Nothing is symbolic of Filipino holiday festivities more than handmade lanterns or parul. It has been a staple decoration of many Filipino families during the season–some made of simple materials such as bamboo and plastic while others use more intricate materials like shells, glasses, and even fabrics.
The craft of handmade lanterns or Parul Sampernandu (in Kapampangan) is closely tied to the place where it originated: San Fernando, Pampanga. It is what the city is known for locally and internationally. The industry has bloomed and progressed over the years leading to the annual Giant Lantern Festival–cementing the City of San Fernando as the Christmas Capital of the Philippines.
Among the local craftsmen who are propelling the industry forward is Arnel Flores, the first lantern maker who used sequined fabric in making his parul. He explored the material in the hopes of innovating the craft and keep parul making alive.
“Lanterns started with bamboo and Japanese papers, until we welded wires and used plastic as materials. Eventually, capiz shells were also used after that, but capiz gets brittle over time, so we thought of ways…to make lanterns that can last longer…. That’s how we came up with this innovation, which is fabric,” speaking in his Kapampangan dialect, he shared.
On the other hand, Arnel’s son, Mark Niño Flores, the youngest lantern maker in the city, will showcase his lanterns in an international exposition next year with the theme “Paskong Pinoy.”
Despite the pandemic, the demand for parul is still present and strong–though sales are less versus pre-pandemic times. “Selling lanterns has become quite difficult in this pandemic. Hopefully next year, it will be easier,” said Byron Bondoc, another lantern master. “But the price is just about the same. Capiz lanterns for homes range between P1,800 to P2,500 depending on the design and the size.”
While parul is closely symbolic to holidays, the craft has started to progress beyond the Yuletide season. The ber months remain to be their peak, but they are getting more and more clients who request lanterns even during the summer–proving that lanterns are present all year round and the tradition and craft will keep evolving and growing over time.