OUR country has been known to welcome Christmas as early as September where malls and households start putting up the decors that signal the yuletide season.

Thus, many of our cities and provinces have also become tourist destinations where domestic and foreign tourists enjoy watching various Christmas festivals around the country.

In Northern Mindanao, we can boast of the brightest Christmas festival in the Philippines

Tangub City in Misamis Occidental lights up its Christmas Symbols Festival. The longest-running festival here in the country now on its 23rd year that starts every 1st of December until the 8th of January in 2016.

This year’s festival is even more special as the city prepares for the 25th year of the Christmas Symbols Festival and the 50th anniversary of Tangub’s cityhood in 2017.

Sixteen entries from private and public agencies, school divisions, and hospitals have been put up. These huge structures depict various sites from around the world. This year’s theme of "Tangub City Celebrates Christmas Around the World" has been the theme for the past four years in a row.

“This is our 23rd edition and we started in 1992. We want to promote Tangub City through this festival. We also want to showcase the ingenuity and the creativity of Tangubanons,” said Vice Mayor Edemar Alota.

“Also, the LGU wants to give back to the taxpayers what are due to them, so isa ito sa maibibigay namin sa kanila, yung Christmas. Kasi, hindi na man lahat ng mga Tangubanons, lalong-lalo na yung mga nasa barangay, may ilaw, may Christmas lights. So, dito sa plaza, libre.”

He furthered, “And, lastly, we want to give back to God for the blessings He gives to us Tangubanons. We are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ with colors, with glitters, at the same time with meaning.”

Tangubanons and tourists alike flocked to the city plaza for the official lighting ceremony graced by Mar Roxas, the former Interior Secretary and Liberal Party’s standard-bearer for the 2016 Presidential elections, and local government officials like First District Representative Jorge Almonte, Second District Representative Henry Oaminal, Governor Herminia "Hermie" Ramiro, Vice-governor Gigi Almonte, and Tangub Mayor Philip Tan with his wife, Dr. Jennifer Wee Tan, also former Tangub mayor and current City Tourism Council chairperson.

The elbow-to-elbow crowd loudly cheered during the much awaited fireworks display that lasted for almost 10 minutes. The grandiose fireworks show served as the ‘front act’ for the night’s climax which was the lighting up of the sixteen entrees.

Despite the difficulty in ‘traveling’ from one structure to the next due to the huge crowd, everybody still had big smiles on their faces. One can visit all sixteen sites as long as they have their ‘passport,’ available at the City Tourism Office, with them.

Spectators were amazed by how accurately depicted and colorfully and creatively are the entries made. The sites featured the Titanic Belfast Museum in Northern Ireland, Katara Towers in Qatar, Ranipokhari in Nepal, Finnish National Theatre in Finland, Azadi Tower in Iran, Temple of Julius Caesar in Italy, the National Folk Museum of Korea, the Hollywood Sign in USA, and Disneyland in Paris to name a few.

As you go visit each of the sites, one gets to actually feel what it might be like to be in the actual buildings they were designed from. Some of the entries go up to three or four stories high and you can even climb to the very top of the tower at Disneyland and get a bird’s eye view of the entire plaza.

It’s quite obvious that there was a lot of hardwork and creativity in play during the construction of the façade of the entries. The walls are either made of bamboo or shells, flowers crafted from dextrose bottles, Christmas trees made of empty soda bottles or cut outs of plastic cups, and Christmas lights strewn all over the place; in every corner of the entries, spectators are sure to see something unique and inspiring.

One incredible entry even had huge multi-headed snakes crafted from “kinhason” or shells. All sixteen entries are works of art and were without a doubt created with the passion for Christmas that all Tangubanons are known for.

“This is the best way to celebrate Christmas in the whole country,” said Department of Tourism Region 10 Catalino Chan III.

“Tangub is a small city but it has a big heart. This is a celebration of education, culture, and of peace.” Chan added that the people get to know more about other countries and of other people’s culture through the festival.

The entries will go through three rounds of judging and are judged based on creativity and interpretation, quality of workmanship, artistic combination of lights, and overall appeal.