LOOK: This businesswoman chose to give back despite her loss

“Christmas won’t be the same without the ones we love.” This is the message of the Manila Bulletin Christmas video entitled “Anong Wish Mo Ngayong Pasko?” With the health crisis that we are experiencing, the short film stresses that no material things could ever replace our loved ones.

The Christmas house of entrepreneur Irene "Aye" Tan-Celis in Merced St. Paco Manila.

Entrepreneur Irene "Aye" Tan-Celis, who lost her mother Monica Tan because of a heart attack and her husband Ronald Celis due to COVID-19 during the lockdown, couldn't agree more to the message of the video. Wishing that she could hug and kiss them last Christmas and this coming New Year, Aye diverted all her longingness in giving back and making people happy through continuing their yearly tradition of putting up Christmas decorations and lights in her home and houses near her at Merced St. Paco, Manila.

A generous neighbor Irene "Aye" Tan-Celis

A former fashion designer during the late 90s, who dresses famous models like Tweetie de Leon, Aye is a restaurateur at present and applies her creativity in decorating her house, making it a popular holiday attraction for almost 17 years now.

The head-turning Yuletide display designed by Aye becomes a therapy not only for her but also for many neighbors and passersby, especially in their depressing moments during the ber months.

Aye's neighbor enjoying the Christmas attraction.

In fact, she shared to Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, that there is one senior citizen, who also recently lost her husband, really took time to walk from her home in Vito Cruz extension just to experience the Christmas spirit on their street, making her forget her grief, too.

Such a story makes Aye’s heart melt and filled with gladness, knowing that her Christmas house was able to make somebody very happy. “Also, I’m so so happy when I see children here enjoying the Christmas lights and music every night,” she said.

Kids enjoy the rock salt that gives a snow effect in the house.

To complete the Christmas vibe, Aye rented a bubble machine that creates a snow effect during their recent Christmas street party. Apart from the aesthetic treats, the owner of Kinaaye Foodhouse delivery gave away packed meals and presents to children, senior citizens, and less fortunate neighbors. And she plans to do it again before 2022 comes.

Irene "Aye" Tan-Celis gives gifts on Christmas Day (Photo courtesy of Aye)

Beyond being happy to celebrate the holiday under a more relaxed health restriction, Aye, a Covid-19 survivor, also considered this year's Christmas something more special because the festive decor, consisting mostly of snow and sky hue, was inspired by her husband and mother who are in heaven.

Neighbors and passers-by enjoy the artificial snow.

Her loss motivated her to appreciate more the other people she loves such as her father Willie, brother Dr. Jaime Ang, two adult children Aina Shaunica and Ronalene Nicole as well as her close friends, relatives, and employees.

Team Kinaaye poses for a happy photo.

According to Aye, there are still those who would ask her why she continues the tradition and still looks happy despite the unfortunate things that happened. Her reply could inspire depressed people. “Deep inside I’m still sad. But if I continue to be depressed, everything in my life might end. I have employees that depend on me, especially in these trying times. I don’t want their life to stop because of me,” she said in Filipino.

“I also choose to continue for our two children. I want to be their source of strength,” she continues, saying, “To those like me, we just need to be tough and learn to fight trials for our loved ones who are still here with us.”

Entrepreneur with a big heart, Irene "Aye" Tan-Celis

Her Christmas house, which is also a favorite stop during the 29th of December when the community in Paco celebrates the Tatarin festival, a street dance in honor of the Mother of the Poor, is open for everyone finding meaningful joy this holiday season until the first week of January.