The first week of November marks the start of one of the sought-after Christmas activities in Tarlac province– the annual Belenismo sa Tarlac competition. This is the best time to roam around the province and be delighted by colorful and creative depictions of belen crafted by communities, churches, organizations, companies, and local government units.
Moreover, it is the best time to relish the Christmas spirit brought by festive decorations, giant displays and vivid lights exhibited in front of churches, schools, business establishments, parks, communities, and municipal halls. And, the best time to highlight what Christmas is all about–the ultimate gift of God to humanity.
A tradition which started in 2007, the Belenismo sa Tarlac was initiated by the founders of Tarlac Heritage Foundation Doña Isabel Cojuangco Suntay and her daughter Dr. Isa Cojuangco Suntay. It was then launched as a Department of Tourism calendar event. What started as a small event that depicts the nativity scene became a massive and celebrated event in the entire province 16 years after its inception.
The younger Suntay stressed that the entries for the competition demonstrated innovation and improvement every year. Communities likewise employed the ‘bayanihan’ spirit to showcase the talent and artistry that they can offer in creating a belen.
“When we started, the belens were simple and small. But today, we witnessed the upgrade in concept, design and display. We saw the bayanihan of communities to exhibit their own belen. Indeed, the spirit of belenismo is in every Tarlaqueño,” Suntay said.
She also urged Tarlaqueños and residents from nearby provinces to promote and visit the belens in the different parts of the province, adding that the eye-catching belens along with the cultural entertainment will elate their hearts.
For this year, a total of 53 entries have joined the competition: 10 entries under the Community Category, 14 entries under the Church Category, 8 under the Monumental Category, 9 under the Grand Non-Municipal Category, and 12 under the Grand Municipal Category. Out of the total figure, about 36 entries have advanced to the final round.
Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte graced and led the awarding of winners under the church, monumental, grand non-municipal, grand municipal, and community categories.
During the Belenismo sa Tarlac Awards Night, Duterte called for the support of the public to the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and other national government agencies including the Department of Education. She likewise urged parents to instill to their children the value and importance of education.
Duterte sent her Christmas wish to everyone that they may have a peaceful, joyful and prosperous holiday season with their loved ones and families.
In a related development, Tarlac City and the municipalities of Anao, Capas and San Clemente topped the Grand Municipal Category. Meanwhile, Moncada and Ramos shared the second spot with the municipalities of Concepcion, Victoria and San Jose trailing behind them in third place.
Under the Monumental Category, CYG2 and Armor Belen were hailed as first placers, while TARELCO I, Karin de Reah, and Caritas Tarlac Inc. emerged on the second place. McDonald’s Highway, McDonald’s Motorway, and McDonald’s Luisita settled in third place.
The Taguiporo Giants and Belen ning Macara landed first place in the Community category followed by Barangay Balingcanaway Community, Alagang I.N.A, Camangaan East Belen, and Tarlac Agricultural University in second. Amucao Belen was the lone third placer under the category.
For the Church category, the San Isidro Parish, St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. John Nepomocene, San Lorenzo Ruiz Parish, and Sto. Niño Parish Bamban bagged the first place. Second placers were Iglesia Filipina Independiente ni San Juan Nepomocene, St. Michael the Archangel Parish Tarlac City, and St. Michael the Archangel Parish Bamban.
Lastly, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Belen claimed the top spot of Grand Non-Municipal Category. The Habibi Belen and SM Prime Holdings Inc. won the second place while Robinsons Luisita joined the roster as third placer.
The AFP Belen, hall of famer under the Grand Non-Municipal category, was created by the Philippine Army Armor Division, and is located in front of Camp Aquino in San Miguel Tarlac City. The AFP’s winning entry has an enormous castle made of bamboo which symbolizes adaptability and resourcefulness. The bamboo concept conforms with the AFP’s mandate to ensure peace and security, defend the territory, guarantee food security, and protect the environment.
Behind the two-storey display, it also offers a winter wonderland experience to the public. The lower level of AFP Belen is embellished with giant snowmen, Christmas village, farm animals, life size candy cans, big Christmas trees, vibrant Christmas lights, and artificial snow.
While we perceive Christmas as the season of love and giving, may it be a time to foster and nurture local traditions and talent including the Belenismo in Tarlac. A festival that is making a name for itself, and is holding people together to honor the true reason of the season–our Savior Jesus Christ. (CLJD/TJBM-PIA 3)