Skipping passion for safety: An old lantern maker’s taleu

While the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic may have caused a negative impact on everyone’s lives, it sure taught an old man to make an unselfish gesture of skipping tradition, giving way, hold his passion, and take a back seat.

This year, Efren Tiodin resisted and finally decided to restrain himself from joining Pampanga’s Giant Lantern Festival for this year, thinking of the health and welfare, not of himself, but of the people whom he works with.

“Ayaw kong magsimula sa akin, baka sa akin magsimula yung pandemic dito sa Pampanga o kaya merong magkaroon ng pandemic sa mga tauhan ko, yun ang iniiwasan ko (I don’t want it to start from me, I fear that an outbreak in Pampanga may start from me or somebody that works with me gets infected, that is what I am trying to avoid),” said Tiodin during an interview with the Philippine News Agency.

Tiodin is a known giant lantern maker in San Fernando who never missed a year in joining the Giant Lantern Festival.

For 37 years, he continuously shared his passion and talent in designing and participating in building the giant lantern.

He said he started with commercial lantern-making back when he was in high school when he was 13 years old out of pure passion. It later became his bread and butter.

From then on, he tried to learn more of the craft and develop his skill, learning from the senior craftsmen of their town.

However, things turned out differently for Tiodin this year as strict health protocols and the concern he has for his co-workers pushed him to skip the tradition.

Tiodin admits that while observing the younger generation as they build their lanterns, he still feels a bit of envy in his heart.

However, Tiodin said he has no regrets and feels happy that these young people in their area have learned the craft well and can continue the tradition despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tiodin, who entered the world of making giant lanterns in 1983, is now a senior citizen. Based on the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases guideline, he is not allowed to go out as he is more vulnerable to contract the disease and could even pass it on to others.

Recalling the earlier times, he said that only rich people then can have lanterns made for them.

“Nung panahon na yun, pag nagkaroon ng parol sa isang bahay sigurado mayaman eh ngayon kahit simpleng pamumuhay lang pwede kang magparol sa bahay pero noon pag me nakasabit na parol siguradong mayaman yan. Mga mayayaman lang ang nakakapagpagawa ng parol (During those times, if someone has a lantern in his house, one is pretty sure that an owner is a rich man, but now, even ordinary persons may have lanterns at home. Before only the rich ones can afford a lantern made for him),” Tiodin said.

He said joining the giant lantern festival gave him much satisfaction as it was his dream.

“My passion is designing giant lanterns for exhibits. I was not after the prize money but for the honor, the recognition, and the chance to be able to leave a legacy,” said Tiodin in Filipino.

During his younger years, Tiodin said his inspiration in making the lanterns are the older lantern craftsmen he was working with.

But now that he is in his senior years, Tiodin said the younger ones have become his inspiration, on how they will follow in his footsteps.

He said that he only hopes that the younger generation of Pampanga lantern craftsmen will be able to accomplish those that he was not able to do.

This is the reason why, even if he did not join this year’s lantern festival, he does not hesitate to give his opinion and share whatever knowledge he has with the young lantern makers.

“Wag kang magdamot sa iyong nalalaman I-share mo sa iba wag mong itago yun ang inspirasyon ko para sa mga bata (Do not be selfish with your knowledge, share it with others, that is my inspiration for the younger generations),” he said.

This way, Tiodin said that the giant lantern festival that started in Pampanga 112 years ago will continue in the generations to come.

Right after he made the decision not to join this year’s festival, he immediately advised their barangay chairman about it.

Funding for making a giant lantern entry comes from the barangay.

He said that upon hearing his decision, their barangay chairperson decided not to join the festival and use the funds instead to assist their constituents.

Having grown old in this craft, Tiodin said that the most essential ingredient in winning the festival is that a lantern must be able to transcend a message.

Brighter message

For this year, had Tiodin was given the chance, more than giving hope, his lanterns message would be “love one another”.

Love, Tiodin said, would be able to help everyone surpass whatever difficulties we encounter in life.

He proudly shared his masterpieces, his collection of all the designs he made for the past years.

Beaming with pride that for 37 years, he made those, giving honor to their barangay.

He plans to donate these to the city government when he finally retires from the craft.

“Merry Christmas na lang siguro, sana maging maginwaha yung Christmas nila ngayon kahit na may pandemic, sana next year wala na yan (I wish you Merry Christmas and I hope that you have a nice celebration even with the pandemic, I hope everything gets better next year),” Tiodin said.

Source: Philippines News agency

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