Beginning 16 years ago, at this time of the year a massive Christmas tree goes up inside the Fuente Osmeña circle in Cebu City, but it does not breathe carbon dioxide nor thrive in snow.
The 125-foot-tall structure built for this year, made of steel bars, wires, lights, and handmade ornaments, must be done and ready for its lights to be switched on come Dec. 1.
“Kon mahuman na ni, nindot kaayo ni tan-awon labi na inigka gabii (Once it’s done, it will be spectacular, especially at night),” said foreman Godjiel Cuevas, who looks forward to the attention the tree will get this season.
Cuevas, however, hopes it will not just be eye candy for the public, but a symbol of the Christmas spirit, which for him is hope.
He feels joy when he sees people appreciate his team’s work and when they take pictures of the Christmas tree, which will have the image of the Sto. Niño at the top.
“Ma-proud ra pod mi kay kami ang naggama (We are proud to be making this Christmas tree),” he said.
Cuevas and 17 construction workers from Bais City, Negros Oriental started to assemble the tree last September. Contractor Nonoy Adiong, whom the M. Lhuillier group had hired to set up the tree, recruited them.
Cuevas has been working for Adiong since 2010. He said he will not stop as long as his services are needed, since the project gives him extra income for his young family.
“Lisod pagsugod, pero maanad ra ka kon magdugay na ka aning trabahoa (The job is challenging but you’ll get used to it over time),” he said.
When they arrived in Cebu City last Sept. 25, they set up their tent inside the Fuente Osmeña Circle, where they sleep. The following day, they started to gather their materials, most of which are recycled.
They started erecting the scaffolding last Sept. 27 with the guidance of a consultant who made sure the structure was strong.
Workers divide their tasks. Some are assigned to install electrical lines, while others are welders, carpenters and decorators. Cuevas said they wear support and protective gear when they climb to the top of the Christmas tree, for their own safety.
“Makahuna-huna ko sa akong pamilya kon naa na ko sa ibabaw, pero wala pa gyud nadisgrasya sukad-sukad (I think of my family whenever I’m on top. Fortunately, there’s never been an accident since our first time here),” he said.
He believes that the Adiongs’ devotion to the Sto. Niño has shielded them from any harm.
After the tree is done, the crew will return to their home province and find another job in the construction business. They will come back after the Sinulog in January to dismantle the structure.
Back home in Bais City, Cuevas said, he often displays a miniature Christmas tree made of wires and series lights. His six-year-old son DJ loves the lights, and the boy’s smile lightens him up.
Cuevas’ fellow worker Jason Lecciones, 35, sees no need to display a Christmas tree in his household, saying cheap lanterns suit him just fine.
“Kompleto gihapon ang pasko basta kuyog lang gihapon ang pamilya (My Christmas is complete as long as I get to spend it with family),” he said.