(SPOT.ph) Just days after dodging Super Typhoon Karding, Eric Quiwa, one of San Fernando City's star parol makers, prepares to ship 4,000 colorful lanterns which will be distributed across the capital region, New York City and to wherever there's demand for Pampanga's signature Christmas product.
Having fulfilled orders for the Makati Central Business District, the Greenhills Shopping Center, Megastar Sharon Cuneta and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray throughout his decades-long career, Quiwa is the low-key character of the city's Christmas story. Just as Jose Mari Chan's "Christmas in Our Hearts" starts playing, the Quiwa family's parols with dancing LED lights.
"Kahit isang bayan lang project natin, dapat quality. Hindi 'yung kahit maraming project, kahit pangit, kahit star na lang puwede na," Quiwa told SPOT.ph.
For Christmas this year, Eric is handling orders from the local governments of Paranaque, Dasmarinas in Cavite and Calamba in Laguna, and the offices of CALAX and NLEX. The Philippine Embassy in New York also ordered eight-foot versions of his famed giant parols, which Quiwa's brother Omar will personally deliver in November.
The San Fernando City government does not recognize Quiwa as the son of "Golden Man of Parol" for nothing.
Also read: Pampanga's Giant Lantern Festival Is Back in Time for Christmas
Pampanga is the birthplace of the giant parols
One of Quiwa's ancestors, a saltmaker named Francisco Estanislao, started the family's lantern-making vocation when he made a parol out of bamboo and coco cloth in 1908, or before electricty even arrived at their then hometown of Sta. Lucia. Pampanga folk acknowledge the family's pioneering efforts in lantern-making.
Quiwa's father, Erning, a parol craftsman of 60 years, was the one who made Metro Manila and the world take notice. He produced lanterns that lit up Makati and Greenhills in the 90s. His creations were also displayed in Japan, Seville in Spain, and won first place at the 1993 Hollywood Christmas Parade.
"Maraming gumagawa ng parol dito, marunong sila gumawa pero ang problema sa kanila halimbawa sa design," he said, describing how others were stuck at making stars and candle-designed Christmas lanterns while they have moved on to using fiberglass lanterns that reflect the city's culture.
Parol-making is a family tradition, more than a business
Quiwa's sons, Karl Ernest and Andrei, have joined the family's parol business. Karl Ernest shifted studies to management from veterinary medicine to equip himself better for the job. Andrei is an architect and his design chops come in handy.
"Super overwhelmed lalo na ikaw gumawa ng isang symbol na nagpapasaya sa tao lalo 'pag Christmas," said 28-year-old Karl Ernest.
Andrei recognizes that he and his brother have a duty to continue the family craft. "May konting sacrifices na puwedeng tumulong din ako. Tatanda rin kasi 'yung [magulang] natin so walang magmamana, so ako and brother ko, pinagtutulungan namin kung ano 'yung mga kailangan pa."
Karl Ernest credited his millennial background and his Gen Z brother's eye for the latest trends for fusing the traditional parol with modern designs.
"Kasi if wala kang ilabas na bago, marami ka competitors sa likod mo. Kunwari naglabas ka ngayon, gagayahin na bukas 'yan. The next year naman wala kang nailabas na bago, pare-pareho na kayo. Kami, sa mga competitors namin, malayong malayo na sila lalo sa design namin," he told SPOT.ph.
From January to August, the Quiwa family uses the downtime before Christmas to make lanterns for other occassions such as Valentines Day and festivals like Angono's Higantes or Cebu's Sinulog.
They also use the time to experiment. The young Quiwas are testing photocell technology to make the lanterns turn on at dusk and turn off at dawn automatically.
One recent success, Karl Ernest said they were able to produce the color pink in lanterns, which is difficult to make.
"Huwag ka madamot sa knowledge. Siguro dadating araw, siguro 'yung anak ko tuturuan ko rin. Imumulat ko rin siya sa lantern kasi nag-uumpisa 'yan sa family din e, itutuloy din nila and mae-explain mo 'yung business. Nag-uumpisa 'yan sa passion," Karl Ernest said.