The University of the Philippines (UP) system normally celebrates the Christmas season the best way one can imagine with a parade of lights, floats, and every single extravaganza UP students could practically think of.

The Lantern Parade started in 1922, inspired by the folk practice of carrying lanterns of various shapes and sizes to light the way to the early morning December masses or Misa de Gallo during the Spanish period.

It was institutionalized in 1934 by UP President Jorge C. BOcobo “so that students can have a frolicsome activity before the year ends.”

“From its beginnings as a simple homage to an old Christmas tradition to the elegant, colorful, sometimes controversial creations that strut (or sometimes sputter) around the UPD academic oval each Yuletide, the Lantern Parade has evolved into an event that reflects both the people and milieu of its time, depicting the changing social and political landscape of the University and indeed, the country,” according to the UP website.

UP is known to be a sanctuary of advocates of civil rights and academic freedom, especially in times of uncertainty and social turmoil.

Lantern parades are held in all UP constituent universities, with administrative offices, academic units, organizations, and community groups getting creative on their lanterns and presentations.

I remember my first lantern parade in 1987 lasted for six to eight hours during my freshman year when six-wheeler trucks were still allowed.

Lanterns are basically a light source (candle, wick in fuel, or mantle) enclosed in a container that protects the flame so the wind would not put it out but light can pass through. It can be made from a variety of materials from non-flammable to flammable.

Due to the pandemic, the traditional face-to-face lantern parades were not celebrated in the various UP campuses for two years in a row.

UP launched last December 21 a virtual campus map that live-streamed the lantern parade via UPD’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

I celebrated my birthday last December 21 by joining the “People’s Lantern Parade” which is an informal lantern parade at the UP Diliman campus.

The two-hour parade was organized by the Colleges of Social Work and Community Development and Engineering and the School of Economics (my home college as well as that of Vice President Leni Robredo). The parade, which lasted until six in the evening, began at the CSWCD, went around the Academic Oval, and ended at the University Ave fronting the Administration Building.

With the theme “Parada ng Pag-ibig at Pag-asa”, most participants carried pink parols of various sizes as the parade aims to symbolize calls to end corruption and its adherents and to fight for democracy, human rights, and the welfare of Filipinos.

It also aimed to raise funds for the areas recently affected by typhoon Odette.

Pink is considered “the color of hope and love.”

The pink parol movement coincided with the Christmas season that became not merely initiatives to raise funds but also for voters’ education activities.

Pink parols not only give hope but also enlightenment to voters on whom they should vote for in the upcoming 2022 elections.

It was also during my birthday last year when the so-called Christmas Star or Star of Bethlehem appeared, which is symbolized by the parol.

On this day, Jupiter and Saturn appeared closer to each other.

It is called a “great conjunction” because Jupiter and Saturn are the two largest planets in the Solar System, and to the naked eye they will look like a single bright star during this “celestial summit meeting.”

One of the more popular theories for the “Christmas Star” was that it was part of a series of conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn in 7 BC wherein these planets met not once but three times that year (in May, September, and December).

In Christian belief, the Christmas star is found within the New Testament only in the Gospel of Matthew.

The Christmas Star led the three wise men (Magi) to Jesus’ home in the town in Bethlehem where they worshiped him and gave him gifts.

The wise men were then given a divine warning not to return to Herod, so they traveled back home by a different route.

“O star of wonder, star of light, Star with royal beauty bright, Westward leading, still proceeding, Guide us to thy perfect light.”

May the pink parol be the country’s guiding Christmas star. “Mas radikal ang magmahal.”

(Peyups is the monicker of the University of the Philippines. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786).

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