ON a gloomy morning in mid-August at the Quiman Trading workshop in San Fernando, Pampanga, lantern-maker Chris was concentrating on making a frame with some thin steel before his fellow lantern-maker and mentor Bong welded it. Afterwards, the frame would be wiring and papered over to become a multi-colored lantern. Chris and Bong were among 20 craftsmen who have been working on three designs commissioned by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) — a sundial, a line of baybayin script, and star-shaped lantern — since May this year.

Quiman Trading’s proprietor Arvin B. Quiwa began his apprenticeship in lantern-making under the tutelage of his father Ernesto “Erning” David Quiwa who was the owner and operations manager of Erning Quiwa Christmas Lanterns. With more than 10 years of working on his craft under his father, the younger Mr. Quiwa established his own lantern-making company in 2007. Quiman Trading’s projects have included making lanterns for Asian Civilizations Sta. Lucia Giant Lanterns (2013), Resorts World Manila (2013), Museum in Singapore (2016), and the cities of Olongapo, Bataan, and Bacoor.

This year the CCP has partnered with lantern makers of San Fernando, Pamapanga for Sinag: Festival of Lights, a lights show that is part of its 50th anniversary celebration.

Initially, Mr. Quiwa was surprised to by the unusual shapes and designs for the CCP’s customized lanterns .

“Normally, bilog lang po ’yung lantern namin (Normally, our lanterns are just round),” Mr. Quiwa told members of the press after they visited his workshop visit in San Fernando, Pampanga on Aug. 13, adding that the designs were by far the most challenging for their team.

The centerpiece lantern is a 48 x 22.5 feet sundial equipped with 2,000 multi-colored light bulbs which will be mounted at the CCP’s front lawn. The installation will also function as a performance area.

According to multi-media artist Adbulmari “Toym” Imao, Jr. who designed the lanterns, the sundial serves as “a metaphor for all these changes, innovations, performances na naipon (that were accumulated) within the [past] 50 years.”

Connected to the front of the sundial are seven bicycle-like machines — each representing one of the traditional arts — which audience members can operate, controlling the patterns of light on the lantern depending on their pedaling speed.

“The communication of this is not just for interactivity but the idea that [it is the] the audience [who are] powering [the] art,” the CCP’s Artistic Director and Vice-President Chris Millado said.

A second set of lanterns feature stylized baybayin script of the words “Katotohanan” (Truth), “Kabutihan” (Goodness), and “Kagandahan” (Beauty) — the tenets of the institution — which will be mounted on the facade of the CCP’s Main Building. The text of the 24 x 62 foot lanterns are highlighted with light transitions from the baybayin script to Latin alphabet translation.

The third set of lanterns are 47 star-shaped pieces which will be attached to lamp posts along the entire lengths of Bukaneg and Vicente Sotto Sts. in the CCP Complex.

At the opening of Sinag: Festival of Lights on Sept. 19, the lanterns will will be switched on to the theme song “Pagdiwang sa Ginintuang Pagsilang ng Sentrong Pangkultura ng Pilipinas,” written by National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera with music by National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab.

Mr. Millado noted that the opening program will feature over 100 performers such as festival dancers of the Sinulog (Cebu), Dinagyang (Iloilo), and Maskara (Bacolod) festivals.

“Our hope is that this doesn’t happen only on the 50th. [We hope] it will happen every year na magkakaroon ng Festival of Lights.” Mr. Millado said.

Sinag: Festival of Lights opens on Sept. 19, 6:30 p.m. The lights show will run daily except on Mondays, every 30 minutes from 6 to 10 p.m. until Jan. 5, 2020. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman