Rolando Quiambao: Dreaming of Kites and Lanterns

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

ROLANDO Quiambao, one of the famed lantern masters of the City of San Fernando, is still mesmerized by the dazzling lights of the lanterns that are produced by his workshop in this capital city.

Like the myriad of colors of his lanterns, he lives a very colorful life. Considered as one of the most accomplished lantern makers here, Quiambao still dreams a lot for the San Fernando lantern.

Humble Beginnings


Rolando Quiambao looks on at the pieces of papel de hapon (Japanese paper) that old folks of his barrio in San Fernando would use to make the famous giant lantern during the onset of the December month. All he needs are a few trimmings, but no, he will not use the trimmings to make his own lantern but instead he would use them to make a kite.

Like children of his age then he would make kites fashioned out of papel de hapon. But before he could get a few trimmings, old folks then would require him to help in the making of various details of the giant lantern which was then and now a community effort.

After few grueling hours he would be rewarded with a few trimmings which he would use to create his kite. Little did he know that his constant participation in lantern making would give him the needed skills that would ensure his immediate success in the future.

Today, Quiambao is one of the most sought after lantern makers in the country and in the province. But before he could have his much needed break, he had a long road of troubles of his own.

Lantern Business

Arriving fresh from abroad he bought a jeep to serve as his permanent source of income, but then, Mt. Pinatubo erupted raging havoc and destruction to Pampanga and subsequently to San Fernando. Quiambao was forced to look for another source of income. He ventured into selling the lanterns that his nephew makes, but his nephew had difficulty in meeting the orders, he later found himself making the lanterns by himself.

Starting with a few capital, he started with a few traditional designs, but his first real break came when then former mayor Reynaldo Aquino commissioned him to decorate the then almost desolate San Fernando for the coming Christmas season.

“Mayor Aquino asked me then if I can make San Fernando happy through decorating it for Christmas. It was a tasked that was almost impossible, San Fernando then was constantly inundated,” Quaimbao said.

But with a little stroke of creativity and good government support he decorated the lamp and electric posts of the city.

“I made the designs bakya, I made them simple and affordable to the masses. During that time that we decorated San Fernando the lanterns were so ingeniously placed that they were reflected even in the flood waters,” Quiambao mused.

After that opportunity, more commissions came. He was asked to decorate other local government units in Metro Manila even reaching Lucena City in the south.

Rolando Quiambao was also a foremost advocate of the survival of the Giant Lantern Festival in this city. This was manifested when he started sharing his skills with others. He opened a shop and employed locals, conducted trainings and helps coordinate exhibits for the Giant Lanterns here and abroad. His winning streaks came in the early 2000. He competed and created magnificent lanterns for different barangays and since then and bagged either the second place or the first place. He also landed first place in the Giant Lantern Festival.

Quiambao Today

Today, Rolando operates a shop here and has a good line of patrons from all over the country and even manages to export his own designs to distributors in the United States and Europe.

“I never treated making lanterns as a business, for me it was more of a passion for doing something that you are happy about,” he added.

Looking back at his life now, Rolando still looks at the connection of making kites and learning the skills of lantern making. On his leisure time, he organizes local seminars for kite and lantern making.

“The youth should first enjoy the craft, then that is the time when they start to appreciate it,” he added.

Unlike most artists of his kind, Rolando does not believe in keeping the skills to oneself, generously gracing seminars and trainings, he is a perennial guest speaker and resource person. Quiambao is also a composer and is working with his group ASLAG Kapampangan in compiling another Kapampangan pop album for Christmas.

Future of the Lantern Industry

Like any other artist and craftsman of worth, Rolando Quiambao has his worries set on the industry which he said should be able to adapt to modern technology.

“Modern electrical innovations had set aside the traditional parul San Fernando. Today we have modern designs and more modern materials. We for one at our company have been reintroducing old designs and incorporating them with modern themes,” Quiambao said.

Quiambao also sees the need to further organize the movers of the industry to ensure quality of their craft. He said that lantern making should branch into other craft industries to ensure sustainability of the industry and the income of the hundreds of people that depend on the craft.

“There is still a wider horizon waiting for the lantern industry. There are opportunities in using the skills of the industry in making accents for furniture and interior design, we are taking the lead, hopefully others will follow,” Quiambao said.

For invites, comments, suggestions, violent reactions, hate-mails, indignant rebuttals and what-have-you, e-mail the author at (09275425466)

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on November 22, 2012.


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