Ligligan Parul 2010 at San Fernando, Pampanga

Visit the Philippine Christmas Capital and experience Yuletide cheer with these gorgeous displays of Kapampangan craftsmanship and creativity.

By Abet Lagula
December 20, 2010

Photographer and freelance architect Abet Lagula heads to the Christmas Capital of the Philippines for the 2010 Ligligan Parul.

I have been a regular spectator of the UP Lantern Parade in UP Diliman, Quezon City since my college days. This year, however, I failed to catch the event due to a previous commitment. Being a fan of colorful lanterns, I'm glad to have heard the news of a Giant Lantern Festival in Pampanga.

I nearly missed this event as well. On the day of the event I went to the Victory Liner bus station in Sampaloc, Manila thinking that it's still convenient to buy a ticket and then hop on to the earliest bus leaving for San Fernando, but boy was I wrong...I forgot that during Christmas season, buses are packed full! Fortunately, the bus conductor decided to let passengers board the bus without buying tickets from the counter. (Note to self: book in advance if I'm going to watch the Giant Lantern Festival in Pampanga next time.)


The Giant Lantern Festival or Ligligan Parul in Kapampangan is an annual festival in San Fernando, Pampanga held every December. The festival proudly displays what Fernandinos are best known for: the San Fernando Lantern or Parul Sampernandu. What sets their lanterns apart from the rest is the high degree of craftsmanship involved in making the huge colorful displays. In fact, the lights installed are synchronized to blink in various colors in time with music. This allows them to come up with numerous light patterns and effects to the enjoyment of the viewing public.

San Fernando lanterns have been displayed and draw rave reviews from audiences around the world: New York, USA, Ireland, Austria, Thailand, Vietnam, and China to name a few. These unique and ingenious lanterns continue to gain attention and have put the City of San Fernando on the map.



The art of lantern making in San Fernando traces its roots in Bacolor when simpler parols were made. The lanterns where introduced during the La Naval fiesta as a form of celebration upon victory in a naval battle. In 1904, the transfer of the Provincial Capitol from Bacolor to San Fernando paved the way for the start of lantern making in the new capital. In 1908, the Giant Lantern Festival was born.

The first lanterns were small and were a part of a religious activity called Lubenas. The lubenas, a corruption of the Spanish term novena, were held on each of the nine days before Christmas, coinciding with the dawn masses known as Simbang Gabi. On Christmas Eve before the midnight mass, the lanterns from different barrios were brought to the town church and engage in a lantern showdown. Unlike today's modern lantern festival, the early contests were a test of endurance on having the most number of bulbs lit at the end instead of artistic design and workmanship.

This year's festival is an important milestone in the history of San Fernando marking the 102 years of lantern making. This is also the largest Giant Lanterns ever made, each lantern with a diameter of 20 feet (from the previous 18 feet). The nine participating barangays are:


Del Pilar
Dolores (2009 Champion)
Sto. Niño
San Jose
Sta. Lucia
San Pedro
San Nicolas
San Juan
Each barangay was subsidized P120,000 by the City Government. Around P1.5 million were spent in all to stage the biggest and most colorful display of lanterns ever.


The contest consists of three rounds. Round 1 requires each Barangay to display their Giant Lantern's lights and colors while synchronized to their choice of music lasting about seven minutes. In Round 2, the nine barangays were grouped into threes, simultaneously showing their lights and colors to a predetermined music by the organizers for about five minutes. Round 3 is the grand showcase of lights, as all nine lanterns were lit simultaneously and performing their display under live brass band music for five minutes.



Nine judges made up the panel and followed these criteria for determining the winners:

25% Design: Total and sectoral impact of the design, harmony, organization, and beauty of the overall design
25% Color Combination
25% Interplay of lights and colors in the first round
25% Interplay of lights and colors in the second and third round



Second runner-up went to Barangay San Nicolas with a score of 91%. They won P30,000 as cash prize. 2009 Champions and this year's Viewer's Choice Barangay Dolores came in second this time with a score of 93.88% and won a cash prize of P50,000.

With a score of 96.06% and drawing the most number of applause from the audience with its superb, magical display of lights, Barangay Santa Lucia is crowned as the 2010 Ligligan Parul Champions!

To cap of the event, a fireworks display was prepared by the City Government to celebrate a successful 2010 Ligligan Parul. See you again on 2011 and feel the Christmas season once more!


Exhibit Schedule

Missed the main event? Do not worry. All the Giant Lanterns are still on display and will perform light shows beginning at 7PM from December 19 until January 2 on various locations:

December 19-21 Robinsons Starmills, San Fernando
December 22 Telabastagan, San Fernando
December 23 Sindalan, San Fernando
December 24 Poblacion, San Fernando
December 25-26 Marquee Mall, Angeles City
December 27- January 2 Robinsons Starmills, San Fernando

How to Get There:

From Manila, numerous buses bound for Bataan and Zambales stop by San Fernando. Victory Liner's buses leave every hour daily. During the Ligligan Parul as well as the onset of the Christmas Season, most of them are full so it's best to book your tickets in advance.

The main event has been held for years at Robinsons Starmills in San Fernando, Pampanga. The number of visitors who wish to attend the Ligligan Parul has created a monster jam at the San Fernando Exit that traffic authorities no longer allow passengers from Manila to alight from the bus near SM or Robinsons. All Ligligan Parul commuters are dropped of 1.5km further, near the Olongapo-Gapan Road/ Macarthur Highway intersection. Take a jeep back to SM and pay only for a minimum fare of about P7.

Festivities begin around 7PM. It is best to be at the venue an hour or two hours before. Take a snack or an early dinner before buying a ticket and availing of the reserved seats. Program lasts for 3-4 hours so bring enough water or snacks as the crowd tends to swell later at night preventing you from stepping out of the venue.