SILAY City in Negros Occidental is celebrating Yuletide holidays for the whole month of December with its Christmas Village 2017 at the public plaza as the centerpiece of its merrymaking.
Following the switch-on ceremony on December 3, the plaza has become an enchanting sight spruced up with the “belen” (nativity scene) and “arko” (welcome arch) installations mounted by the villages.
Silay, being the heritage capital of the province, traces back the concept of transforming the plaza into a Christmas village even before the “Cinco de Noviembre Revolution” (November 5 Revolution) in 1898.
Ver Pacete, former city tourism officer and now consultant on sociology, said the Silay Christmas Village began as early as 1840 when families from Iloilo City came to Silay and other places in Negros to start the hacienda system.
“In Silay, it has been the tradition of the ‘hacenderos’ (landowners) and the “jornaleros” (laborers) to make the plaza beautiful in preparation for the Christmas season. The nightly “daigon” (carolers) and the “Christmas carols” attracted the people to gather at the plaza until the “simbang gabi.” The heritage lives on,” Pacete said in his SunStar Bacolod column.
He added that the different mayors of Silay then continued to improve the plaza lights and eventually converted the whole area into a Christmas Village.
Since 2016, Mayor Mark Golez has spearheaded the activities with the various sectors.
Golez said the annual Christmas Village in Silay City has become a Silaynon pride.
Every year, the lights-on ceremony is a most awaited event for Silaynons and the plaza then becomes a sight to behold, he added.
“Over the years, this has become a Silaynon tradition which I plan to continue,” Golez said, adding that the Christmas Village has helped develop the Silaynon skill, artistry, teamwork, and creativity among the barangays and the public schools.
“Everybody wants to win hence solidarity and teamwork prevails. The Christmas Village makes the Christmas spirit alive in Silay,” the mayor said.
Golez said that for him and the people of Silay, a stroll in the public plaza gives one a spirit of peace and tranquility, a quiet calmness of soul, and joy and peace.
“Families take the time to go for a walk and enjoy the lights at night. This is what Christmas is all about – the gathering of families. And more importantly, it is free,” he added.
Pacete said “the Christmas Village in Silay is not just for commercial or tourist attraction, it is deeply rooted in the culture and tradition of the Silaynons.”
“At the center of the Christmas Village, we have the giant ‘Belen’ and the Christmas tree symbolizing the birth of Jesus Christ in the manger and the hope of the Silaynons for a more progressive future. The ‘Christmas arko’ is a Silaynon symbol for ‘welcome’,” he added.
This year’s theme is “Sa Ti-on sang Paskwa, Paghigugma, Pag-ambit anay kag Pagbinuligay Maga Asenso ang Silay, Maga Asenso ang tagsa ka Panimalay.”
For the Arko and Belen competition, Barangay Uno was declared first place, Barangay Hawaiian, second; and Barangay Lantad, third.
Among the highlights of the month-long activities are Christmas Carol Competition for elementary and high school students, and villages as well as the Daigon 2017.
The Philippine Ballet Theater’s The Nutcracker show was held at Kansilayan Gym last December 16 while the “Pamaskwa ni Mayor Mark,” at the Covered Court on December 21.
During the closing day on December 30, activities will include a thanksgiving mass, Rizal Day re-enactment and wreath-laying, and year-end fireworks display and celebrity night. (NLG with reports from Glazyl Y. Masculino)