Christmas Lantern Brightens The Philippine’s Holiday Season

The tradition of the Christmas lantern goes back before 1908 that few Filipinos knew about

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George Buid
George Buidhttp://www.georgebuid.com/
An independent photojournalist of the Philippines capturing life as it passes by. He contributes to different news outlet and press publications.

PHILIPPINES. Metro Manila: The holiday season begins when people see the Philippine Christmas lantern or parol hanged outside the windows, doors, street posts, and everywhere in the Philippines. It represents the star that guided the three Wise Men to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Now, artisans and artists creatively craft the star-shaped lantern into different sizes and forms.

Filipinos hang these parols a few months before Christmas. People in the Philippines anticipate Christmas earlier than most countries in the world. However, few Filipinos know the history of the Christmas lantern and its tradition.

The history of the parol.

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Augustinian friars introduce the practice of Hispanic Christian procession in the country in the 16th century that people carry a light source. The townspeople hang lanterns, made from Japanese paper and bamboo sticks, to light the nine-day Christmas Novena procession that reenacts the biblical scene of Joseph and the pregnant Virgin Mary searching for a place to stay. Thus, the word parol got adopted from the Spanish word ‘farol’ is now associated with the Christmas lantern.

Francísco Estanislao, an artisan from Pampanga, crafted the Christmas lantern into the star-shaped in 1908 that defined the parol today. The lantern gives lights with a candle or carbide lamp inside this structure made of bamboo strips and Japanese papers. Now, Filipino artisans earn a living as parol-makers.

A happy parol-maker enjoys crafting a Christmas lantern in Las Piñas City on 11 Nov. 2020. / Photo Credit: George Buid

Parol-makers keep the tradition alive.

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Parol-makers craft the Christmas lantern into a more creative form or shape. Now, they use different mediums and materials to build modern parol. Yet, they kept the familiar star-shape of the parol to maintained the Christmas tradition.

The most colorful or massive size parols attract more Filipino buyers. Parol-makers gain more profit with the most creative design of the Christmas lantern. However, the industry became a financial casualty when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

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Roger Cuevas, a parol-maker in Las Piñas City, keeps the industry alive amid the pandemic. Only a few customers go out that are brave enough to buy a parol for their homes. So, he shares to Transcontinental Times his experience as a parol-makers with lips stretched ear to ear and the white teeth showing.

He happily said, “I make parols since 1963 as a kid. However, we use Japanese paper and bamboo sticks. Now, my children make Christmas lanterns covered with plastic for three years.”

Roger Cuevas happily shares his story of making Christmas lanterns as a young boy in Las Piñas City on 11 Nov. 2020. / Photo Credit: George Buid

A creative dress the Christmas lantern with a barong.

Jodinand Aguillon, a Filipino-Canadian creative, turned the Christmas lantern more Filipino with a traditional Filipino vintage cloth. He used a piece of old barong Tagalog, a traditional Filipino clothing, wrapped around the parol. Thus, its creativeness caught the eyes of people from social media that Transcontinental Times asks his inspiration.

(Left) Pieces of vintage barong used for a Christmas lantern and (Right) round ornaments. / Photo credit: Jodinand Aguillon

He said, “ Most barongs spend most of their lives hidden in the closets. So,  this is a simple way to bring them out into our every day [as a parol].”He adds, “I leave certain vintage barongs as is if it’s still or wearable or too precious to upcycle. I try my best to salvage parts of the ones that are beyond repair. So, I turn them into earrings, pinafores, wall decor, or sometimes a Christmas lantern.“

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