By Jullie Y. Daza
All it takes is one look: an hour or two to drive through the province at this time of year to marvel at the most wonderful collection of Nativity scenes fashioned by hand from recycled materials. This year, 47 groups put up their belen to show their “Belenismo” community spirit once again – 47 lighted panoramas telling the story of the first Christmas under one happy December sky.
“They keep everything they do under wraps, no sharing of secrets,” said Dr. Isa Cojuangco Suntay, who with her mother Isabel Cojuangco Suntay conceptualized “Belenismo” to shine a light on the real meaning of Christmas and the faith of the people.
“We are a blessed town,” a grand slam awardee as Outstanding Yellow Corn Producer in the Philippines. No wonder the half-circle shape is backdropped with corn cobs in vibrant yellow.
St. Francis of Assisi Parish
Why a Spanish fan? It’s a gesture of thanksgiving, a reminder that Christianity was introduced to the Philippines and fostered by Spain, without which we would not have our simbang gabi (dawn masses) at Christmas. Yellow and red, the colors of the Spanish flag, are echoed in the flowers and costumes of Mary and Joseph, while white on each of the nine panels of the fan stands for Spain’s “purity of intention” in colonizing the Philippines. Materials: bulo, rattan skin, plywood and plyboard, 2,452 plastic bottles, 2,000 LED bulbs, steel, soft wire, GI sheet, welding materials, paint, 90 meters tube light, 12 steel matting. Manpower provided by Parish Youth Ministry.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish
The materials used for this “expression of humility and the mercy of God” include bottle caps (background), stick brooms (ceiling), coconut shells (roof and columns), decorative stones, lights, small chandeliers and metal accessories, plywood, sawdust, bamboo, abaca, egg trays, capiz, wire, lanterns, and branches. “The recycled and indigenous materials were cleaned, polished, and painted” for a finishing touch.
Sto. Cristo Parish
Fr. Jonathan Ovivir dreamed up the concept. The design was executed by Randy Baluyut and the team of Popoy Lacson, Angel, Jeremy Capulong, Denver, Joseph Tolibas, Norvic, Laila, and Christian. The caromata, a mode of transportation in the olden days, represents the journey of God becoming man: “The incarnation ferried Jesus to us, so that in His humanity we experience His divinity.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish
The parish was born as a resettlement community after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991. According to the designer of the belen, teacher Resty Datu, and his four co-workers, the flower shape is a symbol of Bambanenses coming together to celebrate this most beautiful season, a time of giving, forgiving, sharing, and loving.
A modern design with a rural twist, this Nativity scene uses walis tambo, bamboo, and bulu flooring, and capitalizes on shades of purple, blue, and pink. The crew and marketing personnel are proud that they were able to assemble “a complete set of characters” and that it took them only 10 days to finish their belen.
Belenismo, Tarlac’s province-wide belen-making contest, has earned the glamour of a national brand and grown into a classy tourist attraction. The streets of the towns and barangays are lighted up. Parish priests and parishioners, schools and commercial establishments, hotels, restaurants, government offices, Catholics and Christians are friendly rivals on the surface, but deep down the spirit of competition is keen and intense, specially on the night of the final round of judging when visitors from Manila descend on the finalists to study, scrutinize, and grade each belen for originality, versatility, and most importantly, for the ingenious combination of raw materials and human talent.
The results of the competition will be announced soon.