Giant Lantern Festival Evolution; San Fernando, Philippines

The Saturday before Christmas Eve, this year, it falls on December 17, local and foreign tourists will flock to the city of San Fernando, in Pampanga to witness the Giant lantern Festival. This annual festival features the competition of giant lanterns created by the barangays in the city.

In 1931, the use of electricity to light up the lanterns was introduced. Dancing lights complemented the kaleidoscopic colors and intricate designs of the giant lanterns. During that time, each light was controlled by an individual switch that was turned on and off to follow the beat of the music.

This year, the lanterns will have anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 bulbs and 11 rotors to orchestrate the dancing of the lights.

These rotors are large steel barrels that are substitutes for the hand-controlled switches that manipulate the lights. Although the bulbs will be made to fit the tiniest design, they will still consume 40 watts each.

The lanterns will also be limited to 20 feet in diameter. These were usually made of crepe paper, Japanese paper, soft drink straws, wood, metal, plastic, capiz shells,and many other materials.

Last year, fiberglass and handmade paper were introduced as materials for lantern making.

Since these lanterns weigh more than 1,000 kilograms, these have to be carried by 6x6 trucks.

The lanterns are powered by 75 KVA generators which can energize a whole barangay.

The Giant Lantern Foundation, Inc. will subsidize the participating barangays with P120,000 each.

Creating the giant lantern requires the skill of 50 people who will work the whole year to finish it.

The production of the lanterns create unity among the barrio folks because each person was expected to contribute some materials, inputs as to the design, and the needed labor.

Last year, these giant lanterns were displayed at the Philippine Embassy grounds in Bangkok, Thailand; the Embassy in Dublin, Ireland; the Philippine Consulate in Beijing, China; and the Ethnology Museum in Vienna, Austria.

This year, participating barangays: Dolores, Del Pilar, San Jose, San Juan, Sta Lucia, Sto Nino, San Pedro, Telabastagan, and newcomers Calulut and Del Carmen will come up with state-of-the-art technology in frame design and lighting to win the P100,000 first place; P50,000 second place; and P30,000 third place categories. (Rebecca Grace S. David-PIA 3)

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