ERNESTO David Quiwa is a fourth-generation lantern maker, being a direct descendant of Francisco Estanislao who is widely acknowledged to have pioneered the craft of making giant lanterns in their Barangay Santa Lucia in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga.
Living up to their clan’s legacy and ‘noblesse oblige’, Tatang Erning, as Mr. Quiwa is fondly called, has won several times in the City’s annual Ligligan Parul or Giant Lantern Festival, including an unbroken triple feat from 1993 to 1995 – the years when he asserted that the festival should continue despite the aftermath of Mount Pinatubo ’s 1991 eruptions.
Tatang Erning simply won’t let the colorful tradition fade away. Hence, the Parul Sampernandu lived on.
Often unheralded, consistent with the low profile he keeps, tatang Erning is not only the most senior of the lantern makers in San Fernando today, but considered to be the local king of the enduring tradition. Thanks largely to this city’s One Town One Product program.
When the City Government introduced the One Town One Product (OTOP) program for the Parul Sampernandu in 2005, it was a breath of fresh air for the city’s ailing lantern industry. Several of the City’s lantern makers became active participants in the OTOP program, including tatang Erning Quiwa.
Because of the OTOP, Tatang Erning’s handiworks have illuminated the Philippine Christmas Tree at the Viennese Christkindlmart in Austria as part of a joint undertaking of the City of San Fernando and the Philippine Embassy. His lanterns have also been exhibited at the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Philippine Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand and were featured at the San Francisco Annual Parol Festival in 2006. His most recent achievement was representing the Philippines in the Xiamen International Lantern Festival in China early this year.
Showing further the craftsmanship of the Fernandinos to the world, Tatang Erning has design and produced lanterns that decorated cities in the Middle East and the United States.
Now 67, Tatang Erning has never ceased learning and is always eager to introduce innovations in the age-old craft of lantern making.
In the eighties he started the use of polyvinyl plastic as alternative material to Japanese paper for San Fernando lanterns. As part of the OTOP program, he also pioneered the use of handmade paper in making eco-friendly lanterns in 2006. By doing so he helped sustain the employment of a cooperative of Mount Pinatubo victims at the Pandacaqui resettlement in Mexico, Pampanga.
In 2009, Tatang Erning and his sons pioneered the development of the first San Fernando lantern which uses resin with fiberglass as its material, under the City’s OTOP Program with the assistance of the Provincial Office of the Department of Science and Technology.
Because of OTOP, Tatang Erning has finally achieved the kind of recognition the likes of him deserve – he has been recognized by the City Government as one of its cultural treasures in ensuring the survival of its colorful art form. In the Outstanding Fernandino Award ceremony in 2009, Tatang Erning was recognized in the Culture and the Arts Category. Very few people could lay claim on the title “master lantern maker”.
Being the master that he is, Tatang Erning now passes on his art and craft to his four sons – Eric, Arvin, Omar and Francis – who have become lantern makers in their own right, assuring the continuity of their family’s legacy and tradition.
Because of OTOP and the likes of Tatang Erning, the bright and colorful stars which make San Fernando famous as the Christmas Capital of the Philippines continue to shine all over the world, and how.