Discover the Christmas Capital of the Philippines - San Fernando Pampanga29 September 2022
As of this writing, the countdown has begun with only less than a hundred days left before Christmas! That's still roughly three more months, but Filipinos are already gesturing their excitement toward the upcoming holiday season as soon as September 1st. The Philippines, after all, is famous for having the longest Christmas celebration in the world, hence our collective excitement at the start of the "Ber" season.
Perhaps the excitement is doubled in the first-class City of San Fernando in the province of Pampanga, where there lies another Christmas-related distinction that its residents take enormous pride in—the city was hailed as the Christmas Capital of the Philippines!
The City of San Fernando: History and Distinctions
Officially known as the City of San Fernando (Lungsod ng San Fernando in Filipino) to distinguish itself from its namesake, San Fernando City in La Union, this regional center of Central Luzon has far more to offer aside from earning the moniker as the country's Christmas capital.
With 35 barangays and more than 350,000 inhabitants according to the 2020 census, let's get to know interesting facts about the city, and prepare to love the prospect of living in San Fernando with all its economic glory, accessibility, historical significance, and more.
1. San Fernando was hailed 'Asia's Christmas capital' by CNN
Not only was it recognized as the country's Christmas capital, but also in the whole of Asia, according to a 2013 CNN article that took notice of Pampanga's capital city and its annual spectacle featuring the famous Giant Lantern Festival.
The festivity is locally known as Ligligan Parul, where lantern makers from different villages compete for a sizeable cash prize from the city government. The barangay of Santa Lucia is a Christmas village and a perennially leading contender in the annual festival for being awarded the distinction as the City's home of giant lanterns.
Apparently, Sta. Lucia's parol makers take the annual competition very seriously, so much so that it would not come off as a surprise if you spot Christmas decorations and a gigantic parol under construction in their area, irrespective of what particular month in the calendar.
In the CNN feature, it extolled the "largest incarnations of the Philippines' parol, an eye-dazzling electric Christmas lantern that symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem."
2. The Giant Lantern Festival was originally a religious event
The festival does not originally feature a grand display of giant lanterns, but was a religious activity more commonly known as a novena, or "lubenas" as it is aptly called in Kapampangan. The parols are also not as large back then compared to their modern-day counterparts, but the significance is in its observance of a nine-day novena, which coincides with the traditional Simbang Gabi across the country, consisting of nine consecutive days of attending church during nighttime.
3. San Fernando is the birthplace of the Philippine labor movement
According to the City of San Fernando's official website, the provincial capital is also the birthplace of the labor movement in the country. Union de Lithografos y Impresores de Filipinas (ULIF), headed by Hermegildo Cruz, was established in San Fernando through the press plant of La Independencia, whose editor-in-chief was General Antonio Luna.
The protest that first transpired in 1872 was in defiant response to the abuses of the workers' foremen in the plant. The strike was believed to have been organized by a guild of printers from a government press in the town.
Fast forward to 1995 when Typhoon Sibyl (Mameng) wreaked havoc on the San Fernando town, volcanic mudflows came hurling down from the infamous Mount Pinatubo. The barangays of Magliman, San Juan, San Pedro, and Santo Nino in San Fernando were especially affected by severe mudflow, killing civilians.
In light of this, thanks to the solidarity and activism of civic leaders and residents, they organized to save the town from further environmental destruction by raising funds for the construction of St. Ferdinand People's Dike, now called the FVR Megadike to honor the late president Fidel V. Ramos, who then tapped Public Works and Highways Secretary Gregorio Vigilar after learning of the residents' pleas for their town's protection.
According to a feature from the Inquirer, the U-shaped Megadike is considered the town's last hope against the deadly effects of volcanic mudflows, known as lahar.
4. San Fernando is a top destination for family getaways
From heritage sites, tourist attractions, and amusement parks, the following is a list of San Fernando itineraries that your family will enjoy over the weekend.
Arzobispo de Pampanga - Chancery
Kickstart your Sunday morning by attending mass at the historical Arzobispo De Pampanga along San Jose Road. Be fascinated with the building's architectural splendor and historical relevance. Arzobispo de Pampanga is also a popular choice of venue for wedding occasions.
San Fernando Train Station
Who said that visiting the San Fernando Train Station is only best for students' educational field trips? It could be a family getaway too, where you and your children could look back at the country's history during the Japanese Occupation. Although no longer operational today, the San Fernando Train Station was declared a historical landmark by the National Historical Institute, and features a museum, memorabilia, and other historical items for public display.
Sky Ranch Pampanga
Also within the capital city is Sky Ranch Pampanga, a giant amusement park and home to the tallest Ferris wheel in the country—the Pampanga Eye. Strategically located in SM City Pampanga, Jose Abad Santos Avenue, the amusement park features a variety of fun activities through its exhilarating rides, from kid-friendly Canoe River, Safari Train, and Convoy Tour. The Double-decker Carousel, Express Train, Indianapolis, and the Pampanga Eye, which will give you a panoramic view of the bustling city, are perfect for the entire family.
For the adventurous, the Loop Roller-Coaster, Super Viking, Space Shuttle, and the Drop Tower will make you feel alive and enjoy a you-only-live-once moment!
Villa Alfredo's Resort
Spend the afternoon soaking in pool water and enjoy Villa Alfredo's vast swimming pools for the family to enjoy! Situated in Barangay Baliti, relax at this resort's waterslides, as well as its jacuzzis, bird sanctuary, an exquisite variety of flowers, and marine aquarium. Don't forget to belt out your best singing piece in the karaoke corner as though you're in an Idol Philippines audition!
WOW Philippines Hilaga
Located nearby the San Fernando exit of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), WOW Philippines Hilaga was formerly known as the Paskuhan Village, which was first established in 1990. In 2003, then-Tourism Secretary Richard "Dick" Gordon transformed the village into a tourist destination showcasing arts and crafts to pay respects to the lantern makers of San Fernando, home to the largest parols created in the world.
5. San Fernando is a haven of economic opportunities
While San Fernando was Pampanga's capital since 1904, it was not until the year 2001 that it achieved its cityhood acquisition by virtue of the Republic Act 8990. Since then, the City of Fernando has been a force to reckon with as a place of opportunity for Pampanga and the entirety of Central Luzon.
Moreover, the City of San Fernando is a vital hub surrounded by plenty of secondary schools, vocational institutions, academically competent universities and colleges, hospitals, ample shopping centers, churches, large factories, and leisure attractions. It is for this reason that the City of San Fernando is a premier location for various opportunities.
Besides SM City Pampanga, Robinsons Starmills is also a frequented establishment in Pampanga, which is the first-ever Robinsons mall not only in this province but in the whole Central Luzon region. International companies and factories are also present in this city, giving tremendous employment opportunities for Pampanga residents.
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