For Filipinos, nothing says Christmas more than the parol, a traditional holiday season lantern.
The five-point ornament is said to have been inspired by the biblical Star of Bethlehem that guided three wise men to a newborn baby.
Lighting a parol symbolizes shared devotion and hope among predominantly Catholic Filipinos in their homeland and elsewhere in the world.
In Vancouver, this act of faith will be renewed when Maria Andrelita Austria leads the lighting of parols to herald a Filipino Christmas market and celebration on December 6.
Austria is the consul general of the Philippines. The decorated career diplomat is in charge of B.C., Yukon, and the Northwest Territories.
Since assuming her post in Vancouver in June 2018, Austria has been in the forefront of sharing Filipino culture and traditions with the broader community.
The December 6 event is called Maligayang Pasko, Vancouver! (Maligayang Pasko is Tagalog for Merry Christmas.)
It will be held at the St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Centre (3150 Ash Street) on December 6, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The free event will offer guests plenty of opportunities to sample and shop for Filipino Christmas fare.
Favourites like puto bumbong (steamed purple rice), bibingka (glutinous rice cake), queso de bola (aged cheese), hamon (ham), lechon (roast pork), balut (duck egg), nilaga at pritong mani (boiled and fried peanuts), and other street food will be available.
Exhibitors include Goldilocks, Cebu Lechon, La Glace, Flip Side Desserts, Shameless Buns, Max's Food Truck, Potato Corner, Plato Filipino, Tikim Asian Fusion, Win Win Chick-N, Pampanga's Cuisine, The Khaykery, Kaye Bakes, Ensaimada Moment, Bukobaba Essentials Inc., KAPE, Kasama Chocolate, and Corinthian Distributors Ltd.
National carrier Philippine Airlines will be present. Lucky Studios will set up shop.
Filipino artists and cultural workers will be performing. They include the Midnight Jazz Ensemble, Jessica Zraly, Joseph and Jonathan Tamondong, Ed and Salve Dayao, and the Marinduque Association Choir.
Stories will be told by Filipino librarians with the Vancouver Public Library, Tulayan, and Barangay Cedar Cottage-Vancouver.
A highlight of Maligayang Pasko, Vancouver! will be the two parol-making workshops of artists Bert Monterona and Danvic Briones.
The sessions will be held at 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
According to Briones, parol-making is traditionally a family activity, and the sessions hope to recreate this custom.
Ready-made frames for the typical five-point star lantern will be available. Participants are going to wrap these with bright coloured materials, and take home their parol as souvenir.
“We want young people to experience working together with their elders to create something special for Christmas,” Briones told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
Josephine Nacisvalencia is the cultural office of the Philippine consulate general office in Vancouver.
According to Nacisvalencia, the parol is the quintessential representation of the Filipino Christmas spirit.
“For Filipinos, the parol symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness,” Nacisvalencia told the Straight by phone.