SAN FRANCISCO – “Let tradition be our light” is the theme of this year’s much-awaited holiday celebration in San Francisco, the Parol Lantern Festival and Parade, an annual festivity held in the heart of the SoMa Pilipinas, the recently designated Filipino Cultural Heritage District by the State of California and the City and County of San Francisco.
The theme seeks to impart that tradition continues to be the light of the immigrant Filipino community outside of the homeland.
This is the time of year when Filipino culture can be prominently and distinctly showcased even in a universally celebrated holiday season in America, and for the past 15 years, since its inception in 2003, the Parol Festival has highlighted the rich tradition of parol-making, the festival of lights ritual and the taste of Filipino Christmas in San Francisco.
The annual event is among the many cultural assets that propelled the Board of Supervisors and the City to unanimously adopt a resolution in 2016 that establishes SoMa Pilipinas as Filipino Cultural Heritage District. Moreover, in July this year the California Arts Council named SoMa Pilipinas among the 14 districts that will serve as California’s inaugural state-designated Cultural Districts, highlighting thriving cultural diversity and unique artistic identities within local communities across California.
The Parol Festival is now one of the must-see events in San Francisco during the holiday season, and among the listed “Only in San Francisco” attractions.
Each year, the SoMa community showcases the quintessential Christmas lanterns and the taste of traditional Filipino Yuletide festivity.
The parol festival is scheduled every second Saturday of December, the Saturday before Simbang Gabi o Misa de Gallo, a nine-day early morning mass at St. Patrick’s Church before Christmas.
The main event will be held on Saturday, December 9 and it starts in Yerba Buena Gardens at 5 p.m. and moves to St. Patrick’s Church.
Parol strollers with their brightly-lit contingent lanterns gather for a lively parade and holiday festival, which includes performances, community presentations and the annual Tala Awards for the best Christmasl lanterns.
A Parol Gallery will also be mounted at Jessie Square to showcase the beautiful lanterns from the City of San Fernando Pampanga, the parol capital of the Philippines, the commissioned lantern sculptures of Lynn Luzano Bryant and Gene Apellido, and many locally made lanterns.
An added feature of the Parol Festival is a food-tasting program held at the Social Hall of St. Patrick’s Church from 3 to 5 p.m.
Dubbed as Taste of Filipino Christmas (Patikim ng Pagkain Pampasko), it aims to promote the rich culinary tradition and delicacies associated with holiday celebration.
Among the food to be featured are tsamporado with danggit flakes, arroz caldo, cassava cake, suman, bibingka, tibuk-tibuk, tamales and selected Ilocano delicacies such as tupig and patupat. Last year’s popular puto-bumbong cooking demonstration by Chef Noel Samonte will be back.
Entertainment will be provided by ACPA Rondalla, Autonomus Region and Kulintronica.
The parol festival is presented by the Filipino American Development Foundation and KulArts in partnership with the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, MJM Management, and St. Patrick’s Parish, and supported in part by Grants for the Arts, California Arts Council, Yerba Buena Community Benefit District and SoMa Pilipinas.