Parol (Christmas Lantern) Festival

Pampanga Travel Blog

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St Peter's Church in Apalit
Again, I returned to Pampanga to witness yet another festival that is truly Kapampangan and Filipino icon. That is the tradition of Giant Christmas Lanterns.

The festival was at the night of the 20th but my friends decided to go there early to visit several churches like Betis Church, Bacolor, Minalin and Apalit. Leaving so early was the hardest part, I stayed late the Friday before that to meet up with Lauro (aka Larry), Isabetlog and I_am_dennis. We had a fun meetup, very unusual and it was just too weird.

Having only two hours of sleep and being awaken by a very excited voice of my sister, it was not the best way to wake up in a morning. My downward spiral started there.
Interior of St Peter's Church
It was my first time to feel wasted without any aid of alcohol or marlborong gubat. Our meeting place was in McDonalds in Ortigas area, I had my breakfast there with my friends who can't stop talking without a pause and laughing out their lungs out. Geez, too early for me to be happy. This was already 10:00 AM.

Then, we started with our trip. It took us about two hours to reach our first stop: Church of St Peter in Apalit, Pampanga. This is another old spanish church which underwent with renovations thus losing the original look of the church. This was built during the 18th century but with the new finish, it looks like it was built only two decades ago. The ceiling paintings is still a visual sensation but after seeing few churches, this one nothing but ordinary.
Sta. Monica Church in Minalin
I am half-hearted with my observations here, could the reason why I didn't enjoy the sights was because i was wasted to start with? The church has a very distinct twin towers and the murals are really good. Why on earth can't I appreciate it? What's wrong with me? :)

Back to the car, our next stop would be another church: Sta. Monica Church in Minalin. This is another baroque old spanish church in Pampanga. The original finish started to get peeled thus revealing an old rose bricks, giving the church a very old feel. Another notable thing with the church is the the whole church is partially buried (about a meter or so high) due to the volcanic debris from the powerful eruption of Mt Pinatubo in 1991. The front door was been reduced to smaller door, the passage paths from the church to the connected building has been reduced to shoulder length thus requiring people who passes through it to bow.
Wood carving in Minalin Church
Nonetheless, the church has preserven its charm, the dark wood ceiling, the ritablo (altar) is very pretty. My sister was with me on this trip and she said that she wants to tie a knot on this church. Her problem is finding the man to tie a knot with. Hehehe

The Minalin church has a good collection of old art pieces. I was amused with the old map of Pampanga painted on the wall. The painting itself is already on its advanced stage of deterioration, only a  portion of it has been preserved. Also, there's a wood carving of the church and its people. The museum (if that's what its being called) is located on the second floor. The architectural features like the beams are truly an old baroque, a style that is found only in the baroque churches of the Philippines.
Some pottery in Sto Tomas


Heading to our third stop, since the shortcut to the third church was already eaten by Lahar during the Pinatubo eruption and needing 4x4 to traverse it, we took the long route via San Fernando, the capital city of Pampanga. We passed by Sto Tomas town where pottery is a way of living. For a kilometer stretch, we saw shops selling pottery. We decided to visit one shop and the prices of the pots were really cheap. A collection of three jars only costs 1,000 PHP (20 USD) here as opposed to the price in Manila where one jar would cost that amount already. We took note of this town thinking that we would be hoarding some jars when we return there. I want some pottery for my garden, just that I still yet to buy that garden and the money for my garden is yet to be earned.
St James Church of Betis
Teehehehe.

It was already way pass our lunch time and our bodies were telling us that we need to eat our lunch already. Knowing the expression that a hungry woman is an angry woman, we opted to get some street food, we had some chicarong baboy (crispy pork skin). All of us were already hungry, we the 5 of us on this trip - using the wit of Betlog - according to God, 2 are boys and 3 are girls but in reality we are all sisters. :)

Finally we reach the third stop: St James Church of Betis, Guagua, Pampanga. However before going there, my friend has to talk to some furniture maker for their Lenten Cart for their "santo". After staying some time and my friend has not finished his business in that shop, I decided to walk alone to the church which is about 500 meters away.
The ceiling of Betis Church
Hungry and it was already noontime, I took some pictures of the facade of the church but I didn't go inside yet because a wedding was just about to start and the bride was still outside waiting for her music to start. After few minutes, my friends arrived and we all went in. The wall and ceiling paintings of this church is like no other in all the churches I saw here in the Philippines. I have to check it myself how this church was dubbed by art enthusiasts as the "Sistine Chapel of the philippines". And I was not disappointed at all. I went there before during night time in one of my visita iglesia and was not able to appreciate its beauty. This time, I saw why this church is special. The whole interior has been a collaboration of different famous artists during the 19th century.
Bacolor Church
I was glad the paintings and sculptures are all well-preserved and was not devastated by Mt Pinatubo lahar.

Unto the last church before we went to our resting place, we visited San Guillermo Church in Bacolor. This town used to be the capital of the Philippines and it was just too sad that most old houses and this church had experienced the full spite of the eruption of Mt PInatubo in 1991. My friend whose father came from this town showed us the former location of their ancestral house, nothing was left except for the memories of this place by the people who hold it dear. This town was taken by suprised one night when the lahar (volcanic debris) flowed through this town mixed with rain water, the lahar was an inevitable death sentence to the town, hundreds died and left thousands homeless.
Interior of Bacolor church
I remembered one time when I was still in the seminary where we delivered some relief goods to this town. All I saw was death and poverty engulfing this place. Revisiting after few years, I was glad to see how this town literally has risen from the ashes like a phoenix. This place is now considered as the "Pompeii of the Philippines".

The church itself is now a living museum of the wrath of Mt Pinatubo and a reminder to us how insignificant to us human to the power of nature. The entrance of the church now used to be the original choir loft, the ceiling has been removed to give more space to the church, beams are still visible until now. The original altar, as I gathered has been excavated and preserved and now it has been returned to it's original form. Next to the church is a small museum with pictures of the Pinatubo effect and some old pictures.
My first visit there was on a night time, it felt really creepy and there was just a very high level of uneasiness. I returned again this time on a day time, I still felt the same.

It was already around 5 PM when we reached our friend's place in Sta Ana. We were all starving when we reached their place. Good thing our all time favorite foods are served - dinuguan and kilayin plus liempo! Sarap. :) After eating, we decided to rest, we all slept right after eating. The festival would start at around 8 PM. My friend's mother has to wake us up around 7:30 PM for the parade. If she didn't wake us up, it would have been an upset to all of us. We travelled this far just to sleep. :)

Around 8PM we arrived at the mall where the Lantern Parade would be held.
I have heard about this festival since I was a kid but I never had a chance before to witnessed this festival and validate why this town was dubbed as the "Christmas Capital of the Philippines". As we arrived at the venue, I saw 9 huge lanterns unlit. We were able to squeeze ourselves through a very thick crowd and was able to settle at the middle, with enough space and air to keep us comfortable. As the hosts of the festival asked for the lights around to be turned off, the excitement among the crown has risen. The the first of the 9 competing parol started its individual presentation. I was really on the verge of tears seeing the playful display of colors and lights with the magnitude of the size these lanterns and their intricate designs. There was just too much drama and seeing these parols signaled me that Christmas has finally arrived on me.
As the 9 parols did their individual presentation with different themes, some went cultural while playing some Kapampangan Christmas songs, some went disco with the 80's music, some went house, so went pop. Regardless of the music, I got so much engaged with each presentation. After the round where all parols were lighted, we decided to leave the venue for us not to be stuck with the heavy traffic inevitable with the huge populace watching, but before we left, we enjoyed some fish balls and kikiam sold along the dark streets.

We headed back home and just waited in the internet which parol won. To our dismay, our favorite San Pedro lost. But it's okay, all 9 parols are really deserving, the winner was really depending on the judge's taste. We want the techincal, the most colorful and the most consistent.
The judges went for drama with the winning parol incorporated "World Peace" and all the drama in their presentation. They even had white balloons and white doves. So much drama for me. :)

Anyway, we had nice sleep that night, then left after breakfast but going first to Kabigtin in Arayat for a very good Halohalo to send as off to the road back to Manila.
planisphere says:
hahaha may sama ka ba ng loob? shempre i don't write about getting wasted. so no one will notice. hahaa joke. :)
Posted on: Dec 30, 2008
aoisoba says:
i can't believe this piece gone unnoticed! Just when you get a proper , profound entry no one will look at it
Posted on: Dec 30, 2008
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St Peters Church in Apalit
St Peter's Church in Apalit
Interior of St Peters Church
Interior of St Peter's Church
Sta. Monica Church in Minalin
Sta. Monica Church in Minalin
Wood carving in Minalin Church
Wood carving in Minalin Church
Some pottery in Sto Tomas
Some pottery in Sto Tomas
St James Church of Betis
St James Church of Betis
The ceiling of Betis Church
The ceiling of Betis Church
Bacolor Church
Bacolor Church
Interior of Bacolor church
Interior of Bacolor church
Pampanga Sights & Attractions review
Colorful Lantern Parade
CHRISTMAS CAPITAL OF THE PHILIPPINES: THE STORY BEHIND THE GIANT LANTERNS Of The City of SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga by Ivan Anthony S. Henares … read entire review
Pampanga
photo by: NickDeJesu