Festive, rich, and resilient are words that best describe the time-tested tradition and culture of Kapampangans that are all reflected in two of their biggest Christmas festivals, namely the Sinukwan and the Giant Lantern festivities.
Both vibrant festivals, which showcase the unique Kapampangan culture, are set to unfold and bring cheers this Holiday season at Robinsons Starmills on November 26 to December 3 for Sinukwan Festival; and December 4 to January 1 with December 17 at 6 p.m. as the competition date for the Giant Lantern Festival.
Jim Jimenez, chairman of the Giant Lantern Festival 2016 told InterAksyon in an interview, “The Giant Lantern Festival is the biggest Christmas celebration in the Philippines. It’s very exciting.”
The Giant Lantern Festival, which has a rich history tracing back from more than a hundred years ago, puts into spotlight the creativity and craftsmanship of San Fernando lantern makers who are behind the display of competing 20-foot giant lanterns designed with different colorful patterns illuminated by thousands of light bulbs, and ran through large steel barrels called rotors.
“We’re coming up with more, additional events like the after-party. It’s dedicated to the youth, and we’ll invite the local talents and DJs to party on after the event itself. We have partnerships also with the Department of Education wherein we’ll be inviting high school students and elementary students to do a mini walking tour in barangays where they make the lanterns so they have a sense of pride; they have a sense of ownership on how they make the lanterns; and how to become a Fernandino. Remember, the Giant Lantern is a Kapampangan Fernandino tradition; that’s what makes us unique among other municipalities or cities,” Jimenez added.
Sinkuwan Festival 2016
On the other hand, Michelle Ong, chairperson of the Sinukwan Festival 2016 promised “week-long festivities and cultural immersion” this November at Robinsons Starmills.
“In this year’s Sinukwan Festival, we see to it that there will be activities for all ages, for a fair share exposure to Kapampangan culture,” Ong said.
Some of the activities set to happen are storytelling of Kapampangan fables for kids; Kapampangan hip-hop dance contest for the youth; choir performances featuring Kapampangan music; free movies; fashion show of senior citizens; exhibits, and trade of Kapampangan food.
Jodee Paulette Arroyo, regional operations manager, Robinsons Starmills Pampanga said, “This is the 12th year of Sinukwan Festival in Robinsons Starmills, and the 9th year for the Giant Lantern Festival and every year becomes bigger, better, and grander!”
“Sponsoring these festivals is part of the thrust of Robinsons Land Corporation in promoting the local festivities. We are here to help promote the Parul Fernandino and the Kapampangan fashion, arts, and culture; not only in the City of San Fernando and the Province of Pampanga but throughout the country,” Arroyo added.
The continuous observation of both festivals–done through the public-private partnership between different foundations; the city government of San Fernando, Pampanga; and Robinsons–aim to preserve long held traditions, and attract local and foreign tourists.
“I like to give more focus on the lantern makers. It’s a very strong tradition, it’s been going on for hundred and eight years already. Not only them, I’m also focusing on the tradition and the culture,” Jimenez noted.
“Ang gusto ko talaga is to preserve that, to make the youth aware that it’s there. Ayaw ko na one day we’re going to wake up then wala na. Ngayon habang it’s still very much alive, ‘wag nating pabayaan,” he added.
[What I really want is to preserve that (lantern making), to make the youth aware that it's there. I don't want that one day we're going to wake up and then it's already gone. Now, while it is still very much alive, let us not neglect it.]
This goal is also echoed by the lantern makers themselves. The youngest competitor for this year’s Giant Lantern Festival, and a 5th generation lantern maker, 21 year-old Mark Flores said he continues the practice of lantern-making to preserve the craft.
“Gusto ko po hindi matigil yung tradisyon ng lantern industry, kasi sa tingin ko yung lantern industry malaki po, in demand po siya sa bansa. Malaki po yung kita kapag po natutunan, marami po yung aangat yung buhay,” Flores said.
“Importante yung paggawa ng parol sa amin kasi ito na po yung naging kabuhayan namin. Dito na po kami umunlad. Yung buhay namin naging masagana kaya nagpapasalamat po kami kay God. Sana po hindi po maputol yung tradisyon ng lantern making sa Pampanga tapos para makilala rin po yung Pampanga sa buong mundo,” he added.
["What I want is for the tradition of the lantern industry to continue because from what I see, the lantern industry is big, (and) is in demand in other countries. The earnings are good when one learns about it, and lots of lives can benefit from it.
"Lantern-making is important to us because this has been our bread and butter. This had improved our lives. Our lives have become abundant that's why we are thankful to God. I hope the tradition of lantern making in Pampanga won't end, and for Pampanga to be known throughout the world."
His 46 year-old father, Arnel, has been in he lantern-making business for more than 30 years. He used to sell freshly baked pan de sal in their town. When he was 10 years old, saw his cousin earning money out of lantern-making, he started helping, and eventually learned to do the same business.
Because of his craft, he was able to buy a land and a house when he was 18 years old, and later on, a brand new car. With such achievements, Arnel considers himself blessed, and as an advocacy, he gives back to the community by passing on the knowledge of the craft to the younger ones.
“Unang una, importante sa amin yung tradisyon ng San Fernando. Ayaw naming mawala yung natuto na kami sa parol. Sabi ko, habang buhay na ko hanggang tumanda, ‘di ko gustong mawala yung tradisyon ng San Fernando. Tutulong at tutulong ako,” Arnel said.
“Kasalukuyan po ko nagtuturo ngayon sa Telebastagan kasama po yung Grade 6, 2, and 5. Doon din po ko galing. Nagpaturo din ako. Wag mo kalimutan saan ka nanggaling..Tinuruan ako na walang bayad so bakit ako magututro ng may bayad?” he added.
["First, San Fernando's tradition is important to us. We don't want to lose what we have learned about lantern-making. I said I would do this until I get old. I don't want San Fernando's tradition to be lost. I will help in every way I can.
"Currently, I'm teaching in Telebastagan with Grade 6, 2, and 5. I also started there (being taught). Do not forget where you came from. I was taught for free so why would I teach with a fee?"]
For this year’s festival, both Mark and Arnel are competing for Barangays San Juan and Telabastagan respectively. Other barangays competing are Calulut, Del Pilar Dolores, San Nicolas, Sindalan, Sta. Lucia, Sto. Nino, and San Jose.
According to organizers, the Giant Lantern Festival is expected to draw over one million viewers during the competition proper and nightly exhibitions with expected local and foreign tourists coming from Manila; nearby provinces including Tarlac and Cabanatuan; as well as from Europe and America.