Kapampangan Christmas Festivities

As a prelude to the much-awaited Giant Lantern Festival, the city of San Fernando in Pampanga launches the Lubenas, Paskuhang Tiangge, and Food Fair.

By Jenifel Baliday
December 17, 2010

Mabalacat resident and anesthesiologist Jenifel Baliday shares some tips for anyone looking to visit the Christmas Capital of the Philippines for the Ligligan Parul this December 2010.

The cold December breeze is upon us, signaling the beginning of the Christmas Season. Here in the city of San Fernando, Pampanga, the holiday hustle and bustle commences as the prelude of activities to the annual Ligligan Parul--a yearly fete known as the Giant Lantern Festival to uninitiated--kicks off.

The event showcases impressive lanterns of up to 18 feet high, representing the different barangays in the area as they compete to produce the best parol to show off their skill and creativity. Each lantern is lit up by a multitude of bulbs dancing in myriad patterns, powered by electricity that could probably illuminate several houses all at once. This spectacular display gives the city of San Fernando the title "Christmas Capital of the Philippines."

I've heard of this festival through mass media, but this will be my first time to witness the actual celebration. You see, this is my first Christmas in Pampanga, having moved here earlier this year. What a way to spend the yuletide season--by being present in the ultimate capital of Christmas! I sought to involve myself in the pre-festival activities listed online at pampangadirectory.net.

December 14, 2010: Giant Lantern Exhibit

I set off enthusiastically to Robinsons Starmills for the first activity on the schedule, "The Giant Lantern Exhibit." I had originally assumed that this was the opening exhibit of the huge parols that Pampanga is so famous for, but I was mistaken. There was nothing in sight, neither outside nor inside the mall itself.

At the mall information counter I was casually informed that the only activity scheduled at that time was a photo exhibit, but that it was postponed due to lack of participants. I went home disappointed, but there were still a number of goings-on in store for me on the morrow.

December 15, 2010

The Paskuhang Tiangge, Food Fair, and Lubenas were my itinerary for the next day. All three were to start December 15--the Lubenas and the Food Fair will run until December 23, while the tiangge will continue up to Christmas Day itself.

At exactly 4PM, I was briskly walking from the junction of Jose Abad Santos Avenue and MacArthur Highway (two major roads in San Fernando) in the direction of V. Tiomico and Consunji Streets where the said festivities will be held. That turned to not be such a good idea, as it was an 800m walk. Tip #1: Take the jeepney to get there: it only costs P7 and you will reach your destination without too much of an effort.



I planned to scout on the actual route of the Lubenas by asking around the vicinity. For the uninformed, Lubenas was the forerunner of the modern day Ligligan Parul. The name originated from the word novena (nine days), and it used to be a religious procession held in each Kapampangan barangay every night preceding the nine days of simbang gabi. Sadly though, it is a dying tradition, which was confirmed when I started asking around for the specifics of this custom. Not a single Kapampangan native I asked knew of the route and time of the actual procession, let alone that it existed. The same informants also notified me that I was too early for the tiangge and the food fair, which were to start at around 7PM.

At 7PM, I went back to the scene of my earlier jaunt--and what did I see? The last of the paraders in the Lubenas, lanterns-a-flickering, were gathering in front of the City Hall on Consunji Street! After a rush of photographic documentation, I interviewed the parade organizers. Apparently, the tradition itself, originally a religious procession of parols organized in each barangay, had already died. As an attempt to revive the vanishing tradition, the city government took charge and transformed the said custom to an interschool competition, participated by students both in primary and secondary education.

Every night, each school participant struts out their parol made of recyclable materials with flickering lights; they circle around the Poblacion Area with the students showing their support behind their entries, and gather in front of the City Hall to cap the night off with the announcement of winners. This continues with a different set of schools each night. Sadly for me, I asked the wrong people for information earlier, thereby missing out on the Lubenas. Tip #2: When looking for information, ask the right people. The parade starts around 6PM every night, starting from December 15 to 23. The tradition still exists, albeit transformed.

Paskung Tiangge

Slightly disappointed, I set off for the next item on my itinerary, the Paskung Tiangge, located on V. Tiomico (parallel to Consunji Street) extending to the street perpendicular to it. The marshals cordoned some parts of both streets to make way for the array of dry goods and trinkets scattered about the area. I could hear a shopper wrangling with a vendor for a good deal on sandals, and i saw another vendor standing on top of a stool, engaging passers-by to at least take a look at his goods.

As with any tiangge, one has to scour for the right bargain. Tip #3: The key is to haggle, haggle, haggle. Bear in mind though that these sellers also need to make a dignified profit. In short, please don't sell them short.

Food Fair


Exhausted from all the hullaballoo, I went back to Consunji Street in front of the City Hall for the kicker, the Food Fair.

Everybody knows that Kapampangans are known food epicures. Their karinderia food can give posh restaurant menus a run for their money. At the Food Fair, table upon table of foodstuffs enough to feed a whole town lined the whole block.

Each table is associated with its own type of food. In order to eat from a specific table, you must wait for a chair to free up. The chairs are never left unoccupied for long. The alternative is to eat while standing up. Tip #4: Stand behind the chair at the table of your choice and rest your hand at the back of that chair even if it is still occupied. Once that person stands up, GRAB THAT CHAIR! In my case, all I really wanted was a bowl of hot goto, which I got after scrambling for a Monobloc chair.

All these attractions, while fun and worth a visit, are just a prelude to the main event. The Ligligan Parul will be held on December 18, 2010, at Robinsons Starmills, City of San Fernando, Pampanga--that is one main attraction worthy of a write-up of its own.


  • Go to list of Pampanga resorts and hotels