I try not to travel around during the holiday seasons as the vehicular and human traffic is horrendous at this time of the year. But I decided to make an exception on the 17th of December 2011 to witness this year’s Ligligan Parul 2011 or the Giant Lantern Festival in San Fernando, Pampanga. It’s a grand annual lights and music spectacle featuring the Filipino’s traditional Parol (Christmas Lantern) showcased in a gigantic scale. This year, 10 baranggays (villages) take turns to display their sophisticated light design display on their Giant Lanterns in-sync with their choice of music to give us audiences a feast to our senses.
It is the 102nd year of celebrating the Ligligan Parul Festival. For the sake of not repeating myself about the background of its tradition and intricacies of creating these giant lanterns, I recommend reading my old posts about my Ligligan Parul 2009 visit.
We braved the traffic going to Pampanga from Manila, riding the Five Star Bus to Olongapo with a stop at SM Pampanga. The ride took longer than the usual 1 ½ hour since there was an accident at NLEX. But we did make it by 4pm at SM Pampanga where the spill-off crowd from Robinsons Starmills Mall lingered throughout the day. It was enough time to snack, prepare and survey the area on where’s a good place to shoot.
I thought this year’s event was better organized. We were able to get our media passes easily. The festival ground was well enclosed for those who bought a shirts or a bags that includes tickets but still open to the public beyond the fenced area. The shaky media platform though was ill-placed though making us move closer on the main ground instead. There were also lesser pleasantries at the start and the program started promptly. There are still some areas to improve on but shooting this time was easy and stress-free unlike 2009.
Even with the impending rain, the show continued with each village trying to outshine each other with their 7-minute program. There were three rounds, first the individual, then the groups and finally all of them at the same time. The stand out for me was last year’s champion, Sta Lucia with its modern choice of music with appropriate beat going along the multitude yet awe-inspiring patterns and colors that left the crowd cheering on each sequence.
The others also have its moment’s like Talabastagan’s strong start with its powerful display but a bit of a mismatch with the music. First time to join, Calulot’s visual imagery was an eye catcher. San Juan Nepumoceno’s has an amusing mechanicaly-animated unveiling of the Belen at the center but a few dim lights on its middle would give a penalty on their performane. But there were also some so-so presentations like Dolores had a slow build up that didn’t really have good highlights. San Pedro played on the strength of 12 days of Christmas to build up its display but was a bit short on visual delivery. Sto Nino unfortunately had technical problems begging off during the final round.
In the end Sta Lucia retained its championship title with a great combination of visual surprise and music. San Jose followed second with its great visual line beams at the center and strong music too. Del Carmen placed third with its beautiful sweeping pattern toward the end of the circle and also some strong visual elements.
Going home from the event was a bit of a challenge. Luckily we found Saulog Trans Bus on its way to Manila passing by SM Pampanga. I had to stand in the aisle until Balintawak, fortunately, traffic was better that night at NLEX. But I didn’t mind since I enjoyed that this year’s spectacle.
The Giant Lantern Exhibit will be on display from Dec 18-21 then Dec 25-Jan 3 2012 with the performance every 7pm at Robinsons Starmills Mall Pampanga. For more Photos of Ligligan Parul 2011, head to my SmugMug Gallery.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.