‘Parol ng Panawagan’ reminds us of what we need to reflect and act on this holiday season

Members of the New Manila-Cubao cluster of the Nicodemus Solidarity Youth, a group of seminarians, hang lanterns made of recycled materials such as paper cups, newspapers and compact discs in a community in 11th Street in New Manila, Barangay Damayang Lagi in Quezon City as part of their first-ever ‘Parol ng Panawagan’ activity.

The giving out of ‘parol’ or Christmas lanterns was held on December 16, in time for the start of the Roman Catholic tradition of ‘Simbang Gabi’ or ‘Misa de Gallo’ (Mass of the Roosters).

In a statement, the group said that they organized the event because they wanted youth in urban poor communities to be reminded of the reason for the season, the birth of Jesus, life and hope.

According to them, the lanterns symbolized their opposition against the series of killings under President Duterte’s drug war, which victimizes poor Filipino youth.

“We are alarmed over the massive killings of the inheritors of our society. Our young Filipinos were not just killed by the series of extrajudicial killings but also by the widespread poverty in the country caused by the inaccessibility of education, health services, jobs among others,” says Macario Araja, spokesperson of the Nicodemus Solidarity Youth New Manila-Cubao cluster.

They said the various social issues being confronted by the Filipino youth this Christmas season are not to be set aside in the season of merriment, but needs to be reflected upon.

He added, “Such poor state of our youth and people also manifest in the absence of just peace, social justice and genuine freedom in our land.”

Traditionally, the design of the lanterns evoked the star of Bethlehem that guided the Three Kings to the manger during his birth. It also symbolized the victory of light over darkness and the Filipinos’ hope and goodwill during the Christmas season.

According to Nicodemus Youth Solidarity, patterns of the Christmas lanterns evolved from the five-pointed paper star lantern originally crafted in 1908 by an artisan named Francísco Estanislao. Estanislao’s creation was made of bamboo strips covered with Japanese paper illuminated by a candle.

Old Filipino folks to light their way during the ritual yuletide dawn masses used these lanterns.

“These lanterns represent our aspirations and calls for the Duterte administration this Christmas. May the lights from these lanterns may serve as a reminder to President Duterte and to all of us to be compassionate and concerned enough to our poor countrymen who are in need,” Araja ended.

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