Las Piñas Parol-Making Tradition

Las Pinas Parol

IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS. The Christmas parol made of capiz, fiber glass, abaca, shiny foil, and colored plastic begins to shine in stalls mushrooming along city streets, highways, and sidewalks as early as September.  These star-shaped lanterns come in different sizes, shapes, materials, and intricacies. They are made to be displayed to show the happy spirit of the Christmas season.

In Las Piñas City , a community of craftmen fashions star-shaped lanterns from pliant bamboo sticks with colored Japanese paper or cellophane, keeping the parol-making tradition alive in this city famous for its Bamboo Organ .

Christmas Parol

Christmas Parol tradition

THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM. Hanging a Christmas parol is a time-honored Filipino tradition. The star-shaped lantern recalls the bright Bethlehem star that guided the shepherds and three wisemen to the Child Jesus.

The parol lit by an electric bulb or blinking lights that we see today started from the simple Spanish farol that was used in the olden days for lighting religious processions and town parades. The candle-powered lantern, perched on a pole was dressed up with frills and embellishments to match the joyful season.

parol making bamboo

PAROL-MAKING TRADITION. Las Piñas has been known for using bamboo as material for its parol-making industry. We learned that parol-makers based in Barangay E. Aldana learned the craft from their parents. Parol-making is a tradition that is passed on through generations.

To this day, instead of buying ready-made Christmas décor, old-time residents of Las Piñas prefer simple parols made the old-fashioned way to adorn their homes.

Parol making traditional way

parol making from bamboo

The parol-makers begin making traditional Christmas lanterns by cutting a long bamboo pole and whittling it into thin, pliant sticks. The sticks are shaped into stars and held together by fine wire.

Parol making in Las Pinas

Parol making tradition

OLD-FASHIONED PAROL. Over the star-shape bamboo framework, colored plastic cover or Japanese paper is pasted. The parols with colored plastic are made to last outdoor while the parol made of delicate Japanese paper is for indoor use.

As the final touch, frills are added all around and a pair of tail is attached to the base of the star lantern. A light bulb is slipped inside the hallow star. When lit, it seems to warm up the chilly December days.

Parol making

traditionally made parol

MIXED-MEDIA CRAFT. Watching a community keep the parol-making tradition alive is amazing . The parol-makers we met in Barangay E. Aldana composed mostly of third generation craftsmen who renewed Christmas lantern-making in Las Piñas by combining technology with traditional materials.

Traditional Christmas Parol

EPILOGUE. So when in Las Piñas this holiday season, take the time to drop by the parol-makers in Barangay E. Aldana and get a simple old-fashioned parol.

-13 December  2012 | Feast of Sta. Lucia
The name Lucia is derived from Lux, Lucis meaning “Light”

Christmas Parol

CHRISTMAS IS IN THE AIR. Now that the air is nippy and the mood is festive, setting up our home to match the Christmas season has gained momentum. Our old Christmas tree has been put up as early as mid-October and additional trimmings and lighting were added later that same month. However, we lost our old parol in the flood of 2009.

Searching for the best star-lantern for our home, we went to Farmers Market in Cubao and in stalls along Commonwealth Avenue where dazzling parols have been up for sale in makeshift stalls since the ber (Septem-BER, Octo-BER and so one) months began.

STAR OF BETHLEHEM. It has been written in the book of St. Matthew that the bright star seen during the first Christmas Eve led the three wise men of the east to a manger in Bethlehem. In 1603, Johannes Kepler suggested the Bethlehem Star was a planetary conversion of Saturn and Jupiter in the constellation of Pisces. A quarterly journal of the Royal Astronomical Society theorized that the Biblical star was probably a giant stellar explosion caused by a dying star.

PAROL TRADITION. This kind astronomical event has been observed in several different occasions through out history. However, it does not matter to Filipinos that scientific findings speculate the strange heavenly body associated with the Nativity of Jesus was not a star. What’s important for Filipino is keeping on with the tradition of hanging out a parol to bring the Star of Bethlehem spirit into every home.

PAROL EVERYWHERE. For the Filipinos, the parol symbolizes the star of Bethlehem. Thus, by the time the Christmas season begins in the country as early as September, stalls selling parols of innumerable shapes, sizes, colors, materials, and intricacies mushroom along streets, highways, and sidewalks, in malls, church patios and town plazas, and in places where the bonus-rich Filipinos pass by. In December, parols are seen hung on windows and lamp posts, adding to the light and color of a city joyfully decorated for the birthday of Christ.

A FILIPINO FOLK ART. Fiesta authority Alejandro Roces suggests that the star lantern is a Filipino innovation of the Mexican piñata. The piñata originally came from Renaissance Italy where during festive occasions, pineapple-shaped pots were filled with sweets and suspended on the ceiling and broken to enliven the celebration. The custom spread from the Italy to the Spain across the Pacific then to the Philippines via the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade.

All that is needed to make an old-fashioned parol are ten long and five short pliant bamboo sticks tied together into a five-pointed-star-frame. The colorful and translucent rice paper, is cut to fit and glued to the frame using paste made from starch. Paper tail embellishments are added into the five-pointed star. A candle or a small light bulb is placed inside the hollow parol. This uncomplicated piece of Filipino folk art was hung on windows  to indicate the presence of the Christmas spirit in Filipino homes.

PAROL MAKING TRADITIONS. Parol making was then a household activity participated by each family member. It later evolved into a thriving industry particularly in the provinces of  Cavite and Pampanga where colored capiz shells are cut and pieced together and installed with complicated lighting that produces a dizzying kaleidoscope effect.

In San Fernando, Pampanga, the Parol Festival is celebrated where colossal lanterns are installed with blinking and pulsating multi-colored lights that make the Christmas parol come alive.

Published in: on December 18, 2010 at 12:00 am  Comments (5)  
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