Parul Sampernandu: a Kapampangan Lantern tradition

Truly a Kapampangan pride, the Parul Sampernandu, with its unique beauty and utter ingenuity, has gained its popularity nationwide, and I think these Pampanga lanterns can stand out in the global arena. Parol in Filipino, and Parul in Kapampangan language, these are almost ubiquitous in every town of Pampanga whence the ‘ber’-months sets not only in the Culinary Capital of the Philippines, but in almost every Filipino household.

As Sir Roland Quiambao, a master Kapampangan lantern craftsman, led our conscious thoughts to a quick historical walk through, he explained that the Parul Sampernandu started with a basic and simple design – a candle holder boxed with paper, and used during processions or limbun in Kapampangan. In the advent of industrialization, the Kapampangans harnessed the power of electricity in their craft of lantern making. The source of illumination of the Parul Sampernandu started from a modest single candle and has sprawled to hundreds even up to a thousand light bulb lantern patched with colourful and highly intricate detailed design – now the Giant Lanterns of Pampanga.

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With this craft that earned nationwide prominence earned this city the title of the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines”. It is now one of the celebrated festivals in the Philippines. Surely, another set of Giant Lanterns would awe the crowd as the lights dance seemingly on their own – truly a marveling and captivating experience.

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a Giant Lantern Design by the late Mario Datu

What makes Parul Sampernandu different from other lanterns?

According to Sir Roland, the Parul Sampernandu has its Four Parts that are emblematic for the Kapampangan culture and history:

  • Tambor – the central part of the lantern. The term is a corrupted word for drum or “tambol” in Filipino.
  • Siku-Siku – the crisscrossing part. The term came from the root word “siku”  which means elbow in English.
  • Palimbun – encircles the crisscrossing design. Limbun [root word] means procession in English.
  • Puntetas  – the edge where more intricate details are set and the term is derived from the root word “Punta” which means edge or tip.
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Parts of Parul Sampernandu

Sir Roland, at the age of 61, which is not apparent with his young looking aura, is giving his best to keep the lantern making craft and tradition alive and running for the coming generations to witness and enjoy. He is happy to pass on the skills who wishes to practice it. Right now, you would observe workers of varying age in his workshop, a sign that the heritage skill will continue.

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Replica of a Lantern with rotor
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Sir Roland’s Lantern Shop

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This is a part of the media tour, with the Pampanga Blogger’s Society coordinated by the City of San Fernando Tourism Office last December 3, 2016.

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