San Fernando Travel Guide: Places to Visit in Pampanga

San Fernando, a city in Pampanga which is only 2 hours away from Manila, is known for making giant lanterns as it is considered as the Home of the Giant Lanterns in the Philippines and dubbed as the Christmas Capital of the country. So if you are planning to visit Pampanga, this San Fernando travel guide is for you!

I, together with my co-travel bloggers, were given a chance to have a day tour around the city of San Fernando.

Note: This tour was sponsored by the Department of Tourism Region III. Thank you so much!

Places to Visit in San Fernando

San Guillermo Parish Church

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Located in one of the oldest towns in the Philippines; the town of Bacolor, Pampanga showcases one of the heritage Roman Catholic churches named after the town’s Bacolor saint, is the San Guillermo Parish Church.

The exterior part of the church seems to be appealing and as you enter inside, you will be amazed at how beautiful the sacred place is. It’s wide and you will see the birds flying and chattering inside the church. Its simplicity makes it more beautiful. In addition to that, you will notice that the church is designed in Baroque Style.

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There’s a bell tower on the left while on the right side, there is a pathway going to the museum. The museum showcases sculptures of saints, religious relics, the history of the church itself, and old pictures of what happened during the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991.

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I heard that half part of the church is still in the original state.

Moreover, the church has gained popularity when due to its TV exposure in 2009-2010 as it became the main venue of the TV show on ABS-CBN “May Bukas Pa” that illustrates religious values and norms.

The St. James the Apostle Parish Church / Betis Church

Betis Church is located in the town of Guagua, Pampanga which was established in 1607. Similar to Bacolor Church, it is also in Baroque Style but it differs from Bacolor Church is its amazing architecture interior design.

Rolren’s Lantern Factory

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I must say, this is the highlight of our tour. We were able to get to know more about the history of making of the giant lanterns, the parts of the lantern as well as the value of the Giant Lantern Festival for the locals.

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San Fernando Pampanga: The Giant Lantern Festival

The Giant Lantern Festival or commonly known as “Ligligan Parul” in Kapampangan, is an annual festival celebrated in the month of December. It usually starts off in mid-December and ends at the end of January.

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The highlight of the festival is all about the giant lantern competition. Every barrio is encouraged to join the competition and show off their creativity in making the giant lantern.

Basic Parts of Lantern

1. Tambol

It is shaped like a circle, this is located at the center part of the lantern. Its name is derived from the word, “bass drum”.

2. Sikosiko

It is called sikosiko because it forms like a star.

3. Palimbon

This means procession in Kapampangan language.

4. Contetas

It means the exterior in Kapampangan language.

5. Rotor

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This is the most important part of the lantern in which it is used to operate the lantern itself. By its operation, this is when the lights appear from the lantern and that will show how beautiful your lantern is.

How big is the Giant Lantern?

The maximum measurement of the giant lantern is approximately 20 ft diameter consisting of 10,000 bulbs.

The Christmas Lantern of San Fernando

What it differs from other Christmas lanterns is each part symbolizes the Kapampangan culture, religious devotion as a Roman Catholic, and how important the Christmas season for them is.

In addition to that, the Christmas Lantern symbolizes HOPE and JOY for every local in Pampanga.

The Gian Lantern of Brgy Del Pilar’s visit

The citizens of the barrio Del Pilar showed us their unfinished-almost-done parol which will be used for the upcoming competition.

The Heroes Hall

Nothing special in particular inside the Heroes Hall, but according to our tour guide, this building serves as the extension office of the city hall of San Fernando, Pampanga.

It also serves as a convention center because you rent a part of the first floor of the building for special occasions or big events.

Heritage Tour in San Fernando

Metropolitan Church
Lazatin House
Tabacalera House
Hizon-Singian House
Augusto P. Hizon House
Hizon-Paras House
Henson-Hizon House
Consunji House

It is said to be that this is where Dr. Jose P. Rizal stayed and had his breakfast during his visit to San Fernando in 1892.

During our rolling tour, I couldn’t take pictures of these heritage houses as well as the church anymore since we couldn’t get off the van anymore as we didn’t have much time left and we were headed for lunch.

In addition, you can also see some “kalesa” roaming around the vicinity. The locals said that they are not used for tourism purposes, instead, they are solely used as a mode of transportation in San Fernando, Pampanga.

Old San Fernando Train Station

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This is the oldest railway station and known as a historical landmark situated in San Fernando, Pampanga. This site was the ending point for our fellow countrymen and Americans as prisoners from the 102-kilometer long walk during the Death March which happened in 1942.

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In addition to that, it even became more historical due to the fact that Dr. Jose P. Rizal disembarked from this station for his visit.

Dr. Jose P. Rizal visited San Fernando for three reasons. First, it was to recruit some people to join La Liga Filipina. Secondly, his reason was to finish his novels, Noli Me Tangere, and El Filibusterismo in San Fernando. Lastly, it was for some personal reasons.

It isn’t operating anymore yet it is restored as a public museum in which you can view the history of San Fernando.

The Giant Lantern of Brgy. Dolores visit

Brgy. Dolores was the second barrio that we visited to check out their giant parol. The head of the barrio in making their lantern also explained to us the main purpose of the rotor as well as the importance of it.

The Giant Lantern of Brgy. Telabastagan visit

This is where we met Kuya Arnel Flores in which he talked about how became successful because of the giant lantern. In fact, he started producing lanterns at the age of 8.

What I admire him most is when he told us that he also shares his blessings with others. He helps those street children make a living by teaching them how to make lanterns. Isn’t he amazing?

The Giant Lantern of Brgy San Jose visit

This was our last stop for our tour in San Fernando. The 4th barangay that will be participating in the competition among 11 competitors.

Every parol/lantern seems to be very interesting. What’s more amazing is they really exert effort in making their giant lanterns. I truly admire their passion for it.

San Fernando is such a very historical place and truly a magical city. A place that you shouldn’t miss visiting when in Pampanga.

After our tour in San Fernando, we headed to Angeles City to eat out at Mila’s. We tried “Sisig”, “Lechong Kawali”, and “Tokwa’t Baboy”.

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San Fernando Travel Guide: Sample Itinerary

San Guillermo Parish Church
The St. James the Apostle Parish Church / Betis Church
The Heroes Hall
Metropolitan Church
Lazatin House
Tabacalera House
Hizon-Singian House
Augusto P. Hizon House
Hizon-Paras House
Henson-Hizon House
Consunji House
Old San Fernando Train Station
Rolren’s Lantern Factory
The Gian Lantern of Brgy Del Pilar’s visit
The Giant Lantern of Brgy. Dolores visit
The Giant Lantern of Brgy. Telabastagan visit
The Giant Lantern of Brgy. San Jose visit

I hope you visit San Fernando, Pampanga soon!

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