Cool easterly winds blew toward us at the desolate San Fernando beach in Sibaltan, El Nido like a comforting afternoon embrace to what relatively has been a humid summer day. Only a few resort guests from Qi Palawan were at the beach, mostly couples situated spaced apart on some lounge chairs or standing intently. Enjoying intimate moments together while staring into the blue horizon, waiting for the moonrise. And slowly, a wondrous globe pierced through the horizon, the moon looked bigger and closer to Earth in all its golden glow. The moment was inexplicably both fast and slow as we watched in wonder. We always talk about sunsets and sunrises, but moonrises and moonsets remains an underrated beauty. Much like secluded places, like this resort, Qi Palawan, found in the far-flung corner of Northeast El Nido, away from the tourist town proper, exclusivity and closeness to nature can be found.
I try not to travel around during the holiday seasons as the vehicular and human traffic is horrendous at this time of the year. But I decided to make an exception on the 17th of December 2011 to witness this year’s Ligligan Parul 2011 or the Giant Lantern Festival in San Fernando, Pampanga. It’s a grand annual lights and music spectacle featuring the Filipino’s traditional Parol (Christmas Lantern) showcased in a gigantic scale. This year, 10 baranggays (villages) take turns to display their sophisticated light design display on their Giant Lanterns in-sync with their choice of music to give us audiences a feast to our senses.
Surfing has always been attached with La Union. It was great to know that there are other attractions in the area on my recent brief sojourn around the province. I have to thank Thunderbird Poro Point Resort, La Union for sponsoring us on this familiarization trip around the area. This would be a real good guide on what to see and expect when going around La Union, beyond the surfing. Of course our home base was the Santorini-inspired resort.
Its east meets west in La Union as we visit two places of worship from two different faiths. It’s not surprising to see the confluence of culture here as the Filipinos are known to be capable of dual faiths. Say for example, some Chinese homes have both the images of Buddha and Christ side by side. While not near each other we look at to sacred images representing each faith in the Taoist, Macho Temple (or Ma Cho Temple).
After about 6 hours drive from Manila, rains greeted us upon our afternoon arrival in our first day at Thunderbird Poro Point Resort. We didn’t mind really as it gave us time to get acquainted with our lovely rooms and the resort. The rains lingered on the next days but it was fortunate the sun showed itself from morning to mid-afternoon, giving us opportune time to explore several attractions around La Union. Our first two stops were the Pindangan Ruins and La Union’s Botanical Garden.
Greece would be an ideal place to be lost in if I were to travel to that part of the world. But that seems to be a distant dream for now. It’s a good thing international resort chain Thunderbird brought a piece of the Greek Island, Santorini at the land of La Union. Perched up high on a scenic cliff at Poro Point, the grand Greek architecture stands out from a distance to welcome visitors at Thunderbird Poro Point Resort.
Along with the puto bumbong, bibingka, and the traditional Simbang Gabi, the Parol (Christmas Lantern) is one of the Filipino symbols of Christmas. I remember having seen parols in Cambodia which they also display during their new year but I think the Christmas Lanterns are more associated with Filipinos. The tradition of Parol making has evolved through the years from simple bamboo and paper to a more complicated use of materials and circuitry. And every year, we see the height of Christmas Lantern reach gigantic levels in the province of Pampanga as they celebrate the Annual Ligligan Parol or Giant Lantern Festival.