A quick trip to HILAGA in Pampanga can reawaken the Christmas spirit in you.
Visiting HILAGA, formerly known as Paskuhan Village, in San Fernando, Pampanga can bring out the Pinoy kid in anyone. Abet Lagula explores this once-proud bastion of Filipino Christmas tradition, and shares the hope that it can regain its former beauty soon.
The city of San Fernando in Pampanga is dubbed as the "Christmas Capital of the Philippines." San Fernando, as well as its neighboring towns, is known for its prolific lantern-making industry. Here Christmas is celebrated year-round, as San Fernando also plays host to HILAGA or Paskuhan Village, featuring exhibits and products found in Northern Luzon as well as anything and everything about Christmas. Paskuhan Village upholds the Filipino tradition of holding the longest Christmas ever.
Paskuhan Village opened in 1990 to provide visitors a real Philippine Christmas experience throughout the year. It is the first of its kind in Asia, and one of only three Christmas-themed parks in the world. It also played host to the annual Ligligan Parul, also known as the Giant Lantern Festival, before the event transferred to a nearby shopping mall.
Paskuhan Village was all about Christmas until 2003, when then-DOT Secretary Richard Gordon converted it into HILAGA Philippines. Since then, it has become one of the premium sites for regional displays in northern and central Luzon.
I brought my friends here to check out what was in store. Unfortunately, by the time we visited HILAGA, most of the stalls had no display at all except for a few Christmas Lanterns and belens (nativity scenes) that reminded us that this place used to be the showcase for Filipino Christmas. Recent developments and the transfer of Ligligan Parul affected its identity as a theme park, and it has waned over the years. There are reports that HILAGA/Paskuhan Village is being pursued by the city government of San Fernando, which plans to restore it back to its former glory. If and when this pushes through, I am optimistic that the spirit of Filipino Christmas will soon be felt all year once more.
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