giant lantern festival
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Giant Lantern Festival: Pampanga’s Wonder

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  • Post last modified:December 12, 2022
  • Reading time:22 mins read

You can’t think of Christmas in the Philippines without the parol (star lantern), so in light of the most beloved holidays in the Philippines, we’ll walk you through the beautiful Giant Lanter Festival in Pampanga.

San Fernando City and its signature Parul Sampernandu (Christmas Lantern) always come hand in hand. Seriously, you just can’t separate the two. They’re like two peas in a pod. The butter to the toast. You get it. 

Without further ado, this post outlines everything you need to know about the famous Giant Lantern Festival. 

Giant Lantern Festival Description

giant lantern festival description
Source: rjdexplorer

Locals and tourists adore the Giant Lantern Festival in Pampanga; an annual event celebrated on the Saturday before Christmas Eve. 

As the name implies, the event features giant lanterns at the show’s start. The event’s popularity earned San Fernando the title “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” 

Honestly, it’s almost impossible to think of a more iconic Christmas decoration. The vibrant, handcrafted parol (star lantern) beams with holiday cheer.

Quick trivia: the term “parol” came from the Spanish word “farol,” which means “light” or “lantern.” 

Filipinos see the light as the essence of Christmas. For them, the star that guided the wise men to the birthplace of Jesus Christs resembles hope and salvation. This fount of light and sign of hope in the predominantly Christian country never wavered over the years. 

In general, the parol serves as the hallmark of the Christmas spirit. Filipinos celebrate Christmas by hanging traditional parols, usually in the form of a five-pointed, star-shaped lantern.

Additionally, this Filipino Christmas symbol is colorful, crafted with love, and glows with the spirit of Christmas. But the Giant Christmas Lantern or Parul Sampernandu in Kapampangan takes parols to a new level. 

You just can’t separate the Giant Christmas Lantern from the town which created it, the City of San Fernando. It made the city famous all over the country and eventually the globe. 

Giant Lantern Festival in Pampanga Origin

giant lantern festival origin
Source: Medium

The Kapampangan locals or natives call the Giant Lantern Festival in Pampanga “Ligligan Parul.”

Moreover, the century-old festival in the Philippines started in 1904. However, the old locals believed, and as far as they can recall, the event began in 1908. But it was introduced in 1904, so most books say the festival started that year.

The first Giant Lantern Festival in Pampanga honored the then-Philippine President, Manuel L. Quezon. President Quezon converted and opened the famous Mount Arayat National Park during that time. 

This made tourism in the city blossom. Tourists started coming in, and papers began writing about the place. Aside from this, the celebration also started as a religious activity called the Lubenas or Novena.

However, the first event was done in Bacolor. It was later transferred to San Fernando, Pampanga. 

Nowadays, the festival celebrates the Christmas spirit through enormous lanterns designed with different colors and lights. You’ll see the city sparkling with different colors during the night during the event, thanks to the beautiful lanterns. 

Giant Lantern Festival in Pampanga History

giant lantern festival history
Source: Karla Around the World

Now that we know how the festival started, let’s dive into how the lanterns evolve, shall we?

In the past, local people made and used 2-foot-diameter lanterns. But as the annual event improved, so did the lanterns. After all, they’re the centerpiece of the event.

So as time passed by, the said decorations became bigger and bigger. They also had more lights. Interestingly, these lanterns now contain rotors that allow the lights to move. 

Additionally, the lanterns now measure at least 15 feet in diameter. That size is five times larger than the original size. Up to this date, people make bigger and bigger lanterns. At some point, the city even held the world’s largest Christmas lantern record.

Moreover, lantern makers prepare for months for the competition. As the main event, the competition shows the creativity and resourcefulness of the locals. 

Some even use recyclable materials from their previous designs. Meanwhile, others continue to improve their models and designs. Others start from scratch.

Interestingly, some lantern makers don’t even think about the cash prize. They want to create massive, unique lanterns they could be proud of. Meanwhile, others just want glory, fame, and bragging rights.

However, back in the day, the Giant Lantern Festival in Pampanga wasn’t that bright and vibrant at all. San Fernando didn’t have electricity when the festival started. According to old locals, the event used to take place in the afternoon so people could see the intricate designs. 

But when the city got electricity in 1931, lantern makers started putting lights in their parols. Eventually, the event took place in the evening. 

This way, people appreciate the lanterns more. It finally served its original purpose: to provide light in the dark.

What Are the Lanterns Made Of?

The giant lanterns are usually made of bamboo and Japanese paper. Makers have been using these basic materials for decades. 

While a 5-pointed star is the most common shape, other parols come in circles and squares. However, modern parols include metal, plastic, capiz shells, and Christmas lights. More advanced versions include LED lights. 

Called Parul Sampernandu, these advanced versions use steel frames instead of bamboo. The makers then line the steel frame with foil and cardboard. 

After this, they have to install more than 5,000 light bulbs. They have to put them in proper places and wire them together with over 100 yards of electrical wire.

The makers then assemble the rotors to regulate the lights. Unlike hand-controlled switches, the rotors automatically make the lights flicker. 

In particular, the makers use sequences using tape on these rotors. They then connect the rotor to the lights and use pins to connect each wire end to each bulb. 

Must-Try Food in Pampanga

Are you excited about one of the biggest Christmas festivals in the country? Don’t just delight your eyes. Take care of your tummy as well.

Here are the food you must try in Pampanga: 



While common all around the Philippines, Pampanga’s sisig hits differently. Unlike the traditional sisig, Pampanga’s sisig contains different pig parts. These include the head, liver, and sometimes skin. 

One of the most beloved Kapampangan dishes, sisig became more famous in the world. Plus, if you didn’t eat the real Kapampangan sisig, you can’t say you’ve been to Pampanga.


Source: Facebook

In Pampanga, buro or balo-balo refers to fermented rice combined with shrimp or fish. 

Some people don’t like eating buro, mainly because of its unpleasant sight and smell. However, when paired with other dishes, buro enhances its flavor. 

When you get over the smell of fermented rice, you’ll realize how delicious buro is. You can also serve it with fried catfish, mustard greens, and boiled vegetables (okra, eggplant, etc.). 

3.Betute and Camaru 

cetute and camaru 
Source: Twitter

Get ready for this delicacy because of how unique it is. And by unique, we mean rare-yet-a-must-try unique. 

The butete (stuffed frog) and camaru (crickets) are among the most common animals in Pampanga’s rice fields. So, they end up on the locals’ plates. But before you skip this dish, hear us out. 

While considered unusual or bizarre, locals love them. While the French frequently eats frog legs, the Kapampangan people prefer to consume their frogs whole. These frogs get packed with grounded pork. Then, the cooks deep-fry them the right way

Moreover, while some people shudder at eating insects, Kapampangans also adore their camaru—crickets cooked in the adobo style. These meals are an absolute must-try if you want to enjoy unusual Kapampangan cuisine.

4.Bulanglang Kapampangan (Guava Sour Soup) 

guava sour soup
Source: YouTube

Although this dish looks like a traditional pork sinigang or sinigang na baboy, it tastes and smells differently. 

Bulanglang gets its sweet and sour flavor from the local guava. On the other hand, sinigang gets its sourness from the tamarind used in the broth. The dish usually includes milkfish belly, ulang or freshwater prawns, and pork. In some versions of the dish, people add bagoong (shrimp paste), patis (fish sauce), or soy sauce to make the soup thicker.

5.Tocino (Pindang) 


A mainstay of Filipino breakfast food, Pampanga’s tocino is one of the best. They’re so delicious that they’re now sold in supermarkets in the country. 

If you’ve never heard of this meal, tocino refers to processed pork meat. When cooked, it tastes sweet and salty. It also goes well with rice and a sunny-side-up egg on the side. 

Despite the fact that this product is sold all over the country, you should not pass up the opportunity to try the unique Kapampangan tocino. This dish is exclusively sold in the province.

Also known as “Pindang Damulag,” this one features thinly sliced carabao meat cured with vinegar and herbs.  Pindang has a sour flavor as opposed to the sweet tocino we love.

But when combined with a cup of rice and some sliced tomatoes on the side, you’ll undoubtedly experience a taste that’s exclusively Kapampangan.


Source: Pinterest

The beloved Murcon refers to a dish similar to an embutido or meatloaf. Yet, it features a slightly different flavor and texture.

The meat roll from Pampanga features stuffed chorizo, hard-boiled eggs, carrots, and quezo de bola. This gives it a richer flavor, making it ideal for a cup of steaming rice.


Source: namnamtheclumsychef

Along with their main courses, Kapampangans love their desserts. 

Tibuk-tibuk refers to a dessert you should try if you’re in Pampanga. Just like Maja Blanca, this one uses milk. 

But instead of coconut milk, tib-tibuk uses carabao’s milk, a smidgen of dayap zest (local lemon), and latik on top. 

Tibuk-tibuk or tibok translates to “heart beat,.” It refers to the bubbles that pulse up and down (like a beating heart) when the pudding cooks. So, if you want to taste creamy tibuk-tibuk that melts in your mouth and tastes like heaven, head to Pampanga. 

8. Halo-Halo


Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy two of the area’s well-known halo-halo eateries: Razon’s Halo-Halo and Kabigting’s Halo-Halo.

The local halo-halo scene considers these two names to be royalty. Unlike the traditional summer dessert, these places use fewer ingredients. It sets them apart from many places. 

In particular, Razon’s only use three ingredients: macapuno, leche flan with dayap rind, and sun-ripened saging na saba (sweetened local banana). They then top them with finely shaved ice. 

On the other hand, Kabigting’s Halo-Halo uses more ingredients. These include cream corn, sweet beans, and pastillas from carabao milk.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the Giant Lantern Festival celebrated?

The Giant Lantern Festival is celebrated because the province wants to honor President Manuel Quezon. They honored the first family by displaying Christmas lanterns that symbolize hope and salvation. 

Where in Pampanga is the lantern festival?

The lantern festival in Pampanga is celebrated in the City of San Fernando. Often referred to as “The Christmas Capital of the Philippines,” San Fernando holds the Giant Lantern Festival, or Ligligan Parul, each year in December.

How is Giant Lantern Festival celebrated?

The Giant Lantern Festival celebrates Christmas by making huge lanterns designed with different lights and colors. You’ll see moving lanterns adorned with different materials and lights during the festival at night.

Is giant lantern a religious festival?

Yes, the Giant Lantern Festival is a religious festival. It came from what we know today as “lubenas,” a nine-day novena before Christmas. It coincides with the “simbang gabi” from December 16 to 24. The Christmas tradition evolved as the lanterns became more prominent and the designs more complex.

What is the importance of giant lantern of Pampanga?

The importance of the giant lantern of Pampanga is the hope it brings to the people. The light from the star-shaped parols symbolizes the star that guided the three wise men to Jesus. 

Why is San Fernando Pampanga famous?

San Fernando, Pampanga, is famous as the birthplace of the labor movement in the Philippines. In 1872, the first organized strike for plant foremen was staged by a guild of printers from the government press in San Fernando. 


Have you experienced watching the Giant Lantern Festival live in San Fernando, Pampanga? If not, this is your time to check it out. Happy holidays! 


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