Sunday, December 18, 2011

2011 Ligligan Parul Giant Lantern Festival: The night the stars fell down on Pampanga

2011 Ligligan Parul - Detail 4
Giant Lantern intricate detail
The last time we attended the Ligligan Parul, Pampanga's giant lantern festival, was two years ago, during the festival's 100th year anniversary.  It was bedlam but typical of Pinoy celebrations, a merry one where locals and guests come together to continue a Filipino Christmas celebration.  We came back to a more orderly one, again hosted by the Robinsons Starmills Mall with even more people in attendance.  Getting a media pass on the spot was a breeze compared to 2009 when passes have to be procured as early as October.  The position of the media platform was, however, quite a disappointment as we were relegated to the left-most part of the car park grounds -- not so ideal in shooting the other half of the 10 giant lanterns on display.  On a bright note, we were spared from the long pleasantries by the kind mayor as the clouds threatened intermittent rains so the contest started early enough.

2011 Ligligan Parul - Lights Check
Last minute light check
Anyway, it's got to be a challenge for the parol-makers to keep coming up with designs that continue to wow guests and audiences year-after-year.   For repeat visitors like us, we're kept in suspense looking for new tweaks.  This year's edition is not short on drama as one of the lanterns failed -- the entry from Sto. Niño -- which must be a big disappointment for its makers.  All that hard work (most are planned as long as a year in advance) for nothing. Considering the intricacies involved in parol-making (imagine using upwards of 7,000 bulbs, hundreds of meters of wires and a completely mechanical switching mechanism), a lot of things can really happen on the day of the competition.
2011 Ligligan Parul - Sta Lucia 11
Sta. Lucia emerged as the repeat champion
2011 Ligligan Parul - San Jose 6
Runner-up Brgy. San Jose
For this year's edition, the favorite (mine and the crowd's) was clear-cut from round one -- defending champion Sta. Lucia.  From the outset, the barangay obviously spent thousands of hours in preparing to defend their title with a lantern that looked beautiful even while unlit, a light sequence that dazzled from start to finish, and a great choice of fast-paced music that didn't bore at all.  

My other favorites were the entries from Brgys. Telebastagan and Calulut.  While we weren't able to finish the evening program as we had to rush back to Manila via public transport and hopefully avoid being further gridlocked by rain-induced traffic everywhere, we weren't surprised to find out later that Sta. Lucia deservedly won first place.  Second went to Brgy. San Jose and third to Brgy. Del Carmen.  For their efforts alone, all the barangays were winners.
2011 Ligligan Parul - Calulut 8
Another one of my favorites -- the entry from Brgy. Calulut
2011 Ligligan Parul - Del Carmen 6
2nd Placer Brgy. Del Carmen
Finding somewhere to eat at 10 in the evening was a challenge as the malls were jampacked with revelers who were thinking the same thing as we did -- get out of the venue right after the three rounds of judging.  Going home to Manila was an even bigger challenge as getting out of the intersection to the highway took like 20-25 minutes and traffic slowed down to a crawl from Balintawak to Kammuning.  But it was fun and worth the trip to once more see the giant stars descend on Pampanga for the Christmas season.  

At a day and age when everything seems to have that high-tech gloss and are push-button-ready, it's good to know that some things and traditions remain the same -- including the hand-made stars that showcase the Kapampangans' talent for handcrafting and dazzle the human imagination.

Pampanga Giant Lantern Festival Brgy. Sto. Niño Parol PatternsInfo:  The Ligligan Parul 2011 opened last Dec. 17 at the Robinsons Starmills Mall in San Fernando, Pampanga.  The giant lanterns will be on exhibit until Dec. 22 and again from Dec. 25 to January 3. To go there via commute: ride the bus headed for Olongapo (we rode the Bataan Transit bus which stops at the SM City Pampanga, P102, 1 1/2 hours travel time)

• See more of my giant lantern images here.
• Related reading:  Pampanga Giant Lantern Festival 2009: Celebrating 100 years of Parol Making



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