How an ex-janitor became Pampanga's 'Parol King'

by Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Dec 07 2013 07:45 AM | Updated as of Dec 10 2013 05:18 PM

MANILA, Philippines – As lanterns light up the entire country during the Christmas season, no city shines brighter than San Fernando, Pampanga, the birthplace of famous lantern maker Rolando Quiambao.

San Fernando is also home to the annual Giant Lantern Festival held every December.

The festival, Quiambao shared, was one of the things he missed when he was working abroad in the 1980s.

Quiambao was born and raised in San Fernando, but was forced to work as a janitor in Saudi Arabia to make ends meet.

After 3 years, he decided to return to the Philippines.

“Dahil passionate kami sa mga parol eh lagi kong iniisip noong janitor ako ay ang lantern festival. Isa sa mga nagpauwi sa akin ‘yang mga parol na ‘yan kasi name-miss ko ang Christmas sa atin,” he said on “My Puhunan.”

How an ex-janitor became Pampanga's 'Parol King' 1
Photo from My Puhunan Facebook page

Upon his return, Quiambao tried his luck as a jeepney driver, but this did not flourish and he found his way back to the colorful world of lanterns.

He started a small lantern business in 1986, selling his first “parol” for P450.

In 1991, his business took a hit when Mt. Pinatubo devastated the province of Pampanga. But the calamity gave Quiambao an opportunity to bring light and hope to his beloved city.

He was commissioned by then mayor Reynaldo Aquino to decorate the city’s lamp and electric posts.

“Noong nag-lahar tapos kinomisyon ako, lakas ng loob ang ginamit ko. Sabi ng mayor namin noon, ‘Kaya mo ba?’ Sabi ko kakayanin,” he said.

Just as the way the colorful parol gave him hope during his days as an overseas Filipino worker, it became a symbol of hope for Pampangueños.

How an ex-janitor became Pampanga's 'Parol King' 2
Photo from My Puhunan Facebook page

“Noong sinindihan namin ang San Fernando, nagbalik ang lakas ng loob ng mga businessman at ang mga tao parang ginawa nilang [symbol of] hope na magbalik sila sa mga bahay nila,” said Quiambao.

His RolRen lantern-making business is now making 3,000 parols a year. Aside from parols, Quiambao is also making lamps and chandeliers.

RolRen has also become one of the country’s biggest parol suppliers, and has ventured into exporting products in the US and Europe.

Quiambao was named a “hall of famer” in Pampanga’s Giant Lantern Festival for winning the competition four years in a row.