THE LANTERNS are on, all is well, exceedingly well in the City of San Fernando.
Their sparkle of light bedazzling, bewitching, not the least blinding the eye long jaundiced by city blights.
That uplifting feeling they invariably evoked, enough to forgive the city government and to forget, if only for the season, the contradictions between appealing praise releases and appalling street realities, to wit: the city acclaimed as “zero waste champion” amid the heaps of garbage, unsorted and unsegregated, dumped on electric posts; the city hailed as “most-child friendly” while bedraggled children roam the streets to beg; the elderly declared by hizzoner himself as pampered “senior-itos y senior-itas” even as the city streets have not been exactly spared of the sight of them in material want and mental poverty…Aww, why be glum?
‘Tis the season to be jolly, the city has donned its gay apparel, so shall we now sing tra-la-la-lanterns.
Nothing, absolutely nothing gives as much pride and glory to Pampanga’s capital city as the Parul Sampernandu. Oh, that thrill at every recalling…
From its rustic origins, the parul has gone around the world to universal acclaim.
In 1992, it was the toast at the World Expo in Spain. Its kaleidoscope of dancing lights and colors rousing Vivas! and Oles! from the dons and doñas of the Iberian Peninsula.
In 1993, the parul conquered Hollywood, holding its own stellar billing in Tinseltown already bedazzled by Liam Neeson in Schindler’s List, Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington in Philadelphia, Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire, and the very young Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio in their breakout film What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Some performance worthy of an Oscar for the parul there.
In Austria, it added up to the magnificence of the Stadtturm in Innsbruck; permeated the Rathausplatz Christkindlmarkt in Vienna with the Filipino spirit of Christmas; and became an object of curious wonder at the Ethnology Museum also in Vienna.
It brought Yuletide joy to the Lord Mayor’s House in Dublin, Ireland. It was the star of hope, love and joy that welcomed homesick Filipinos to the Good Shepherd Cathedral in Singapore.
It has become the seasonal motif, indeed the distinguishing seal, in Philippine embassies and consulates in Canada, Russia, Poland, Thailand, Malaysia and the United States. Not to mention in war-torn Iraq, at the time of charge d’ affaires Elmer Cato, and now this Yule season in war-zone Libya, again with the Kapampangan diplomat there.
In New York, it mesmerized the cosmopolitan crowd of Fifth Avenue when it was exhibited at the Philippine Center.
In San Francisco, it became one unifying factor for Fil-Ams when it was displayed at the main entrance of the St. Patrick’s Church, through the initiative of lantern-maker Robert David, even as it spawned a Ligligan Parul around the SoMa area, initiated by community organizer MC Canlas, a native of San Fernando.
In 2013, it made history as the first-ever Asian (outside China) entry in the exclusivist and revered Xiamen Lantern Festival.
That same year too, it drew crowds to the 2nd Annual Parol Festival in Honolulu, Hawaii where Vice Mayor Jimmy Lazatin defined the “message of hope that the lanterns of San Fernando bring to Filipinos here and abroad.”
Last year, it lighted up in spectacular hues the sacred walls of Jerusalem during the Festival of Lights in the Holy Land.
As it has gone all around the globe, so it has all over the country too, from the main avenues of Davao City to Manila’s Roxas Boulevard to the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Thanks to the Gokongwei’s Robinsons mall, to Iloilo, Bacolod, and again Manila.
It has put the City of San Fernando in the world map as, in the words of CNN, “Asia’s Christmas capital,” after a broadcast of the Giant Lantern Festival.
Every Fernando beams with pride, joy, and glory at the Parul Sampernandu.
Sadly, so sadly, amid the “innovations” in the designs and materials “modern technology” has brought to lantern-making, the Parul Sampernandu has become an endangered species.
Lose it and we lose not only the cultural icon that is our source of pride and joy, but moreso, the City of San Fernando is deprived of its very soul.