CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- After settling for second place last year and losing its chance for a grand slam in 2007 and 2008, Barangay Telabastagan came back Saturday with a blast to emerge as 2013 champion of the world-renowned “Ligligan Parul” or Giant Lantern Festival (GLF).

Chief lantern maker Arnel Flores, head electrician Alberto Dungca, and rotor maker Arnold Flores seemed to have perfected their “half-half secret play,” where the Telabastagan lantern -- powered by 12,000 bulbs and more than 10 rotors -- displayed interchanging half white, half myriad of colors that danced to music and later accompanied by the Lumanog brass band.

“We really worked hard to perfect the play, along with the other combinations of colors and sequences we studied for months. And we are very happy we are back as the champion of the Giant Lantern Festival,” said Flores, whose crew took home for the village the P120,000 cash prize, the “rotating” trophy designed by distinguished artist Toym Imao, and a whole year of “bragging rights.”

Giant Lantern Festival champion
PAMPANGA. Brgy. Telabastagan village chief Elmer Manguerra and lantern-maker Arnel Flores receive the P120,000 check and championship trophy from GLF 2013 Executive Committee chairman Marni Castro, co-chairman Tess Laus, Mayor Edwin Santiago and Vice Mayor Jimmy Lazatin for winning this year’s Ligligan Parul. (Jovi T. De Leon)

Coming back after 57 years in the GLF 2011, Barangay Del Carmen, with respected lantern maestro and genius Erning Quiwa directing, this time overtook third placer Sta. Lucia for the second spot, with its dazzling display of color combinations and “tricks” in its more than 10,000-bulb, eight-rotor 20-feet “Parul Sampernandu.”

Barangay Del Carmen bested old-timers but equally mesmerizing entries from Barangays San Jose, Calulut, San Pedro, last year’s champion Del Pilar, San Juan, San Nicolas and Dolores.

The GLF 2013 Board of Judges was composed of Swiss Ambassador Ivo Sieber, Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar, Bangladeshi Ambassador Major General John Gomes, Japanese Minister Deputy Chief of Mission Tetsuro Amano, Clark International Airport Corporation president Victor Jose Luciano, Town and Country Magazine editor-in-chief Yvette Fernandez, Hiblocks International Architect Edwin Gallardo, Benedictine monk and fashion designer Dom Martin Gomez, UST Regent Fr. Romulo Rodriguez, Dita Sandico-Ong Apparel president and CEO Dita Sandico-Ong, and national artist Eduardo Mutuc.

Ingenuity, unity above competition

GLF 2013 Executive Committee chairman Engr. Marni Castro told Sun.Star Pampanga that more than the “ligligan” or competition is the unity of the 10 participating barangays, as well as their common advocacy of nurturing the 105 years of lantern-making in the city and the entire province of Pampanga.

“My congratulations and heartfelt gratitude to the participating barangays and their lantern makers who continuously share their ingenuity and resources not only to showcase the best of colors and lights this season, but for unselfishly taking part in the promotion and promotion and preservation of our world-renowned lantern heritage and tradition. It is a joy to recognize the unity of our gifted artisans and technicians who toil to create lanterns unequalled around the globe,” he said.

Castro added that the unity of Kapampangans manifested in the giant lanterns, sending a message that is “bigger in itself.”

“The message of the festival and the giant lanterns extends to sending a message bigger than itself. In what may seem as the darkest hours for the Philippines, let the light of solidarity as a people shine so bright and bring a powerful message of hope to our disaster-stricken co-Filipinos in the Visayas, said Castro.

“Inspired by our world-class giant lanterns, let us dance to the same beat of nationhood, to the same song of hope, in the different colors and kaleidoscope of unity in diversity. Let us celebrate God’s faithfulness in the midst of tragedy and shine as one,” he added.

Huge crowd, peaceful and orderly

Castro and the 2013 GLF Executive Committee disclosed that an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 spectators, composed of foreign and domestic tourists, along with international and local press, filled the “ligligan” venue at Robinsons Starmills here, causing traffic jams and pedestrian snarls as they came in droves.

“We were able to prepare for that. That is why we installed big screen monitors in and out of the venue. Contingencies like security, order, traffic management were and are still up in place for the coming exhibition days as we expect about 300,000 more to watch the giant lanterns this Christmas Season,” he said.

After Saturday’s main competition, the exhibition of the giant lanterns will continue from December 15 to 21 at Robinsons Starmills; December 22 at Essel Park in Barangay Telabastagan; December 23 at Greenfields, Barangay Sindalan; December 24 at the city proper; December 28 and 29 at MarQuee Mall in Angeles City; and back to Robinsons Starmills until January 3, 2014.