Sights, Sounds, & Scenes of the Season
Dec 01,2013 0 Comments
Must-See Feasts for the Senses this Christmas
The holidays are upon us once more, and among the most enjoyable things to do this time of the year is take in the fabulous sights and sounds that pop up only during this magical period. Filipinos are known to have the longest Christmas season, and along with shopping for presents, decorating homes, and preparing luscious Yuletide fare, spending quality time with family and friends is what the holidays are truly all about. There is certainly no shortage of places and events to see with loved ones this Christmas. Here are some that top our list of the biggest and brightest to awe the senses.
PAMPANGA’S GIANT LANTERN FESTIVAL
Each December, the city of San Fernando in Pampanga lights up with stunning and brightly colored lanterns or parols in ever-increasing sizes, thanks to the Giant Lantern Festival or “Ligligan Parol”. Though the annual event began in 1931 with the arrival of electricity in San Fernando, its roots actually date back as far as the early 1900s.
Some say the tradition came to San Fernando at the same time the provincial capital moved there from Bacolor in 1904. However, others claim that “Ligligan Parol” only began in 1908, when Francisco Estanislao created huge lanterns from bamboo and coco cloth for the Christmas Eve procession to the cathedral.
The Giant Lantern Festival appears to have evolved from a religious activity called “lubenas”. Lanterns made of bamboo and other locally available materials were created in the barrios and paraded around each barrio during the nine-day novena from December 16 to the 24th. These were then brought to the town church before the midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Back then, the lanterns were only around two feet in diameter. Over time, these grew bigger and more elaborate until eventually, one giant lantern was produced per barrio. In 1931, when electricity came to the city, parol makers were able to add dancing lights to their designs, thus giving birth to the festival, as it is known today. “Ligligan Parol” was first conceived to express the city’s gratitude to President Manuel L. Quezon, who had made Arayat his rest area, and converted Mount Arayat into a tourist resort. The lantern festival has been held to honor him and his family since then.
Today, parols created for the yearly competition sometimes reach 40 feet in diameter, and come in various shapes and forms. Bamboo frames have given way to steel ones, and the traditional papel de hapon has been replaced with colored plastic, then fiberglass and handmade paper.
Held on the Saturday before Christmas Eve, this year’s festival begins December 14, with the city embarking on its 100-day countdown on September 5.
“We want to end 2013 with lots of thanksgiving and welcome 2014 with lots of hope,” Mayor Edwin Santiago told the Philippine Daily Inquirer during the kickoff (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/482957/pampanga-capital-starts-countdown-to-giant-lantern-fest). “This festival is a constant reminder of the Fernandinos’ exceptional tradition, creativity and ingenuity.” Robinsons Land, which is hosting the festival for the sixth year, gave Php 2.268 million at the launch to fund this year’s event and support the 12 villages in competition.
MERALCO LIWANAG PARK
If San Fernando is the Christmas Capital of the Philippines thanks to its Giant Lantern Festival, the Meralco compound in Ortigas becomes a field of lights for the holidays, with its now-famous Liwanag Park, open free to the public. Illuminated displays made of scrap copper wire dot the sprawling grounds beside Corinthian Garden from late November to early January, offering motorists along Ortigas Avenue an ethereal spectacle during the Christmas season. Among the structures in the park are houses, school buildings, and a church, which visitors can actually enter and have souvenir photographs taken while they peek through doors and windows. There is also a nativity scene with gargantuan figures of Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus, as well as more scaled-down renditions of the three wise men. There are also more whimsical attractions such as a mini train ride, the Toy Town, and Yuletide displays such as the giant Christmas Tree and Santa Claus.
Last year, the Liwanag Park was officially opened on November 20 and ran daily from 6-10pm until January 6th of this year. The park is part of Meralco’s larger “Maliwanag ang Pasko” platform started in 2006, which aims to encourage its customers to light up and decorate their homes and establishments, for a chance to win prizes while helping underprivileged children. Together with the Department of Tourism (DOT), Meralco also set up other Liwanag Parks in various places, providing the designated cities and municipalities with a starter kit complete with a giant parol and 500 boxes of Christmas lights. The public was invited to take photos of their lighted homes, or of any of the Liwanag Parks, then upload these on Meralco’s Facebook page. Each entry helped contribute to Meralco’s program of energizing public schools in Bohol, Quezon, Palawan, and Dinagat Islands.
AYALA TRIANGLE LIGHT AND SOUND SHOW
Another increasingly popular event is the amazing light and sound show that draws more and more visitors to the Ayala Triangle each holiday season. For the past four years, the commercial and business district of Makati has been home to this spectacular showcase that combines stunning light choreography with different musical themes. One year it was set to a selection of well-loved international Yuletide carols; another, against favorite Tagalog Christmas tunes. Millions of lights strewn across the grass, over plants, but mostly hung from trees all around the park are switched on and off in sections and carefully arranged sequence, according to the accompanying music bed. The result is a mesmerizing performance that lasts anywhere from 12-18 minutes. Laser light displays injected at various points further amp up the already magnificent production.
Last year, the light and sound show formally opened on November 16, and ran daily every half hour from 6-9pm, until the 30th of December. Created by award-winning lighting designer, Voltaire de Jesus, last year’s concept made use of cyber spheres, meteor lights, lasers, flash pods, and intelligent lights.
“Aside from using more lights, I also added more movement, with the laser effects and orchestrated color changes, which I hope will be a crowd-drawer as well,”
De Jesus said.
Liquid Post’s Jazz Nicolas and Mikey Amistoso, in charge of the accompanying soundtrack, also had to improve upon their output from previous years.
“We had to top what we did last year,” the two admitted.
This year’s edition, which features over 800,000 colored LED bulbs on 45,000 meters of cabling, kicked off November 20 and will run until January 5, 2014. In solidarity with local and international efforts to help victims of typhoon Yolanda, donation boxes will be placed around the Ayala Triangle Gardens, as well as the Tower One & Exchange Plaza fountain, for people who may wish to give monetary assistance of any amount.