Yuletide connections in the plaza


The Christmas season this year seems to level up in terms of people’s anticipation. After super typhoon Odette played the awful “Grinch” to Cebuanos last year in the middle of the pandemic, we all have the right reasons to make up for it this year and celebrate a better and brighter holiday season.

The Yuletide spirit has been almost palpable the past few days as homes and malls have decked their spaces with vibrant lights and decorations. Public open spaces, recognizing their roles as converging areas for people in the community, have also lit up to encourage the sharing of the cheerful, holiday vibe.

In Mandaue City, the City Government wrapped the city square with an eye-catching “Winter Wonderland” theme (minus the snow, of course) to let people enjoy together and immerse in the Christmas spirit. This was impossible last year, when houses were damaged and power was out due to Odette and the peak of the Omicron Covid virus infections.

“The main reason for the theme is to make this Christmas a connection among Mandauehanons and to remind us that we should celebrate to the fullest and be hopeful for the coming years,” said architect Joseph Cabigas of the City’s Department of General Services (DGS). He said that the theme was a brainchild of Mandaue City First Lady Sarah Cortes and conveyed to the DGS headed by engineer Marivic Cabigas.

Architect Cabigas said that there are seven “avenues” within the Mandaue City square that serve as points of interest and yes, those “for the Gram” moments: The Christmas Tree tower, The Tree of Belen, The Old Man’s Flare, Teddy Bear, Bell, Icicles and Santa’s House. He added that these were not “original ideas.” He tried to come up with elements that would capture the theme coming from a collage of vivid images tied up to support the design concept.

“My role as an architect was to make sure that the designs that we are going to build are structurally safe and stable, considering the damage that the majority of Christmas decorations in the plaza suffered during the onslaught of typhoon Odette last year,” explained Cabigas.

“These are also fast to install and uninstall, the materials are easily sourced out and consider the site constraints and limited workforce.”

Community “connection” was even evident in the crafting of the decorations with the concerted efforts of welders, electricians, painters, carpenters, landscapers and even administrative employees. With the astonishing display of these Christmas symbols, this “connection” is expected to translate among the Mandauehanons.

These holiday installations will surely highlight the significant assets of the city square including the heritage buildings, like the Mandaue Presidencia and the National Shrine of St. Joseph. Hopefully, the city square is made more expansive by ridding it of emergency response vehicles that are parked in front of the city hall, which may photobomb not only the decorations but also the significant buildings.

It is heart-warming that Cebuanos have continued to pick themselves up from the challenges that they encountered the past two years. The public spaces that people share mirror this optimism after years of staying at home and strict social distancing. Our beautifully decked plazas and parks (or what remains of them), like in Mandaue, clearly tell us that Christmas is just around the corner and it is a perfect opportunity to re-connect with others and re-integrate with vigilance into this so-called “new normal.”


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