CHRISTMASTIME OFFICIALLY BEGINS IN BAGUIO AS MERCURY DROPS
CHRISTMASTIME BEGINS. Baguio City's 23-meter-high Christmas tree beams in the middle of the Rose Garden in Burnham Park. Lit up on cold Saturday night (Dec. 1, 2018), along with fireworks displays, followed by Christmas lights and sounds on Session Road on Sunday night, the giant Christmas tree signals the start of Yuletide festivities in the Philippine Summer Capital. (Photo by Liza T. Agoot)
BAGUIO CITY -- Christmastime has officially begun in Baguio City.
This summer capital has opened its annual “Christmas in Baguio” festivities with the lighting of the giant Christmas tree and turning on of Christmas lights and sounds at the People's Park over the weekend.
Colorful fireworks displays and a Christmas lantern parade around Saint Louis University also warmed up and delighted thousands of locals and tourists amid a cold 12.4 degree-Celsius temperature.
"This is the time when we express most our deepest love for our families, care for each and every one, and gratefulness to God," Mayor Mauricio Domogan said, as he led the lighting-up ceremonies on Saturday night, marking the start of the Yuletide season in the City of Pines.
On Sunday evening, the city opened the “lights and sounds offering" at the People’s Park at the foot of Session Road, for everyone to see each night.
Senior tourism operations officer Jose Maria Rivera said the city government has lined up better yuletide calendar activities this year.
For over 20 years now, Baguio's yuletide offerings have been a main attraction for both tourists and residents, who spend the holidays in the city.
"The lined-up activities are certified crowd-drawers," Rivera said, adding the city's December calendar is packed with religious and gift-giving activities, as well as trade fairs, musical performances, contests, and sportsfests.
Among these is what locals have been waiting for each year, the University of Baguio's annual "Christmas Cantata."
The "Search for the Baguio Lucky Foreign Visitors" is still there, together, of course, with the “Simbang Gabi” at the Baguio Cathedral, a number of medical and dental outreach activities, and the “Kids Journey to the North Pole Christmas Party.”
Rivera said grand fireworks displays are set on Dec. 24 and 31.
Giant Christmas tree
At the sidelines of Monday's flag ceremony at the city hall, engineer Nazita Banez, head of the City Building and Architects Office (CBAO), said the local government spent PHP1.11 million for the materials of the giant Christmas tree with lights.
Recycled materials, however, were incorporated into the decorative items hung on the Christmas tree, she said.
“We incorporated decorations made of recycled items because we wanted to make it environment friendly and to save on cost while still achieving the purpose of providing a good Christmas tree,” the engineer said.
The 23-meter-high Christmas tree is at the middle of the Rose Garden in Burnham Park.
The giant Christmas tree, Banez said, is made of steel and decorated with handwoven fabric from the different provinces of Cordillera and recycled materials.
The tree carries the theme “Christmas of unified cultural people.”
Lanterns around the world
From midnight of Nov. 30 to midnight of Dec. 1, the Session Road was closed to vehicles to give way to the city's events on its main thoroughfare, particularly SLU's lantern parade.
“Majority of the lanterns were designed and hand-crafted by the students, in accordance to this year’s theme, which is Christmas in countries where mission stations of the CICM (Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) are located,” said Rebecca Lim-Nulud, director of SLU Center for Culture and the Arts.
The Laboratory Elementary School carried a theme representing the mission station in Taiwan; Belgium for the Junior High School; Indonesia for the Senior High School; Japan for the School of Accounting Management and Computing Information Sciences; and Mongolia for the School of Engineering and Architecture.
The Dominican Republic was carried by the School of Law; Haiti for the School of Natural Sciences; Brazil for the School of Nursing; and Congo for the School of Teaching Education and Liberal Arts.
SLU's lantern parade has always been a crowd drawer every Christmastime in Baguio for the past decade now.
This year, the students are more excited, Nulud noted, as the lanterns are attached with powerbanks to sustain their lights.
Chief Insp. Oliver Panabang, head of Baguio City Police Office Traffic Division, said Monday safety tips have been issued to both residents and tourists planning to spend their Christmas vacation in the city.
Panabang advised residents and tourists to leave their vehicles at home or at their accommodations and just commute or walk to their destinations.
“That’s the way to do it if you want to enjoy your stay in the city because if you will insist on using your service vehicles, then you must be ready to get stuck in traffic,” Panabang warned.
"There are around 44,000 vehicles plying the city’s streets as against the only 3,000 plus parking slots available," he said.
He emphasized that the number of vehicles double when tourists arrive, so the road situation becomes more complicated, people get stuck in traffic, and locals walk back home.
Panabang also reminded commuters to be conscious of their belongings so they won't leave these inside the taxi. He advised the public to take note of the cellphone number written on the body of the taxi for easy tracing.
The city's traffic chief also urged the public to “cooperate with the traffic enforcers and please do respect our traffic rules, so that we will all have a good stay in the city.”
Meanwhile, acting BCPO director Eliseo Tanding said the city's law enforcers have prepared special operation schemes to prevent crimes during the holidays.
"Over 200 policemen will be deployed and augmented by force multipliers in the different barangays to secure and assist the locals and tourists," he said. (PNA)