This Winter Festival in the Philippines Lights Up the Sky With Musical Lanterns
The Philippines goes all in with decorations and festivities over the Christmas season, and there’s no better place to check out the Filipino dedication to holiday dazzle than the city of San Fernando.
Dubbed the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines,” San Fernando draws crowds each December for its Giant Lantern Festival. Twelve teams of designers and electricians from the region’s villages build colorful, intricate lanterns, or parols, that go head-to-head in competition for Best Lantern before being exhibited in public spaces around the city.
The parols have come a long way from those that originally inspired the event. The lanterns have roots in the Filipino Catholic tradition of building small, colorful lights to illuminate the procession to Christmas Eve mass. Today’s giant lanterns are engineering and electrical feats that measure approximately 20 feet tall and can have up to 10,000 bulbs. Each lantern is designed to put on a seven-minute light show, set to music, and is judged based on originality and design. This was the 111th year of competition.
The prize-winning lantern in 2019, from the team from Sta. Lucia, featured a mechanism that allowed the center of the piece to open, revealing a stained-glass scene.
Every year, the Giant Lantern Festival lights up San Fernando for locals and thousands of visitors from the middle of December until New Year's Day. Photographer Chona Kasinger, who grew up near San Fernando, was on hand for the 2019 competition and shares her photos with us here to help make your holiday a little brighter.
A giant lantern in action.