*This was originally published in Where At Cebu Nov – Jan 2012 issue
Christmas in Cebu is crazy. Gone are the lazy nights in front of the TV with nothing to do. This time of year generally marks the peak of the party season, with the biggest and brightest celebrations culminating in New Year’s Eve. Expect to experience dizzy night outs, stomach bursting Lechon and the Starbucks planner frenzy. Mix all these together with the nonstop invites from friends and relatives, Christmas can be one hectic holiday.
It’s important not to get lost in the festivities. Take the time to experience the other things a Cebu Christmas has to offer. Slow down and take it in, there’s so much more to do aside from the usual parties and get-togethers.
Every year V. Rama Avenue is known for having “the mother of all Christmas celebrations.” Residents go all out decorating their houses with lanterns and parols. People are greeted with hundreds of lights shining brightly under the night sky. It’s perfect for a leisurely stroll and a break from the hustle of the season.
Pasko sa Sugbo
Not far from V. Rama Avenue, are the festivities in the Fuente Osmena Circle. A giant Christmas tree with a thousand light bulbs is lit and remains so until the Sinulog grand parade in January. A series of events, concerts and dances are staged all throughout December. The highlight of which is the Miss Cebu Pre-Pageant, the public gets to catch an early glimpse of the beauty queens and marvel at the beautiful Cebuanas.
What started out as a small village under a Christmas tree has turned into the biggest collection of miniature houses and Lionel trains in Cebu city. In 2008, the collectors, Joji and Clayton Tugonon, had wanted to open the Christmas Village to the public, but, at that point, their collection was too big for their house, thus the need for an outside venue. Unfortunately, they did not know where to go or who to talk to. Luckily, they got picked up by a local publication, exposing them to thousands of readers. One of them was the Manager of Marco Polo Plaza Hotel. He happened to be a collector of Lionel Trains as well. Long story short, he sought them out and, once he saw the village, offered to house it in Marco Polo for Christmas. This was the first public unveiling of the Christmas Village in 2009. Fast forward to today, the Tugonons have been setting up their Christmas Village for 18 years and this year promises to be the biggest yet. The collection, 400 miniatures, is imported from various countries and will be displayed in the main lobby of SM City Cebu North Wing. As per tradition, you can adopt a house for 5,000 pesos. This is the monthly cost to treat a pediatric patient with cancer. The money will be placed under the care of the Kythe Foundation, benefiting the children under their roof in Perpetual Succour Hospital. Last year, they were able to raise almost 7 million pesos. Let’s continue to make this holiday a good one for the kids.
Belen of Mike Del Gallego
Situated in the garden of his house, Mike Del Gallego may have the oldest belen in Cebu City. Handed down to him by his grandmother, the portion with a nativity scene will be turning a hundred years old next year. Mike, 65, has been putting together a belen every Christmas since he was 2nd year high school, “Very few houses have belen now. Most have Christmas trees and Santa Claus. People forget that Christmas is about belen.” In our conversations, he complains that he is getting too old to setup his growing collection and this may be the last time he does so, but, in the same breathe, he excitedly mentions getting even more pieces so as to add to the belen. Clearly, he can’t stop doing what he loves and this shows in his collection. It will be open to the public, by appointment, on December 16, the same day Misa de Gallo starts.
Enjoy the parties, but remember to take it easy and slow down too. Cebu is starting to become a faster city and never is it more apparent during Christmas. Enjoy the tradition while it is still around. The party will always be there.
*To setup an appointment for Miguel Del Gallego’s belen, contact 09176317405.
**Donations for the Christmas Village will be accepted in SM City Cebu.