Christmas is the most, if not one of the most-anticipated holidays, in the Philippines. The countdown to this season starts as early as September, which is officially the beginning of -ber months. During this time, it is not unusual to hear a Christmas tune or two, and even see some décor to celebrate the season. The most common decoration during this time of the year is the traditional “parol” or the Christmas lantern.
The star is the customary shape of the parol, as it symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem, that bright celestial body which served as a guide to the Three Wise Men during the nativity of Jesus Christ. Being predominantly Catholic, practically each household in the country proudly displays this symbol every Christmas season.
The parol making custom
Throughout the years, the parol has evolved from a simple star-shaped lantern made of papel de Japon (Japanese paper), to the lighted Capiz-shell variety. Nowadays, Christmas lanterns come in all shapes and sizes, all colors and designs. But the parol making practice has stayed the same, especially in the old town side of Las Piñas, where one can pass by a street full of twinkling parol displays.
These festive décors come out early on to give people a head start on decorating for the much-awaited birth of Christ, or more popularly known as Christmas day. It is part of the Filipino culture to decorate their homes with colorful Christmas lanterns in anticipation of the holidays. Parol shopping should be a more pleasurable experience at night, when one would be able to get to see them all lighted up.
Make your own parol
One can find plenty of parol stalls in the city of Las Piñas where the parol making tradition has been around for decades. Even balikbayans head to this part of the metro and purchase parols to bring back some sort of Filipino Christmas memento in their part of the world. One can even order in bulk, as these parol stores are used to supplying to different establishments.
For the more creative one, you can just buy the skeleton of the parol, which is locally referred to as “balangkas.” It comes in different sizes to suit your preference. This way, you can be as inventive as you want and make the most artistic parol that you can. The people at the stores can teach you how, in case you need a little guidance. Parol making can be a fun activity to do with your family or friends.
Tips on how to buy the perfect parol:
- Canvass around first. Check out different stores and compare the prices before buying.
- Go for good quality. Always inspect any merchandise before purchasing. Check if there are any defects or something.
- Haggle. Negotiating for the lowest price is the way of life in local markets. Try the art of haggling and see if you can save yourself a peso or two.
- Do not settle for less. Make sure that you are happy with your purchase; after all, you will be the one who will be displaying the parol in your house.
For more information, contact the Parol Association at telephone number (02) 874-2981.