Festivals and Events,  Luzon

Pampanga: San Fernando City’s Giant Lantern Festival 2018

The yuletide season in the Philippines has always been the most festive one with the longest celebration. It has long been awaited and is enjoyed by everyone from all walks of life. Well, come the -ber months, you’d see on the news that they are starting with the 100-day countdown. As early as November, lanterns of various size, color and shape and Christmas trees can be seen around the corners. Consequently, a hundred day countdown is merely just for other Filipinos but not for the Kapampangans in San Fernando City. Their preparation for this most awaited season is the grandest as they are bound to bring lights and colors to everyone else’s Christmas.

The Christmas Capital of the Philippines – San Fernando City, Pampanga

San Fernando City, Pampanga is the home of the giant lantern festival making it dubbed as the Christmas Capital of the Philippines. Ever since 1931, the festival has been celebrated annually showcasing more than just the ginormous kaleidoscopic lanterns but also Kapampangan values and creativity manifested in their artworks. 

Giant Lantern Festival 2018

The recent Giant Lantern Festival was held last December 15, 2018 at Robinson Starmills’ ground, San Fernando City, Pampanga. It was participated by 11 barangays namely Brgy. San Pedro, Calulut, San Nicolas, Telabastagan, San Juan, Santo Nino, Sta. Lucia, Del Carmen, Del Pilar, San Jose and Sindalan. And the battle of the largest and brightest lanterns in the Christmas Capital of the Philippines is on!
The 20 ft. giant lanterns ready for the showdown, waiting for the sun to finally set

Behind the Giant Lanterns

Initially, I thought that these giant lanterns were just programmed then plugged into the power source and voila! It just goes on shining bright just like any other lanterns that we buy and hang on our windows during the Christmas season. But then, I was surprised to hear during the festival that the lanterns had to go with the music that will be played by the organizers and the band. With that I realized that they had to be played manually. Yes, manually by few people behind the lanterns.
The trucks behind the giant lanterns that carry the rotors
The wires and lights behind the giant lanterns
Each of these 20 ft tall giants has large trucks at the back which carries the rotors. These are turned manually so the lights would flash to the beat of the music. The wiring system is also quite complicated as each of it has a specific light bulb and color assignment connected to several rotors. Imagine, there are thousands of lights and wire right there! The whole lantern is just made up of card boards which later on covered with plastic to get it protected from various elements. Indeed, coming up with such a giant lantern is a fusion of hard work, team work and creativity (and good deal of money) over time.  

The Giant Lantern Contest

The contest proper had three parts. On the first part, each lantern did an exhibition with their own choice of music for seven minutes. On the next, the organizers played songs for seven minutes that each lantern must be able to follow hence put an exhibition onto. On the final act, all of the lanterns did an exhibition to the tune of the songs played by the band.
Snaps of the lit giant lantern contestants

Snaps of the lit giant lantern contestants
Snaps of the lit giant lantern contestants



The symmetry and the patterns of the giant lanterns are pretty impressive. Every detail was taken care of. It was amusing as it is and it played tricks in our minds as we stared at it, creating our own exhibition in our minds.

The Best Giant Lanterns in 2018

The contest has ended and each participating barangay gave us quite a show. It was hard for us, as audience, to decide who would win the contest since all of them were competitive. But then, someone has to win. After the third part of the contest, there was only few spill and the hosts were ready to announce the best among the rest. Third place was given to Brgy. San Nicolas, the second to Brgy. San Juan and the first to Brgy. San Jose. The champion of this year’s Giant Lantern Festival on the other hand is Brgy. Telabastagan. The lantern maker of Telebastagan, Mr. Arnel Flores, was extremely emotional but mainly happy and delighted that theirs won as the champion of this year’s contest. He humbly told the lantern making story during an interview.
The lantern maker of 2018 Giant Lantern Festival’s champion, Brgy. Telebastagan.

Anne Elizabeth Gumiran, also known as Queenie, is a 20-something, full-time public school teacher, a part-time travel blogger and a freediver. She started putting her stories of adventures and misadventures into words and pictures in 2017 and continues to do so as she shares her advocacy, Sustainable Traveling.


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