By JULLIE Y. DAZA
It’s Christmas as soon as Belenismo arrives in Tarlac province. November to Jan. 6, 2020 the Holy Family in different showy settings carries on the Filipino tradition of building Christmas dreams around the birth of the Infant Jesus with love, hope, prayer.
This year’s event has just grown so much bigger, giving two sets of judges headaches in traveling from Manila to Tarlac and choosing only the most meaningful entries, i.e. something to catch the eye and touch the heart and soul. According to Dr. Isa Cojuangco Suntay and her mother, Isabel Sr. of Tarlac Heritage Foundation, 59 out of 129 belen qualified for the semis, leaving 27 to slug it out for cash prizes ranging from P80,000 to P100,000 depending on size and category. The use of native, recyclable materials with an environmental theme is a must.
On its 13th year the point is to inspire Tarlaqueños to lend a hand, literally, especially since Tarlac has been befuddled by drought and climate change. “As the spirit of Christmas suggests, let’s rise above our problems and work together for brighter days ahead,” Dr. Isa explained to us city slickers. Nathaniel Cruz, GMA’s weatherman and sole scientist in the media group, said he had never expected Belenismo to be “anything like this.”
Not surprisingly, the barangays, parishes, commercial and youth groups, even the Armed Forces resorted to tweaking cheap, indigenous materials — baskets of all sizes (cages for baby birds to nest) and shapes (to catch fish, crabs, store eggs), bamboo in all lengths, mini-doilies sewn from scrap, broomsticks, cola crowns. Shepherds, angels, Three Kings, the Holy Family are garbed in designer robes of satin, crepe paper, or shellacked with shells, plastic spoons/forks. St. Catherine parish’s belen featured 10,360 bottles of Mountain Dew cut into two sections and turned into flowers, tubes of light, star-shaped lanterns with tails.
The motifs are as old as the Bible but also as thought-provoking as choosing Morocco for a backdrop, or a clock with its hands at one minute to midnight contrasted with a clock at two minutes after midnight. Sunflowers take the place of poinsettias. The parish priest whose belen was removed from the sidewalk was forced to turn it into a mobile display.
Awards night is Nov. 29.