TANGUB CITY in Misamis Occidental is celebrating the 27th edition of the Christmas Symbols Festival, the longest-running festival in the country featuring 42 days of lights display.
Beatrice Florida, city councilor, said the event showcases the togetherness, sacrifice, volunteerism and love that binds all Tangubanons.
The festival started out of a person’s desire to comfort a loved one who was homesick by setting up a Christmas tree adorned with lights at the city plaza.
Eventually, parents came with their children in tow as well as grandparents with their picnic baskets. Many more Tangubanons gathered in the area to pass the time away.
“See what love can do to put more flavor to our celebrations,” said Misamis Occidental Governor Philip Tan.
The festival is a display of lights and artistry. This year, 16 entries will compete under the theme “Discover the World in Tangub City.”
The entries will be judged on the following criteria: creativity and best interpretation (30 percent), quality of workmanship (25 percent), artistic combination and use of lights (25 percent), and overall appeal of all sides of the symbols including cleanliness and orderliness (20 percent).
“Judging of the symbols will abide by ranking system and will be conducted in three separate schedules: Dec. 1 and Dec. 15, 2019 and then on Jan. 4, 2020,” Florida said.
Awarding of winners will be conducted during the closing ceremony of the festival on January 11.
Martin Andanar, presidential communications secretary, said for the past 27 years, the Tangubanons’ creativity has brightened the city and given joy to the residents and guests.
Last year’s magnificently lighted displays included replicas of famous buildings and sites such as Notre Dame, Cathedral of Paris and Korean temple shrine.
“Tangub City has gathered the artistic minds and hands for the creation of these lighted masterpieces,” Andanar said.
“Darkness and where human realities are expressed without shadows – because we are able to see the clarity of truth – we need to look at our living conditions and infinite brightness in order to be guided and secured.”
He described the Tangubanons’ lighted structures as works of converging imaginative talents, meticulous labor and skillful hands.
Deputy House Speaker and Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal said Tangub City is at the forefront of the district’s tourism development thrust and never fails to mesmerize with its glamour, ingenuity and world-class creativity.
Captivating audiences from all over the country, Oaminal said the magnificent display of Christmas Symbols proves that one need not travel far nor spend a lot to see the wonders of the world and other beautiful sceneries.
The ingenious creations can take one’s imagination to faraway places in just a single night’s journey, he added.
“Visibly, from end to end of our district, we have intensified developments promoting unprecedented growth in tourism and economic activities,” Oaminal said, citing the Christmas Symbols as well as the Gardens of the World, which is another tourism site being promoted in the district.
Tan said they did not expect the festival to become popular among tourists and visitors as well.
“It was originally for the people of Tangub City until we have realized that our neighbors started coming over to see it. Every December, there is no place to go but to Tangub City,” he said.
Jennifer Wee-Tan, municipal mayor and Christmas Symbols Festival founder, said holding the festival for 27 years is a daunting task, but they are challenged to give it their best.
“This whole Christmas Symbols Festival is not just a challenge for us – it is really our passion.”
Tan said the festival continues to foster volunteerism among the people as they recreate different landmarks every year. The stall owners also benefit from the tourism the festival generates.
As the town holds four festivals in a year, Tangub City eyes to have more accommodations for tourists and welcomes investors who must follow the local government’s urban planning.
“Tangub City’s Christmas Symbols Festivals says it all, that it is more fun in the Philippines.
The town, which is a model for tourism development, is one tourist destination to go to,” said Myra Paz Abubakar, Department of Tourism (DOT) assistant secretary for Mindanao and Palawan, and head of the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area tourism cluster.
Marie Elaine Unchuan, DOT-Northern Mindanao regional director, said the festival gives a sense of pride and camaraderie among the people, organizations, schools, offices and government agencies that participate.
“They do it together and do not hire professionals to do the symbols… It is really a labor of love for them,” Unchuan said, noting they do the research and decide as a group. “There is unity as well as community support and effort in making the project.”
She added the local government intends to bring attention to this festival across the country and expects Tangub City to attract more tourists.
PHOTOS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM