Sunday, December 18, 2011
Typhoon Sendong wasn't able to spoil the Giant Lantern Festival as it marks its 103rd year. Just like last year, the event was held at Robinsons Starmills Pampanga but now they have 10 participating barangays: Telabastagan, Calulut, San Juan, Dolores, San Pedro, Sta. Lucia, Del Carmen, Del Pilar, San Jose and Sto. Niño. This marks the return of Barangay Del Carmen after 57 years and Barangay Calulut's very first entry in the competition.
As always, it was jam-packed with people although I noticed that it was lesser than the previous years. However, I couldn't help but notice some flaws in the said event. First, there are now seat assignments but we couldn't find our designated seats. If I remember it right, the last number that I could find on the seating arrangement is around 2100 and the number on my ticket is 2242 so we asked for assistance from one the ushers but they just advised us to find any empty seat in the area. It's just confusing why they had to put numbers on the chairs when anyone can just sit on it. Another miniscule flaw that I've noticed is the way they placed the chairs that were numbered from 2000 onwards. They were placed behind a huge scaffolding where the technical and media staff are covering the festival. They should have just placed it at the back so that everyone could see the lanterns. But putting those flaws aside, the event was still fun and dazzling thanks to the 10 giant lanterns that illuminated the evening.
There were 3 rounds in the competition. During the first round, each barangay is given 7 minutes to showcase their lanterns along with a background music. On the second round 3 lanterns are lit as they try to synchronize their lights on the background music while on the third round, all of the lanterns where lit at the same time. I've noticed that they've veered away from using Maria Carey's Christmas songs which I think is a good move since they've been using it for the past few years. There were a number of notable performances in the competition. Barangay Telebastagan made a strong start as they were the first to showcase their lantern while Barangay San Juan Nepomuceno also got some cheers and praises for featuring a belen with a moving spiral claw at the center but the upper left part of the lantern seems to be noticeably dimmed. The crowd went gaga when defending champion Barangay Sta. Lucia finally showcased their masterpiece and I must say that they really owned the night as they were effectively the headliner in this festival. Ironically, Barangay Sto. Nino's lantern experienced some technical problems and had to beg off at the last round but they still got a number of cheers for putting up a good fight. And just as the majority of the crowd have predicted, Barangay Sta. Lucia won the top prize while San Jose and Del Carmen followed second and third respectively. The night ended with a spectacular fireworks display that lasted for around 15 minutes.
Although this was my third time to attend the Giant Lantern Festival, I was just as excited as if it were my first. And even if it was drizzling, the rain wasn't able to spoil the evening as these myriad of colorful bulbs lighting to the beat of Christmassy music dazzled the night skies of San Fernando, Pampanga.