In Ilocos Norte, Gorgeous Native Lanterns Handcrafted by Students
Choose Philippines | Dec 18, 2019
Story by Dianne Dy
Photos by Keno Rabe
In the hallways of Cabeza Elementary School in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, parols or Christmas lanterns fashioned by students are on glorious display. Made from natural and local materials such as hay, coconut fiber, bamboo, banana leaves, and twigs, these Christmas decorations are beautiful enough to make heads turn. “Every time I pass, I could feel the spirit of Christmas,” says Gianne Dy.
It’s been a yearly tradition of the students from different grades to make a parol as part of their school project. “As early as September, our students have started making parols”. Visitors can’t help but take pictures with them.” says teacher Imelda Alejandro, adding that this project the students develop creativity, resourcefulness, and discipline. These parols can also be purchased, with proceeds contributing to their school funds.
According to Ilocano historian Jayson Antonio, the origin of parol can be traced back during the Spanish period. “During the early days, lighting systems were not fully developed,” he relates, “They came up with a makeshift star with an improvised lighting system inside, he relates, "Ginagamit ito kapag sila ay gumigising ng napakaaga as early as 3:30 or 4 o’clock in the morning to attend the Misa de Aguinaldo or Simbang Gabi.” (These were used to light the way for people who woke up as early as 3:30 or 4:00 o'clock in the morning to attend the Misa de Aguinaldo or Simbang Gabi.)
The parol became a symbol of hope for Filipinos and the identity of Christmas celebrations in the Philippines. “The parol represents the Star of Bethlehem, which guided the Three Wise Men to the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Philosophically speaking, if you are living in the dark and you can see a spark of light, then there is always hope. You can say at the end of the day: I can still make it; I can make things better,” he adds.