The spirit of the yuletide season started to come alive in this city, dubbed as the Christmas capital of the Philippines, amid the continuing concern on coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
With still 73 days before Christmas, one can begin to feel the holiday mood here as brilliant displays of lights begin showing up in stores, streets, and houses.
At the Robinsons Starmills Pampanga, the regular venue of the Giant Lantern Festival, or locally known as “Ligligan Parul,” Christmas lights sparkling bright bring yuletide cheers to shoppers and passers-by.
Colorful, lively and bright parols in San Fernando were likewise put up along the Abacan Bridge, Pandan Bridge, and Friendship Highway Bridge in Angeles City, a testament that no pandemic can stop the Kapampangans from celebrating the holiday tradition even under the new normal.
Angeles City Mayor Carmelo Lazatin Jr. said Paskong Angeleño can still be felt even though they are facing a pandemic.
“We may not have the usual celebration of Christmas due to Covid-19, but as we are trying to beat this ongoing health crisis. These lanterns will surely symbolize our triumph over the darkness brought about by Covid-19,” Lazatin said.
Early Christmas decorations were also put up at the Porac municipal hall which is usually being done in December.
“This simple effort aims to bring joy in the hearts of the Poraqueños and to be reminded that amid Covid-19 pandemic, there is still Christmas, a season of joy and a season of giving,” Mayor Jaime Capili said.
Lantern makers and sellers in the province said business must go on amid pandemic. Although admittedly their sales have been affected by the continuing threat of Covid-19, they expressed optimism that Filipinos will not let the gloom of pandemic darken the Christmas mood.
Ruby Santos, who has been into the lantern business for 25 years, said they feel the tight budget of the people caused by the health crisis.
“Pero meron pa rin naman na naisisingit ang pambili ng parol. Nandyan pa rin ang mga suki namin na nagpapa-repair ng mga parol nila. Bahagi na ng kultura at tradisyon na mga Pilipino ang pagkakaroon ng parol. Kahit may Covid-19, kailangan masaya (But there are still those who still buy the lanterns. Our customers are still there asking for the repair of their lanterns. Having a lantern is part of the culture and tradition of the Filipinos),” Santos said in an interview over the weekend.
Lantern maker Ronald Guarino, who started their business in 2009, also acknowledged the huge impact of the pandemic as their sales declined this year.
Guarino said he was forced to reduce more than half of their workforce due to low sales and orders unlike in the past years.
“Dahil sa pandemic, humina tayo ngayong taon. Ang mga workers ko dati ay 12 but ngayon ay apat na lang sila. Mahirap. (Due to the pandemic, we have slowed down this year. My workers used to be 12 but now there are only four. It is hard),” he added in a separate interview.
With the Christmas season fast approaching, he, however, anticipated a rise in demand for lanterns.
For Rhea Mendoza, they would not let this pandemic get through their way of having a sparkling Christmas.
“Kahit mahirap ang buhay sa ngayon, hindi pwedeng wala kaming Christmas decorations tulad ng parol. Sa panahon ngayon, ang parol ay nagsisilbing simbolo ng pag-asa (Even life is hard nowadays, we still have Christmas decorations like lantern. In this time, lantern serves as a symbol of hope),” she said.
Meanwhile, the city government of San Fernando has vowed to continuously support the industry despite the pandemic.
Mayor Edwin Santiago assured the staging of the much-awaited Giant Lantern Festival amid the pandemic under the “new normal setup”.
He said the committee is exploring the possibilities of celebrating the annual tradition through virtual or the use of online platforms.
For Kapampangans, there is no reason to stop in celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ although the nation continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic. (PNA)