And it wasn’t just for Filipinos, Defato said, referring to a group of high school students of various cultural backgrounds that had performed traditional Philippine dances at the festival, which showcased the wide variety of dance styles from the Southeast Asian country.
“All of these Filipino dances are so interesting,” said City Councilman Frank Quintero, who was at the event and was excited to see the diversity of costumes and styles that were products of Spanish, East Asian and South Asian influences. “I just love to see how different cultures celebrate Christmas, and the Filipinos have unique customs, and I find it very interesting.”
Marisol Esparza, 16, one of the students from a high school in Pacoima who performed at the event, was nervous because she wasn’t Filipino, but succeeded in completing her dance with eight of her classmates, who had balanced candles on their heads while swaying and twirling across the stage.
“Once people saw we were able to balance the candles on our head, everybody started cheering,” Marisol said.
Although the dancing took center stage, the festival was also held to display Philippine Christmas lanterns, called “parols.”
A parol is a star-shaped decoration that represents the guiding light, or the star of Bethlehem, which, in Christian tradition, led three wise men to discover Jesus, Defato said. The lanterns are derived from traditions in Spain, which ruled the Philippines as a colony for more than 300 years.
Children were encouraged to make and submit decorative star-shaped hangings for the festival’s lantern-making competition and some participated in a crafts session to make small parols out of shiny, multicolored pipe cleaners.
The lantern-making is an important holiday tradition for Filipinos, said 10-year-old Kianna Umali, of Los Angeles, who made her blue and silver parol into a necklace.
“It’s like a big star and decoration for Christmas,” she said.
The festival was a valuable experience for attendees, especially youth, who came from around the Los Angeles area and may be familiar with cultural dances, but not holiday traditions, said Dean Delacruz, a Ventura resident.
“That’s one thing that promotes culture and the tradition of Christmas in the Filipino style,” he said of the lantern festival. “So that is going to be good in educating the young in, not just the culture, but the parol.”