When people speak of preserving heritage these days it often concerns a structure that is threatened by destruction or alteration in the name of progress. Nobody can deny that the Parul is heritage. The naughty sidelights “only in the Philippines”, on a different light, has raised a positive meaning whenever we take pride in initiating the use of lantern in the form of a star to welcome Christmas season. It had since been our link to the past that refuses to be sidelined in every Filipino home here and miles away.
Inspired by the Star of Bethlehem, the first recorded maker of big lanterns, Francisco Estanislao, whose creation in 1908, was made of bamboo and coconut cloth. It was believed that Estanislao, a vendor and saltmaker from Pampanga made the piece for Simbang Gabi to attract the villagers to the church. The tradition transformed in the 1930s wherein Estanislao’s daughter, Fortunata married Severino David who made 16-foot lanterns that were lit by batteries from American military vehicles. Their union produced five boys and three girls.
All five boys continued the tradition and unto the fourth generation which today is represented by Ernesto Quiwa, who, in 1964 started selling lanterns in Metro Manila by displaying these in gasoline stations and delicacy stores. He was commissioned by Malacanang to supply lanterns in 1966, for a summit organized by Sampaguita Pictures’ Jose Vera Perez. A 14-foot lantern for the inauguration of the theme park Nayong Pilipino was a great attraction in 1969. He exhibited four big lanterns in Samar and Leyte in 1970 upon the request of then First Lady Imelda Marcos.
A symbol of our country’s legacy, again, Tourism Secretary Jose Aspiras thought of making use of lanterns as a major decoration in Fort Santiago for the state visit of King Juan Carlos of Spain in the 1970s. For all the feats that are credited to him and his forebears by cultural heritage advocates, including bringing the lanterns to international festivals, the man only wanted to be called a magpaparul (lantern maker), unmindful of his family’s tantamount place in history.
* – credits to the owner/s for the pictures