“Parol” – Colorful Star of Christmas in the Philippines

"Parol" - a uniquely Filipino Christmas lantern

"Five-Pointed Star" - modern parols use more colorful materials such as tinsel, foil, and colored plastic sheets

Christmases in the Philippines have all the traces of foreign influence courtesy of hundreds of years of colonization and interaction with other cultures.  Christmas trees, bells, and  colored lights, even imitation images of  Santa Claus and his reindeers, the snowman, and the mistletoe, can be found everywhere in the Philippines during the yuletide season.  Thankfully, something remained in Christmas celebrations that is truly and uniquely Filipino and that is the “parol”, a star-shaped Christmas lantern.

"Christmas Past and Christmas Present" - a young girl and her grandma sit by their display of colorful parols

Grandma reminisces on her past Christmases

Believed to be  inspired by the star that guided the Magi to the manger in the story of the  Nativity of Jesus; the parol comes in various shapes, sizes, designs and materials but the  shape of a 5-pointed star remains to be its dominant feature. The parol also symbolizes the victory of light over darkness among the predominantly Christian Filipinos whose hope and goodwill are joyfully celebrated with family members and friends during the Christmas season under colorfully lighted parols.

"Tinsel Shop" - a parol-maker prepares cutouts for the parols

"Parol Factory" - a backyard parol shop and their delivery tricycle

The first parol was designed by a Filipino artisan named Francisco Estanislao in 1928.   The original design was made of bamboo strips and papel de japon (Japanese paper) but the design has since evolved and it is now made of various materials with more intricate features and lighting. While many Filipinos, especially those in the rural areas, still create their own parols; those in the urban areas find it more convenient to just choose from the various designs and sizes being sold along major streets and even in big malls and department stores.  Certain places in the Philippines such as Pampanga in Central Luzon and Parañaque in Metro Manila have become famous for their uniquely designed parols. A huge majority of Filipinos celebrate Christmas and put up Christmas parols and other decors as early as September each year thus parol-making has also become a thriving seasonal industry in the Philippines.

Another parol-maker assembles the basic frame of a parol

In Davao City, the parols are mostly coming from backyard shops around the Maa area.  I chanced upon some of these parol-makers and vendors the other day and spent some time with them taking photos and learning more about their trade.  My favorite photos are those of a young girl and her grandmother who I chatted with as they sat inside a flimsy parol-delivery tricycle.

Maligayang Pasko! (Merry Christmas)

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