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Historic Filipinotown parol festival gets bigger

A traditional Philippine parol (lantern). Photo © pinterest.com

A traditional Philippine parol (lantern) that adorns Filipino homes during Christmas. Photo © pinterest.com

THE wind gust of 12 miles per hour and a temperature of 52 degrees Farenheit did not dampen the spirits of participants and spectators to the 9th Parol (Lantern) Parade at the Historic Filipinotown (HFT) on Friday (December 2).

Amplified by two marching bands, the Damien High School Spartan Regiment Band and the Virgil High School Marching Band, a 40-vehicle convoy snaked through a three-mile route that begun and ended at the Our Lady of Loreto church in Union Avenue, in downtown Los Angeles.

Hundreds of people, including non-Filipino HFT residents came out from their houses lined the streets or went out on their front porches and yards to wave and cheer as the parade passed by. Local beauty queens riding on the back seats of convertible cars waved back to the spectators.

The parade, organized by the Historic Filipinotown Neighborhood Council (HFNC), took about an hour and a half to finish the route.

Visible during the parade were Council Member Mitch O’Farrell of District 13, HFNC president Cecille Ramos and HFNC treasurer Leo Pandac, Angelo Yengko and ASM Jimmy Gomez of the California Assembly.

Some 30 organizations joined the parade, including the HFT-Knight of Rizal.

The beauty queens who participated in the event included 2016 Miss Filipinotown Ciamara Morales, 2016 Miss Filipinotown Ambassador Jennifer Ann Nardone, 2016 Mrs. Filipinotown Lurdez Garci, 2016 Queen of Asia-Pacific Jena Serrano and two other beauties from Miss Philippines USA.

Beauty queens (from left to right) 2016 Miss Filipinotown Ciamara Morales, 2016 Mrs. Filipinotown Lurdez Garci and 2016 Miss Filipinotown Ambassador Jennifer Ann Nardone pose for US Asian Post/Weekend Balita amid the background of parols at the Our Lady of Loreto church compound. Photo © Abner Galino
Beauty queens (from left to right) 2016 Miss Filipinotown Ciamara Morales, 2016 Mrs. Filipinotown Lurdez Garci and 2016 Miss Filipinotown Ambassador Jennifer Ann Nardone pose for US Asian Post/Weekend Balita amid the background of parols at the Our Lady of Loreto church compound. Photo © Abner Galino

A short program, emceed by Thelma Sugay, was held inside the Loreto school auditorium where the winning parols were awarded.

Board of judges chair Triniti Poliente announced the winners as Kim Yalong (1st prize-$500), the Kalayaan Inc. 2016 (2nd prize-$300) and Karl Maquiling (3rd prize-$200).

Other members of the board judges were Dr. Veronico Agatep of the Knights of Rizal-HFT (KOR-HFT) and Grace Mercado.

The Historic Filipinotown annual Parol parade, according to one of its original organizers Art Garcia, started as a walking parade, with participants physically carrying their parols. Because the lanterns were heavy, the participants only managed to cover a short route. This practice went on for five years.

“Four years ago, naisip namin na i-mount sa sasakyan. It worked. So, magmula noon naging motorcade na,” Garcia recalled.

Apparently, the decision to use vehicles helped the annual event generate more attention and support to the annual Filipino American event.

Parol, usually star-shaped (but not limited to this shape) lantern, is a very popular symbol of Christmas in the Philippines. It is as important as the Christmas tree in the West. While it was not an original Filipino concept, the Filipinos owned up the parols by making a tradition of building these lanterns from indigenous materials and designs.

Parol is also associated with the Simbang Gabi tradition, a nine-day series of dawn Masses, of Filipino Catholics.

Every year, competitions are held in many schools, communities, cities and provinces for the best parols. Most notable among these competitions is the Pampanga lantern festival where lanterns can reach up to 40 feet in height.

The parols are hanged on windows as early as the middle of November and kept hanging until the celebration of the Three Kings.

Abner Galino
The author is a poet and a writer. He was a cultural worker before he became a reporter for Tinig ng Masa and Malaya Midday Edition during the Marcos regime. He later became a reporter of People's Tonight shortly after 1986 EDSA Revolution. He went on to become its Chief of Reporters, City Editor and News Editor. He retired after 15 years in the Journal Group of Publications. He now writes for Weekend Balita and the US Asian Post (USAP), weekly Filipino-American newspapers based in Los Angeles, California.

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