Where I work, Christmas kicks in when the first of the man-made stars makes its way past the guard, through the lobby and on to the second floor. It’s an annual competition among the city’s barangays (communities): every December, they display lanterns/stars fashioned from local materials in hopes of outdoing one another and bagging the top plum.
The parol (Christmas lantern) is a Filipino tradition that is kept alive here in the city. Derived from the word farol–Spanish for lantern–the parol represents the Star of Bethlehem, which guided the Magi as they traveled to seek the manger where the Baby Jesus was born. More than just a Christmas ornament, the parol is seen as a symbol of hope, an allegory for the triumph of light over darkness.
This year’s parols, displayed in time for the Sosogon Festival, are colorful paeans to creativity. No longer confined to the bamboo-and-paper creations of yore, they tell of painstaking hours spent cutting and shaping ang putting together. The materials are just as varied: there are crab shells, wood shavings, bamboo, shells, leaves, grass, plastic bottles, disposables given a new purpose.
Inasmuch as the parol tells of journeys, so too does the Sosogon Festival. The term sosogon, from which Sorsogon got its name, means tracing, following the path of the river to get to the town. As the city gears up for a week of tracing history, making new paths and forging ahead, we look up at the stars around and above us and think of journeys made and journeys yet to be taken.
Some of Sorsogon City’s stars: