An early Christmas celebration

COCA-COLA, the world’s largest beverage company, ushered in the Christmas season with the simultaneous of “Sari-Saring Happiness Day” all over the country last Saturday, Nov. 8.

The celebration kicked off with the lighting up of its Christmas Hubs—the sari-sari stores with parols made up of Coke bottles—simultaneously done in five cities across the country.

These were in Bacolod, Manila, Batangas, Pampanga, and Davao. In Bacolod, the “Sari-Saring Happiness Day” was held in Rodriguez St. in Brgy. 34.

The highlight of the celebration was the lighting up of parols made by women sari-sari store owners of the barangay. The parols are made of five big empty Coke bottles and indigenous materials. The sari-sari store owners are enrolled in the Sari-Sari Store Training and Access to Resources (STAR) Program of Coca-Cola.

In Brgy. 34, residents of the barangay and nearby areas enjoyed the Coca-Cola way of celebrating Christmas with performances from singer-actress Hazel Faith dela Cruz, star of Be Careful With My Heart of ABS-CBN and Ilustrado of GMA; the USLS Jean-Baptiste Dance Company, the La Salle Chorale, and the MassKara dancers. The host was actress-singer and MTV Pinoy VJ Yassi Pressman.

Gracing the celebration from Coca-Cola were vice president for Finance Eduardo Rearte, brand manager Barry del Rosario, commercial unit associate director Milton Lalisan, and regional director for the Visayas Red Isidro.

The event was also attended by Technical Education and Skills Development Authority’s (TESDA) acting regional director Tony John Tamayo, and acting provincial director Joel Villagracia.

Del Rosario said Coca Cola’s early Christmas celebration of lighting up every corner of the country through its Christmas Hubs is aimed at bringing the Yuletide season to more communities.

“We used to celebrate Christmas with caravans and we have traditional Christmas lighting usually done in Manila. This year, we decided to make the Christmas celebration a bit different. We decided to celebrate our new Christmas icon, the Christmas Hubs, with our women partners— the sari-sari store owners,” he added.

Del Rosario stressed that the women sari-sari store owners are the pillars of business of Coca-Cola as they “light up communities” and help drive sales for their businesses, thus the company wants to honor them.

He said the STAR Program was launched in 2012 in partnership with TESDA, which trains the women on entrepreneurial skills, and microfinance company Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation which loans capital to them.

The program aims to empower 5,000 women sari-sari owners in Negros Occidental. This is part of the 5 x 20 Program of Coca-Cola which aims to empower 5 million women all over the world by year 2020.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola just lighted candles in the streets of Tacloban on Saturday in deference to the one-year anniversary of super typhoon Yolanda. “We had just a solemn launch with our sari-sari store owners to jump start progress in Tacloban,” he said.

But the Tacloban celebration is most special because it marked the realization of the commitment they made a year ago which is to help the city get back to its feet, Del Rosario said.

“We are celebrating the resiliency of the people of Tacloban,” he said.

After Yolanda struck, Coca-Cola immediately donated $2.5 million for relief efforts, followed by a diversion of its advertising resources to a program called “Rebuild PH” despite the fact that its Coca-Cola plant in Tacloban was also severely damaged by Typhoon Yolanda.
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