23 December 2008

The Philippine Parol!

My eldest sister Luchie has decided to finally continue our parol-making tradition this year. This was my late father's tradition since we were kids and it was always a fun activity although with my father's penchant for doing things right, we always argue the production but end up proud and happy with our finished product which takes almost three months for us to enjoy. In the Philippines, the Christmas season begins in November and ends in January after the celebration of the Three Kings.

The Philippine Parol or Christmas lanterns is a festive reminder of Christmas for Filipinos. When people see ambulant vendors lugging the colorful parols in every street corners as early as October, and sometimes even in September which is the start of the "ber" months, the mood changes and people start their merry chat about the coming holidays. The parols now come in every sizes, colors and shapes. Yes, some parols has departed from the basic star-shaped concept and in some towns in Pampanga, intricate parols are designed with dancing lights which are big attractions.

The Parol does not only symbolize the shining star that guided Mary and Joseph and the three kings more than 2,000 years ago, but it is also a fitting symbol for contemporary society seeking light and meaning in a season wrapped in commercial merriment.

The craft of lantern-making is pretty simple yet can be tricky. My sister Luchie tried to do our parol this year by working on the old parol frame from my late father's collection kept in storage for years! Luchie cleaned the frame (my father always kept the frame), and bought several papel de hapon (Japanese paper) and painstakingly cut and pasted all the parts together. The intricate details took longer to complete and Luchie only worked on her free days which took her months to complete one parol! Even now, as I write this, one of the parol is still unfinished! Being a fast worker, I watched this creative project with less patience because I was not allowed to touch it. Luchie does not want to rush the production and took her time and the result was great! Just in time for Christmas . . .

And my workshop students enjoyed the parol composition too! These are the works of kids ages 6 to 10 using oil pastel on paper executed in less than an hour!

Chantrice, 10

Calia, 8

Vivienne, 10

. . . and the work of my special student Ignacio executed using acrylic paint on canvas paper!