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Lanterns of Pampanga - Luzon Travel Guide
The province of Pampanga in Central Luzon derived its name from the word “pampang” which means riverbank. Pampanga is a flat country criss-crossed by the tributaries of the Pampanga river.
Pampanga is located at the heart of Central Luzon and home to renowned Christmas lantern festival. Every year, Filipinos from all over the country seek the brightly-colored and multi-lighted lanterns of Pampanga. It has been so popular that the month of December has been extra special for Pampangeños particularly for the townsfolk of San Fernando—the province’s capital.
Without fail, by the third week of December the streets of San Fernando are transformed into a fascinating display of lights and colors as the Cabalens (the vernacular for fellow townsfolk) take it to the streets for the annual Giant Lantern Festival.
Today’s Giant Lantern Festival started out as a religious activity dubbed as lubenas. The lanterns in those days were only two feet in diameter, a far cry from the fifteen-foot lanterns that Pampangeños churn out every year. Every barrio created the lantern from bamboo and other locally-available materials. They were brought out and paraded around the barrio during the entire 9-day simbang gabi (night mass) before Christmas Day. Before the midnight mass in the 25th, the lanterns were brought to the town church together with the image of the barrio’s patron saints.
But it was in 1931, when electricity first came to Pampanga, that the first Giant Lantern Festival as held. Dancing lights then became an added feature to the lanterns giving them more dynamic designs and colors. Today, the Giant Lantern Festival is a keenly anticipated inter-baranggay contest with entries coming from the best lantern makers of each baranggay.
People from all over to come to San Fernando for the Giant Lantern Festival. Every year, spectators witness better, bigger and grander entries to compete for the best lantern.
Aside from the lanterns, Pampanga has other attractions of touristic interest.
Mt. Arayat National Park – A natural park with swimming pools, the water of which comes from three flowing springs from the mountain. The national park has recreational halls and picnic huts for visitors. For the intrepid adventurer, there are hiking trails that will take him to the mystic Arayat. The mountain, standing amidst cane and rice fields, rises 3,564 feet and considered as a dormant volcano.
Garden of the World – Situated inside Paskuhan Village at San Fernando, this tourist favorite features a wide variety of tropical plants from all over the world.
Paskuhan Village – This is described as Asia’s star attraction and showcases a star-shaped amusement park and houses the Pinatubo Museum constructed from the volcanic material from the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.
Clark Special Economic Zone – Formerly the biggest American military installation outside the United States, the sprawling complex is now a special economic zone with world-class resorts, casinos, duty-free shops, and golf courses. The Diosdado Macapagal International Airport is also located here.