TARLAC, the Belen Capital of the Philippines, relives what took place in Bethlehem at this year’s edition of “Belenismo sa Tarlac,” a province-wide Belen-making competition which recognizes municipalities, establishments, offices, schools and churches that showcase the well-crafted wonder of the nativity.
A visual treat and history lesson, this also became Tarlac’s much anticipated event during Christmas season that “holds all time together.”
This reenactment of the nativity scene through the art of making Belen is a project of the mother-and-daughter tandem, Isabel Cojuangco-Suntay with her daughter and namesake Dr. Isabel “Isa” Cojuangco-Suntay, of the Tarlac Heritage Foundation Inc.
The event has inspired many Tarlaqueños, in the spirit of bayanihan, to build Belens which attract a lot of attention from visitors.
The winning entries this year were judged based on the theme and composition, which feature intricacy of design, quality of workmanship, choice of colors, use of materials, image of the Christmas crèche, as well as prayer before it; lighting, which provides a solemn but festive atmosphere and focuses on the significant points of the display; and overall impact, which leaves a lasting impression on viewers.
For the grand non-municipal category, SM Prime Holdings Inc. (SM City Tarlac) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) clinched the top spot. The grand prize for the municipal category went to the municipalities of San Manuel, San Clemente, Capas and Moncada
Besting all other aspirants in the monumental category were Nay’s House Inc. and McDonald’s Concepcion. For the church category, the first prize went to San Roque Parish.
Some of the winning entries
The AFP featured a crown of thorns which means it will gladly bear the pain that comes with its campaign. Its nativity set and farm animals have been used since 2012. From the 2018 Belen entry, jewels were recycled and angels were carved and painted using styrofoam. Ding Mercado interpreted the design.
SM City Tarlac enlivens the Belen, whose intricate design is given life by one of Tarlac’s main agricultural products – sugarcane. Complementing the colorful water-and-light-producing fountain were indigenous jute sacks and bagasse fibers wrapped around it. The mall also opted to use treated water waste from its sewage treatment plant to promote environmental sustainability. The three main characters – Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus – were brought to life through robotic technology. Every aspect of the Belen was well thought of.
San Manuel created a butterfly made of recycled materials locally available, such as bottle caps, plastic and glass bottles, and talahib grass. Its butterfly symbolizes the townspeople’s soaring dreams as a community in transforming the town into a developed, progressive and future-ready investment hub.
San Clemente’s is an ark inspired by the colorful vinta, a traditional boat in Mindanao, highlighting indigenous materials like bolo, kawayan, ablang (local term for anahaw) found in the municipality’s rich soil. Old sacks were also used in the vintas.
Capas, being the next global city and soon to be a city with greater opportunities and possibilities, used the vine from gugu tree for its nest, gathered by indigenous people who live in Sitio Tarucan and Settler, Brgy. Sta. Juliana. Paper mosaic was handcrafted for the face of the huge angel. It also used bankawan or batok-batok that was collected in Brgy. Maruglo and cattle bones for its feathers, and x-ray films and glitter tulles for its clothes, lit up with different LED and colorful laser lights.
Nay’s is as fanciful as a butterfly and most of the materials used were gathered from nature. All the decorations were handmade and handcrafted by its staff, and the design is whimsical and imaginative.
Besides displaying the Christmas scene, other local Belen makers offered rice cakes, balut, arroz caldo and many home-cooked delicacies and treats. The mother-and-daughter tandem gave the visitors a tour.