Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lantern Parade: a living tradition of the University of the Philippines

Note: This photo-essay is the filam special feature of the 19-25 December 2014 edition of FilAm Star, the weekly 'newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America' published in San Francisco, CA. There are more pictures in the paper, the pdf copy of which is available online at http://www.filamstar.net/images/stories/pdf/301.pdf

This "Kalesa" was judged the best of the 12 lantern floats
from the College  of  Fine Arts.
The 15th of December was the last day of final examinations week, hence, the last day of classes of the first semester in the new academic year of the national university that started in August.  This coincided with the day of the traditional annual Lantern Parade around the Diliman campus. To avoid disturbance to those taking the final hurdles in the afternoon, the university authorities had the festive parade start at six o’clock, two hours later than was customary.

The Lantern Parade sort of kicked in the synchronized Christmas holidays and semester break that will make up a month-long vacation for the UP academic community, the students and faculty.

The mid-afternoon was rainy but as soon as the rains stopped and the skies cleared, the festive participants, many of them costumed, from the different academic units, offices and organizations started assembling at the University Avenue with their colorful lanterns and floats.  The usual crowd of spectators also began spilling into their favorite viewing sites like the steps of Melchor and Palma Halls or behind the barricade fronting the reviewing deck of Quezon Hall.

This lantern float of the Institute of Islamic Studies was deemed
the best in the competition: a house of clear plastic bottles with
Muslim Southern Philippines decorative motifs.
This year’s December theme is “Pasundayag Diliman: Pag-uugat at Pagyayabong.”  The term “pasundayag” is a Cebuano word which means “celebration”.   The month started with the Pagiilaw sa Pasko at the Oblation Plaza on December 1 when the lights of the white lanterns of the University Avenue and the Plaza were turned on.  On December 13, Karolfest 2014, an inter-college choral competition for students and faculty/staff, was held at the UP Theatre. 

The Paligsahan ng Mga Parol, the popular Lantern Parade, of course, was the climax of the Pasundayag.

When it started in 1922, the Lantern Parade reflected the folk tradition of carrying lanterns to light the way to the dawn masses during the Spanish times.  Thence, it has evolved into an annual event shaped by the changing social and political climate in the university and the nation.  The use of modern technologies has likewise greatly altered the creation of lanterns and floats as well as the manner of visually presenting the themes or messages of the participating groups. 

Fine Arts lantern floats (clocwise from top left): Pandango sa Ilaw; Sitsiritsit Alibangbang;
Leron Leron Sinta; and Pen Pen De Sarapen.

The parade may be a collective expression for peace, harmony and understanding in the spirit of Christmas; definitely, it is a multi-sectoral celebration regardless of religion, political ideology and sexual orientation.  For many advocacy groups, it has become another platform for voicing protests against or concerns on issues affecting the university and the nation.

Thus, seeing Christians, Muslims, people of other faith, political groups like Kabataang Makabayan, labor unions like the Philippine Airlines Employees Association, UP Babaylan transgenders  from the LGBT sector, etcetera, did not pull surprises anymore in this year’s Lantern Parade.

Fine Arts lantern floats(clocwise from top left): Ang Pipit; Sarung Banggi; O Ilaw ;
and Bayan Ko.

The lanterns were up for competition, and the most creative made out of recycled materials were judged on originality, imagination and appropriateness to the parade theme.  Four prizes were at stake: the first prize worth Php25,000; the second at Php20,000 and the third at Php15,000.

The lantern floats of the participating units depicted their unique interpretation of the Pasundayag theme. The College of Arts and Letters highlighted palo-sebo, the Center of Women’s Studies palayok breaking, both for children at play during fiestas.  The lantern float of the Institute of Islamic Studies was deemed the best -- a house made of clear recyclable plastic water bottles with decorative motifs from southern Muslim Philippines.  The College of Engineering had a technology-driven lantern float depicting renewable energy; the sunflower bud bloomed fully to rotate as solar panels. This garnered the second best prize.

Fine Arts lantern floats: Tinikling (top) and
Tong Tong Pakitong-kitong (bottom).
For many years now, the College of Fine Arts has become Hall of Famers with their creative lanterns. They are exempted from competition; hence, their thematic lantern groupings now serve as the exciting finale of the grand parade. 

For this year, their twelve lanterns were interpretations of Filipino folksongs and kundimans like “O Ilaw”, “Pandanggo sa Ilaw”, “Tinikling”, “Leron, Leron, Sinta”, “Sitsiritsit, Alinbangbang”, “Ang Pipit”, “Kalesa” and “Sarung Banggi”, nationalistic anthems like “Bayan Ko” and “Alerta Katipunan”, and children chants like “Pen Pen De Sarapen”, “Tong Tong Pakitong-kitong”. The “Kalesa” was judged the best among them, and was awarded a special cash prize of Php25,000.

After all the prizes including those for the Karolfest (choral competition among musical groups in the campus) had been announced and awarded to the winners, the medley of “Pasko Na Naman” has been sang by the winning choirs, and the parting message from UP President Alfredo Pascual has been heard, the fireworks display from the Beta Epsilon Fraternity lit up the UP Diliman skies with loud cheers from the celebrators.

Fine Arts interpretation of Alerta Katipunan using puppet lanterns.
The fun did not actually end after the last burst of the colorful fireworks. Many trooped to the Sunken Garden for partying at the Maskipaps 2014.

‘Twas the eve of a long vacation for the UP community.

Maligayang Pasko, everyone!

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