Last Updated: May 28, 2021

Giant Lantern Festival

Giant Lantern Festival is a yearly festival celebrated in December, on a Saturday that precedes Christmas Eve in the fabulous city of San Fernando.

Just as the name suggests, the festival features a contest of huge giant lanterns whose grand structure is an attraction in itself. History has it that a simpler version of the event held in Bacoor marked the start of the event. This was followed by the transfer of the event to San Fernando at the start of the 20th century. During this period, the lanterns measured just about three feet, a sharp contrast with the almost sixteen feet witnessed today.

Giant Lantern Festival Details

Over the years, the festival was marked with the inclusion of disco lights and further enhanced by the elaborate designs of the Giant Lanterns. One may wonder what all the fuss is about lights and lanterns, but the truth of the matter is that light is significant for local Filipinos as it symbolizes unwavering hope. Today, the festival is home to innovative designs that display creativity and are infused with originality.

So popular is the event in the Philippines, that the city has been christened the ‘Christmas Capital of the Philippines’. To get to San Fernando in Pampanga, you can hire the services of a car rental company which will then allow you to take the 3-hour drive to the venue.

The other alternative involves taking public transport which will see you board a bus from the capital city, Manila, to San Fernando. Whichever way you choose to get to the venue, the Giant Lantern Festival is a must-attend; a stunningly beautiful and eye-opening event.

Giant Lantern Festival History

The Kapampangan locals or natives call this festival “Ligligan Parul” which is an annual festival that is being held during the Saturday before Christmas in December.

This is a century-old festival in the Philippines that started in the year 1904 but the old locals believed and as far as they can recall, that the event was inaugurated in 1904 but it was initialized or instantiated during the later years of 1908.

The first Giant Lantern Festival was to honor the current Philippine President, Manuel L. Quezon. That is because, during that time, President Quezon converted and opened the famous Mount Arayat National Park that paved the way to tourism in the City which helped the locals prosper.

The event is held in the City of San Fernando in Pampanga, Philippines but the root or origin of the venue was originally in Bacolor which was just later transferred to San Fernando.

The festival celebrates the Christmas spirit by making different large and giant lanterns designed with different colors and lights. During the event period, you’d see the City sparkling with rainbow colors during the night.

It may seem just like any other festivals in the country that has lanterns and Christmas lights during the season but before all of that became a Christmas trend, it was actually a religious activity called the Lubenas or what we usually know as Novena.

Back in the days, the lanterns local people used were just about 2 feet in diameter. But as the annual festival takes place every year, improvements are being made and it gets getting larger and larger with more lighting. In fact, there are now rotors on these lanterns to allow lantern movements as well as optimize the lighting effects.

Today, the lanterns being used do not measure below 15 feet in diameter. That’s 5 times larger than the original size and up to this date, there are people who want to perfect and create a much larger lantern to continue breaking the record.

People during this time or event take every resource they have to win the lantern competition which is being put to contest during the main event date of the festival. There are some who use recyclable materials from their previous designs and some just want to create a new and better model from new parts ordered and made. Some don’t even care about expenses where winning cash prizes wouldn’t even come close to all their expenditures. There are some participants who just aim for the glory and fame as well as bragging rights of being the winner of the annual lantern festival.

However, back in the days, Giant Lantern Festival isn’t that bright and vibrant at all. There was no electricity during the early years of the event as electricity was introduced to San Fernando, Pampanga around the year 1931.

Old people said that back then, the event takes place during the day until the afternoon so that you’d appreciate the designs of each Giant Lanterns made. Fortunately, with the breakthrough of electricity to reach San Fernando, the introduction of lightings to lanterns was possible and eventually, the festival was held when the sun starts to set and the moon rises to appreciate the lanterns more like with its original purpose, to provide some light during the night.

Another event that you might want to attend in the Province of Pampanga is the Sinukwan Festival. It is just as fun and exciting as the Giant Lantern Festival.

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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