Behind the CSFP Giant Lantern and Tourist Information Center

6/4/20223 min read

IN MY last column, I shared some highlights from the opening of the City of San Fernando

Giant Lantern and Tourist Information Center last May 27, 2022. Today, let me share some more highlights and sidelights about the center itself and photos from the event.

The lantern center is located at what used to be the parking area of the former Paskuhan Village and former venue of the Giant Lantern Festival during the 1990s. As part of the national government’s privatization of assets a few years back, it was acquired by the SMDC. Through an agreement, SMDC donated a portion of the Paskuhan property, plus a two-storey building and outdoor stage, to the City Government of San Fernando, Pampanga. For Mayor Edwin Santiago and City Administrator Atty. Atlee Viray, the lantern center is a testament to the enduring Kapampangan lantern tradition and a commitment of the City’s leaders to ensuring its sustainability.

The center’s exhibits on the lantern tradition are curated by Raphaelle Kalaw, a faculty member of the University of Santo Tomas who completed his masters on cultural heritage studies with a thesis on documenting the lantern as an intangible cultural heritage of the Kapampangans. I also curated some of the artworks on display, primarily works of art by Kapampangan painters like Jude Pangilinan, Don De Dios, Rafael Maniago, Alvaro Jimenez, Noel Lopez Catacutan, and Joel Mallari, among others. Our giant lantern makers shared their talents and expertise, including some of their well-loved collections, such as Roland Quiambao who put on display rare works by lantern making great Mario Datu, the father and son tandem of Arnel and Mark Flores who donated the capiz lantern chandeliers and made the lantern/light interpretation of National Artist Cesar Legaspi’s famous mural “Bayanihan”, and drafts of award-winning giant lanterns from Teddy Aguilar, Efren Tiodin, Cesareo Sason, and a veritable who’s who of lantern-making greats.

The building’s striking contemporary architecture draws inspiration from the lantern tradition, and was designed by one of the country’s premiere firms ASYA Design, while SMDC commissioned homegrown firm Red Cardinal for the actual construction. Our City Engineering Office led by Engr. Anele David provided necessary guidance throughout the construction. We were able to save some of the trees from the former Paskuhan property, silent witnesses to the interesting evolution of the place. Moving forward, SM Pampanga led by Aaron Montenegro has been helpful in providing us with greeneries at the center while waiting for the landscaping works to begin, hopefully to be done by our very own Wilsons Instant Tree Bank.

The Giant Lantern and Tourist Information Center is indeed blessed to have been inaugurated by the top officials of SM and SMDC, and the City Government of San Fernando. Adding meaning to the event was presence of our dear Archbishop Florentino Lavarias who led the blessing with Rev. Fr. Aldrin Tayag, a former City Hall employee who got called to priesthood. The blessing of the center is a homecoming for the lantern tradition which was originally inspired by the star which guided the three kings to Jesus.

The operations of the center will be led by our City Tourism Office, including the onsite guided tours and tourist assistance from Monday to Sunday. What we have to remember that while we have inaugurated the building, its day-to-day life is part of our living tradition as we open its doors to locals and tourists alike. The center will not be complete without the presence and support of our numerous stakeholders – Arts, Culture, Tourism Council members, our tourism-related establishments, our City Government family, our national government partners, our tourism sector organizations like ATTAP, PATS, GCVB, and HARP, and our fellow local tourism offices, everyone who works together towards responsible and sustainable tourism development.