Giant lantern fest to bring hope, joy amid pandemic

GIANT LANTERN IN THE MAKING. Lantern makers of Barangay Sto. Nino in the City of San Fernando work on the village's giant lantern in time for the exhibition this December. (Chris Navarro)

THERE’S no stopping Pampanga’s Giant Lantern Festival (GLF), which the City of San Fernando holds every year, to bring hope and joy this coming December to people across the country and the globe amid the raging coronavirus pandemic.

In its 112th year, the world-renowned “Ligligan Parul” will do away with the traditional “ligligan” or competition. It will be an exhibition of the mastery of lantern makers and their crew from seven participating barangays, instead.

Mayor Edwin Santiago said the GLF Foundation, Inc. and the City Government have decided to skip the actual showdown of giant lanterns supposedly set on the second Saturday of December to avoid attracting large crowds.

"This is the first time in decades that there will be no competition of giant lanterns. This means that the revolving trophy will be shelved for this year," Santiago said.

The GLF, usually participated in by around 10 to 12 villages, draws some 10,000 to 20,000 spectators in a three-round competition for its revolving trophy, cash prize and bragging rights. The lanterns measuring 18 feet to 20 feet with thousands of colorful bulbs are displayed at Robinsons Starmills.

The “ligligan” is normally staged a day before the traditional Misa De Gallo starts. The lanterns are put on an exhibition and taken on a roadshow around the province to as far as Metro Manila afterward to share the awe and joy they bring.

Santiago said the decision was reached unanimously to prevent possible mass coronavirus transmission and the surge of cases in the city.

He said seven giant lanterns from Barangays Bulaon, San Juan, Sta. Lucia, Calulut, Telabastagan, Sto Niño and San Nicolas will be showcased in the three-week exhibition, which, according to City Tourism Officer Ching Pangilinan, will be made available and can be accessed online.

"The GLF has been the city's way of thanksgiving and it is more fitting this year as we continue to rise amid all the challenges we are facing. We also would like to continue providing a platform for our local lantern makers and showcase Fernandino unity which is fostered in their entries," Santiago said.

Santiago, however, stressed that stricter health protocols will be implemented at the exhibition venue, such as limiting the number of spectators to maintain social distancing and observe the wearing of face masks and face shields.


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