. Lucia) even honors the frontliners.
This year, we are still reeling from the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic but I hope our parol will light our way to the better normal.
Have a safe Christmas everyone.