TREE OF HOPE. The 40-foot Christmas tree of the city of Manila lights up near the Kartilya ng Katipunan monument on Monday night (Nov. 22, 2021). Residents who witnessed the lighting ceremony expressed hopes for a merrier Christmas and safer 2022. (Photo courtesy of Department of Tourism, Culture and Arts of Manila)

MANILA – The Christmas season has started in the capital city of Manila with the lighting of its 40-foot Christmas tree at the Kartilya ng Katipunan monument, near the City Hall, on Monday night.

Six other sites -- Rizal Monument, Intramuros, National Museum, Manila Central Post Office, Metropolitan Theater, and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas -- also held simultaneous lighting of their Christmas decorations.

As active Covid-19 cases are decreasing nationwide and vaccines continue to pour in that made possible the start of pediatric inoculation and booster shots, Filipinos are hoping it will indeed be a merrier and safer celebration this year despite the pandemic.

Manila has only 193 active cases as of Monday noon while at least 1.3 million adults are already fully vaccinated, exceeding the one-million target.

“What a beautiful sight. Yes, let this tree be a reminder that there will be good things for us in the coming weeks, months, and years of our lives. May awa ang Diyos, kapit lang (God’s mercy will be on us, just hold on),” netizen Tonette Santos posted on Facebook.

Ang liwanag ay simbolo ng kinabukasan, hayaan po natin na ang liwanag ang maging gabay sa ating mga pangarap (The light symbolizes the future, let us allow the light to guide us towards our dreams),” Odieh Banzon commented.

Dolly Bunag also posted that she is hopeful the coming Christmas “brightens and lightens our life to a happy, peaceful, and prosperous New Year!”

Celia dela Cruz felt fortunate to witness the lighting ceremony.

“Merry Christmas na sa Maynila, present ako sa pa-ilaw ng Christmas tree, ang saya (in Manila. I was present at the lighting ceremony. It was fun)”.

Grace Basilan admired the tree’s design and said it made her feel “hopeful for the coming 2022”. (PNA)