San Francisco – ‘A gathering of light’ is this year’s theme of the much awaited holiday celebration, the Parol Lantern Festival and Parade, in San Francisco on December 8th at Jessie Square and Yerba Buena Gardens.

Now on its 16th year, the annual event at the heart of the SoMa Pilipinas, which is designated Filipino Cultural Heritage District by the State of California and the City and County of San Francisco, “A Gathering of Lights” theme is an affirmation and celebration of our people’s resiliency; of our leaders, artists, youth and student groups, and our families who have been facing challenges for decades in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

This is the time of the year when Filipino culture can be prominently and distinctly showcased even in a universally celebrated holiday season in America, the Parol Festival has highlighted the rich tradition of bayanihan, community working together as in Together We Shine.

The annual event is among the many cultural assets and community celebrations in SoMa Pilipinas.

Each year, the SoMa community showcases the parol lantern – the quintessential Filipino symbol of hope, blessings, luck, peace, and light during the holiday season – and brightens the Jessie Square, Yerba Buena Lane and Mission Street between 3rd and 4th Streets.

The Parol Festival is now one of the much awaited and a must-see event in San Francisco during the holiday season, and among the listed ‘Only in San Francisco’ attractions.

The main event on December 8th converges at Jessie Square (East of St Patrick’s Church, between 3rd and 4th Street) with a Parol Stroll, a procession of lights starting and ending at Jesse Square through Yerba Buena Gardens.

Followed by a community-wide performance inspired by “Pandanggo sa Ilaw”, choreographed by Master Choreographer Sydney Loyola.

There will be live music performances by the American Center for Philippine Arts Rondalla, Autonomous Region, Cry Wolfs, and Joshua Icban and Aimee Amparo.

The most awaited in the annual event is the Tala Awards ceremony for this year’s best parol lantern contest for group and individual entries.

A Parol Gallery will also be mounted at Jessie Square to showcase the beautiful lanterns from the City of San Fernando Pampanga, the giant parol capital of the Philippines together with the amazing parols made by local artists Lynn Bryant, Mel Vera Cruz, Pamela Ybanez, Michael Sacramento, and Robin David, Gene Apellido, and many locally- made lanterns.

Now on its fourth year, the Taste of Filipino Christmas or Patikim ng Pagkaing Pampasko will feature a food-tasting program held at the Msg Bitanga Social Hall of St. Patrick’s Church from 3 to 5 pm.

The food tasting event aims to share and promote the rich culinary tradition and delicacies associated with holiday celebration. In addition to the traditional Filipino Christmas fare – Tsamporado at tuyo, bibingka, kakanin, special Pilipino sweets and delicacies from top chefs like Francis Ang, Sweet Condesa, and Sweet Cheese Us are invited to present.

There will also be cooking demonstration of panara and bobotu (Kapampangan tamales).

The event is free and open to the public.

The parol festival is presented by the Filipino American Development Foundation and KulArts in partnership with the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, MJM Management, and St. Patrick’s Parish, and supported in part by Grants for the Arts, California Arts Council, Yerba Buena Community Benefit District and SoMa Pilipinas.