Christmas maybe from the West, but the parol is truly Filipino.
The West may have developed the idea of Christmas, but the Filipinos have embraced it possibly more than the rest of the world. Case in point: the Philippines having the “longest Christmas” in the world, with decor and the holiday spirit kicking in as early as September.
A quintessential part and perhaps the most unique symbol of Christmas in the Philippines is the ever-present parol, a five-point-star-shaped lantern usually made of bamboo sticks and colored paper.
Taken from the Spanish word farol (meaning lantern or street light), its origins are said to date back to the early 1900s in Pampanga. First made by Francisco Estanislao, its base design, a five-point star pretty much stay unchanged since its inception.
Materials used vary from simple—bamboo sticks for the frame covered by papel de hapon or colored cellophane—to complex—steel, white or stained capiz shells, and a bunch of wires and circuitry. You can find at least one parol by the façade of Filipino home, or as part of the holiday decor beautifying streets of busier metropolises like Makati.
If you’re looking for the best designs, look no further than San Fernando City in the province of Pampanga. Lantern making in this city is an art and a livelihood, and is best embodied in the annual Giant Lantern Festival, held a couple of weeks before Christmas in December annually.
The basics Get there. Take a Partas or a Victory Liner bus from these transport companies’ terminal in Cubao to get to San Fernando, Pampanga. Travel time is about one hour.
Chef Jam Melchor takes us on a gastronomic journey around the province he’s from, Pampanga, hailed food capital about an hour’s drive north from Manila.
As a full-blooded Kapampangan and chef, there aren’t that many people who can better guide us through Pampanga than Jam Melchor. Pampanga is a big place, but it can be made smaller with the help of Chef Jam. Here are some of his picks.
Where he’d go to eat
“You won’t find the best chefs in Pampanga hanging out in restaurants; they’re found at homes.”
Kabigting’s Halo-Halo and Cool Spot in Angeles City for halo-halo. Kabigting’s, in particular, uses carabao’s milk and pastillas to make their creamy and milky halo-halo, which he likes.
Aling Lucing’s and Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy for sisig. “If you want a sisig that’s moist and has more of a char-grilled texture, go to Aling Lucing’s. For the modern version, go to Mila’s.”
Places to go in Pampanga
If you’re on tour in Pampanga and Chef Jam is leading the pack, these are the places you’ll visit:
Churches. Pampanga has a lot of beautiful and historic churches, so make sure not to miss them.
Abe’s Farm for lunch or dinner.Their flavors have been consistent for years.
Sisig places like Aling Lucing’s and Mila’s.
Gill’s Buko Sherbet & Ice Cream in Angeles City.
Atching Lilian Borromeo in Mexico, Pampanga for San Nicholas cookies.
Susie’s Cuisine for their tibok-tibok (carabao milk pudding with glutinous rice).
Pasalubong (treats to take back home) from Pampanga
It’s not really a trip to Pampanga without bringing back some grub. Open up some space in your bag and make sure you take at least one of each of these home with you:
Tocino del cielo. It’s a rare and labor-intensive dessert that looks very similar to leche flan. It’s made a whole lot sweeter by taking out the milk and only sticking to butter and simple syrup.
Marzipan. A chewy ball of sweetness that’s made from cashew nuts, milk, and eggs.
Tocino. There are a lot of recipes using all kinds of meat like pork or even carabao.
Longganisa. A trip to Pampanga won’t be complete without taking home a bunch of these local sausages.
Buro. A local way of pickling things like mangoes. It’s an acquired taste to love the buro. It goes really well with anything grilled or fried.
Make your Holy Week vacation more interesting by actually engaging in Holy Week activities. *wink wink*
Going on a social media purge as your penitensya (penance) or beach bumming in places like Boracay or Palawan for the Semana Santa is well and good, but don’t you ever get tired of the same trend every single year? Why not go on a simple summer holiday where you can enjoy your vacation AND still experience something relevant to Holy Week festivities? We have rounded up ideas for your Semana Santa escape.
Barotac Viejo, Iloilo
Iloilo isn’t the first place that pops into people’s heads when it comes to answering the question “Where should I be this Holy Week?” It’s not as popular a destination especially that crowd favorite Boracay is merely on the northwest part of the island. But the sleep town of Barotac Viejo may just give you something new.
The little town is known for having a community that is takes their Holy Week seriously by mimicking the Passion of Christ. The townspeople themselves have been performing the Passion play, with “passion” Hiligaynon every Good Friday for almost half a century in their annual Taltal sa Barotac Viejoand it’s a delight to watch.
Places to see: Bucas Grande, Old Iloilo City, Miagao Church, River Esplanande, “Little Baguio” (Bucari) Things to do: Party at Smallville, Walk along Iloilo River Esplanande, Island hopping at Concepcion
Bantayan Island, Cebu
It’s an island north of the Cebu mainland that’s become popular for its stretches of fine-sand beaches that is expected to see an influx of tourists this Holy Week. What people shouldn’t miss while in the island paradise is the annual Pasko sa Kasakit, a simple celebration of the stations of the cross, but with a twist where the images in the Station of the Cross are supersized and paraded around.
Places to see: Alice Beach, Camp Sawi, Kota Beach (all in Santa Fe), Malapascua Island, Virgin Island, Hilantagaan Island, Kota Park Things to do: Biking, snorkel, freedive/scuba, beach bumming, tour the town of Bantayan for heritage houses
This island is starting to blow up more for the views you’ll get than what happens here during Semana Santa.
Siquijor, known across the country as a home to witchcraft and mysticism, but locals have since shed that image and now proudly celebrate their folk healing expertise with the annual Folk Healing Festival, taking place during the last few days of Holy Week. Get yourself treated by local healers or witness how they make various concoctions with the promise of curing almost anything you can think of—yes, including heartaches.
Places to see: Century-old balete tree, Salagdoong Beach, Paliton Beach, Kagusuan Beach (extremely hidden, possible that not even the locals know about it) Things to do: Go around the island on a scooter, visit a ranch, hit the island’s peaks on a mountain bike, snorkeling, beach hopping
If there’s a Holy Week destination that’s never left off any list, it’s Marinduque. Known as the geographical heart of the Philippines, it’s basically an island that’s made itself known for a festival that celebrates a Roman soldier who became a believer in Jesus Christ: the Moriones Festival.
Most of you will know what this festival centers on commemorating Roman soldier Longinus, who stabs Jesus on the side, witnesses His resurrection, tells the Romans about it, and (gruesomely) gets his head chopped off. This part is often depicted in their version of The Passion play, which talks about Christ’s last moments before He eventually passes on.
Places to see: Tres Reyes islands, Mt. Mataas, Boac, Palad Sandbar, Ungab Rock Formations, Bathala Python Cave Things to do: Visita Iglesia, Beach hopping
It’s the piece de resistance of a list of Holy Week destinations, and something that’s also been a source of controversy as to whether or not it should be considered a tourist attraction. We’re talking, of course, about the MaleldoFestival in San Pedro Cutud, Pampanga.
The Maleldo Festival is the full (and very real) re-enactment of Christ’s crucifixion. Yes, it’s the whole 10 miles: the garb, the Crown of Thorns, crying depiction of Mary Magdalene, people marching on the streets whacking their backs with things that make them bleed, and someone actually getting nailed to a cross that they’ve been carrying for several miles.
Places to see: Mt. Pinatubo, Subic Bay, Sandbox at Porac, El Kabayo, Skyranch Pampanga, Nayong Pilipino Things to do: go on a food trip, adventure activities, Visita Iglesia
Yes, you read that right. It’s an option for those who don’t want to go out of the city yet still want to witness something that only happens once a year. The citizens of Makati, particularly those who live in the restaurant-and-bar hub that is Poblacion, stage a parade commemorating Lent.
They hold a grand procession every Holy Wednesday (closed roads, of course) and put up booths with life-size depictions of The Passion of Christ. Another plus: some establishments stay open even during Holy Week!
Places to see: Sts. Peter and Paul Parish (one of the oldest churches in the country), Circuit Makati (but hold off on that after Holy Wednesday), art galleries in Poblacion Things to do: staycation at one of the many hotels in the area, food trip, pub crawl
Quest Hotel & Conference Center in Clark has a 36-hole golf course and a two-pooled villa. What’s not to love?
As I check in at Quest Hotel & Conference Center on Mimosa Drive in Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, I get a hint I’m in for a pleasurable stay.
I see renovations are ongoing—the hotel is being rebranded from Holiday Inn to Quest Hotel & Conference Center—but it does not keep the property from revealing glimpses of pleasures.
The hotel is clean and elegant—taupe walls,
marble floors; the hallways are spacious; and there’s window all over letting
natural light spill in.
The main lobby is composed of earthen tones
and texture at play, with a vibrant flower arrangement at the center. It’s
minimalist with velvety couch seating as main furniture pieces.
Check-in is fuss free and personalized. Once
I’m settled, somebody offers to take my bag and leads me to my room.
The Mimosa Golf Course is an enviable 36-hole facility set within Filinvest’s201-hectares property. You don’t need to be a member to get to play.
The swimming pool, brand new gym and equipment,
and yoga studio are great for keeping fit while holidaying, not to mention the
expansive grounds for early morning jogs.
Families with kids will love the
well-appointed kid’s corner too.
The Grand Villas built in between the main
hotel and the golf courseis the ultimate in pampering. Fetching 75 grand a
night, the Balinese-inspired comes with a personal butler, a private pool, a
lavish living room, cable satellite TV, a king size bed, kitchen with top tier
fittings, all-white bathroom with vanity area and a grand bathtub with a view.
I’m billeted in a 22sqm Club Deluxe Room, furnished with a king size bed, a work table and a seating with a view. There’s cable TV, private bathroom with hot and cold running water, and coffee and tea making facility. Lighting is subdued but who needs it when you have bright interiors andbig windows for natural light to seep in? Loved the vintage inspired white cabinet, and found the daily fresh fruits thoughtful.
Wining and dining
Lots of options to choose from but the Club Lounge is special, giving you exclusive access if you’re booked in a Club Deluxe Suite. Here, you can have breakfast or enjoy fill after fill of cocktails and snacks from 5 pm to 7 pm.
Baris a countryside-inspired sports bar at the
ground floor, which serves wines and spirits, and an international menu. Their
classic Margarita is a must try.
Lunch may be had at Q by Mimosa, located right within golf and country club, for American, Korean and Filipino favorites. I thoroughly enjoyed their meaty Bolognese spaghetti and Mimosa Salad.
Opening soon is Mequeni Live, an all-day interactive buffet featuring a grilling, Asian, Kapampangan(Pampanga local fare), desserts and other stations. Look forward to their specialties palabok and pork sisig. Guests can expect their favorite dishes to be personalized as they will serve it according to the customers’ preferences.
From Php6,000 (USD113) per night for two Questhotelsandresorts.com/clark/ Tel: +6345 599 8000
Take a P2P Bus going to Clark for Php350 (USD7) at NAIA Terminal 3 Arrival Bay 14 then ask to be dropped off at Mimosa, Filinvest