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(FEATURE) ๐“๐ž๐ฅ๐š๐›๐š๐ฌ๐ญ๐š๐ ๐š๐ง ๐ฐ๐ข๐ง๐ฌ ๐†๐ข๐š๐ง๐ญ ๐‹๐š๐ง๐ญ๐ž๐ซ๐ง ๐…๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ๐ข๐ฏ๐š๐ฅ ๐Ÿ๐ŸŽ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ‘

As spectators watched with glee the marvelous entries for this yearโ€™s Giant Lantern Festival (GLF) last December 16, 53-year-old Arnel Flores sat on a chair all throughout the night.

Not so long after, his entry for barangay Telabastagan was announced as the grand winner in the 115th edition of the competition.

๐น๐‘–๐‘“๐‘ก๐‘ฆ-๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘’ ๐‘ฆ๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ ๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘‘ ๐ด๐‘Ÿ๐‘›๐‘’๐‘™ ๐น๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘ , ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘ก ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘๐‘–๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘›๐‘” ๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘› ๐‘š๐‘Ž๐‘˜๐‘’๐‘Ÿ, ๐‘ ๐‘Ž๐‘ฆ๐‘  โ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘ฃ๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘ฆ โ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘๐‘ฆ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘ก โ„Ž๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘’๐‘›๐‘ก๐‘Ÿ๐‘ฆ ๐‘“๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘”๐‘Ž๐‘ฆ ๐‘‡๐‘’๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘Ž๐‘”๐‘Ž๐‘› ๐‘ค๐‘Ž๐‘  ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘›๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘›๐‘๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘Ž๐‘  ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘”๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘›๐‘›๐‘’๐‘Ÿ ๐‘“๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘ฆ๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ’๐‘  ๐บ๐‘–๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘ก ๐ฟ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘› ๐น๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘ฃ๐‘Ž๐‘™. (Paul John Lopez/PIA 3)

Flores, despite not being able to get on stage to receive the championship trophy and P300,000 cash prize after recently having an operation due to diabetes, was the man of the hour.

๐‘ญ๐’“๐’๐’Ž ๐’ƒ๐’‚๐’Œ๐’†๐’“ ๐’•๐’ ๐’๐’‚๐’๐’•๐’†๐’“๐’ ๐’Ž๐’‚๐’Œ๐’†๐’“
For Flores, making the best giant lantern is a milestone to enjoy in his 37-year lantern making career.

Under his expertise, Telabastagan won its fifth GLF championship after also being hailed as the best in 2007, 2008, 2013, and 2018.

He shared that from being a baker, he strived to learn how to craft Christmas lanterns.

โ€œWhat inspired me is my family, and poverty. I asked the help of the Lord, and he gave me what he wanted. I learned how to make lanterns up until now,โ€ he added.

As a commitment, he stated that he will continue to teach the younger generation in making lanterns the Fernandino way.

Oldest among all participating lantern makers, Flores underscored that he will not stop for as long as he can to continue the tradition.

๐ด ๐‘ก๐‘œ๐‘ก๐‘Ž๐‘™ ๐‘œ๐‘“ 10 ๐‘ฃ๐‘–๐‘™๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘”๐‘’๐‘  ๐‘–๐‘› ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐ถ๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘ฆ ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘†๐‘Ž๐‘› ๐น๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘›๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘๐‘œ, ๐‘ƒ๐‘Ž๐‘š๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘”๐‘Ž ๐‘—๐‘œ๐‘–๐‘› ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ 2023 ๐บ๐‘–๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘ก ๐ฟ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘› ๐น๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘ฃ๐‘Ž๐‘™. ๐ต๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘”๐‘Ž๐‘ฆ๐‘  ๐ต๐‘ข๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘œ๐‘›, ๐ถ๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘ข๐‘™๐‘ข๐‘ก, ๐ท๐‘’๐‘™ ๐‘ƒ๐‘–๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ, ๐ท๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘ , ๐‘†๐‘Ž๐‘› ๐‘๐‘–๐‘๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘ , ๐‘†๐‘Ž๐‘› ๐ฝ๐‘œ๐‘ ๐‘’, ๐‘†๐‘Ž๐‘› ๐ฝ๐‘ข๐‘Ž๐‘›, ๐‘†๐‘ก๐‘Ž. ๐ฟ๐‘ข๐‘๐‘–๐‘Ž, ๐‘†๐‘ก๐‘œ. ๐‘๐‘–๐‘›ฬƒ๐‘œ, ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘‡๐‘’๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘Ž๐‘”๐‘Ž๐‘› ๐‘ โ„Ž๐‘œ๐‘ค๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘ ๐‘’ ๐‘Ž ๐‘ ๐‘๐‘’๐‘๐‘ก๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘™๐‘’ ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘š๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘ฃ๐‘’๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘  ๐‘๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘“๐‘ก๐‘  ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘˜๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘’๐‘–๐‘‘๐‘œ๐‘ ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘๐‘–๐‘ ๐‘ ๐‘๐‘™๐‘’๐‘›๐‘‘๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘–๐‘› ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ 115๐‘กโ„Ž ๐‘’๐‘‘๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘› ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘š๐‘๐‘’๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘›. (Paul John Lopez/PIA 3)

โ€œEvery year that I make a giant lantern entry, I am always giving my best. Win or lose, what is important is that I can make people happy with my crafts. Just look at how these thousands of spectators shouted when they saw my entry tonight,โ€ Flores said.

He added that what made his craft stand out from the others is the Holy Rosary that he incorporated in his lantern design.

๐‘ณ๐’‚๐’๐’•๐’†๐’“๐’-๐’Ž๐’‚๐’Œ๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’”๐’Œ๐’Š๐’๐’ ๐’‘๐’‚๐’”๐’”๐’†๐’… ๐’•๐’ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’๐’†๐’™๐’• ๐’ˆ๐’†๐’๐’†๐’“๐’‚๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’
The lantern artistry has proven that twinned with his expertise is his power in molding another renowned lantern master.

His son, Mark Niรฑo, was the youngest participating giant lantern maker from barangay San Juan who ended second runner-up this year.

The younger Flores presented a colorful giant lantern which highlighted Santa Claus and his reindeer. The village received a trophy and a P100,000 cash prize.

Meanwhile, second-generation lantern maker Edmard David of barangay San Nicolas made a comeback this year as the first runner-up, after not finishing in the podium last year.

David offered his win to his father who served as his mentor in lantern making.

โ€œIf not for my father, I wonโ€™t be able to learn how to make lanterns. If not for him, I am not a giant lantern maker. This is why I am very thankful for my father who passed this giant lantern making skill on us,โ€ he pressed.

His lantern entry, which circled on the message of love this holiday season, received a trophy and a P200,000 cash prize.

Most of the cityโ€™s lantern makers are proof that blood runs thick when it comes to lantern making, and that there is no word as โ€œdyingโ€ in its giant lantern making tradition.

Another second-generation lantern maker is Byron Bondoc from barangay Sta. Lucia. He showcased an entry which featured various gimmicks that are crafted with extensive expertise.

His brother, Leslie of barangay Sto. Niรฑo, also marked his debut participation as a lantern maker.

Meanwhile, veteran lantern maker Florante Parilla of barangay Bulaon highlighted a more playful lantern with an increased number of light bulbs at 8,200.

Moroever, barangay Calulutโ€™s entry is now under the hands of hall-of-famer giant lantern maker Teddy Aguilar who designed the winning crafts from 2014 to 2017. The village showcased more gimmicks while utilizing 10,000 bulbs.

Jun Batac, on the other hand, presented an entry that sustained the barangay Del Pilar quality with a blend of innovations especially that his group is composed mostly of members from the youth sector.

Barangay Dolores and its lantern maker Marcelino Ambrocio, for its part, prepared a giant lantern that circled around the life of Jesus Christ โ€“ from his birth to his resurrection, including his struggles along the way.

Lastly, barangay San Jose with its lantern maker Rolando Ambrocio also made its comeback in the GLF.

๐‘ท๐’“๐’†๐’”๐’†๐’“๐’—๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’‚ ๐’„๐’†๐’๐’•๐’–๐’“๐’š-๐’๐’๐’… ๐’•๐’“๐’‚๐’…๐’Š๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’
GLF 2023 Executive Committee Chairperson Sonia Sotto underscored that despite challenges faced by the city of San Fernando and the province of Pampanga, the 115 year-old tradition was never abandoned as this is already a part of the culture.

โ€œItโ€™s truly important that we light up these lanterns because these are the symbol of Christmas which brings joy and hope to everyone,โ€ she said.

Sotto added that the festival aims to entice more young people to learn how to make the San Fernando lantern for this to linger on.

Apart from preservation, the current goal is to make the lantern industry in the City of San Fernando and the rest of Pampanga to be more profitable.

โ€œOur ultimate dream is that decorations of different cities in the Philippines and beyond will come from San Fernando, and for our lanterns to reach many more countries. We believe that this will help our economy grow stronger,โ€ she pressed.

Mayor Vilma Caluag highlighted that the city government continued its support to the Fernandino lantern makers whose talents and ingenuity give power to the cityโ€™s Christmas decorations.

โ€œWe created more ways to assure that Parol Fernandino and the City of San Fernando, Pampanga will continue to shine not only as the Christmas Capital of the Philippines but as a symbol all over the world of a happy and meaningful yuletide season,โ€ she said.

For this year, the city government pushed for a larger funding for participating barangays in the GLF. They each received a subsidy totaling P400,000, the largest amount given in the festivalโ€™s history.

๐‘ป๐’‰๐’† ๐‘ฌ๐’™๐’‰๐’Š๐’ƒ๐’Š๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ ๐‘ต๐’Š๐’ˆ๐’‰๐’•๐’”
After last Saturdayโ€™s competition night, the city’s sparkling giants will also be exhibited in different venues.

The villagesโ€™ crafts will still be staged at Robinsons Starmills Pampanga from December 17 to January 1, 2024.

Some lanterns will also be brought to perform in the cityโ€™s cathedral in Sto. Rosario on December 24; in the town center in Calulut on December 27-28; and in Marquee Mall in Angeles City on December 29-30. (PIA 3)

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