MANILA – If the Christmas spirit hasn't quite kicked in yet, consider visiting this plaza in Santa Rosa, Laguna that has set up a variety of life-size Santa statues.
The Santa Claus Village in the city plaza located in Barangay Kanluran is quickly attracting locals looking for a way to safely enjoy the holidays with their friends and families.
Lights go up starting at 7 p.m., but there’s plenty of time to take morning walks in a plaza where there’s no shortage of Santas.
There’s one statue of Santa with elves, Santa reading his naughty and nice list, Santa on his sleigh, and Santa coming out of a chimney, and much more.
Organized by Santa Rosa’s City Cultural Affairs Office, the picture-perfect display started welcoming guests in November and will run until the city's annual Sikhayan, a festival in January that honors the perseverance and determination of their people.
Santa Claus displays are not new in the plaza, but organizers decided to take it up a notch by increasing the number of Santa statues for public viewing.
“It’s about time kasi medyo nagluwag nanaman yung ating Alert Levels so kaya nag-decide ang City Cultural Affairs Office na pagandahin yung plaza para kahit papaano yung mga tao na medyo nabo-bore ay malibang naman (It’s about time because the Alert Level has lowered. This is why the City Cultural Affairs Office decided to adorn the plaza with more decorations so that residents would be able to have fun),” Jerry Lapinid, Administrative Assistant, said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency.
Lapinid said the statues of Father Christmas, which are made of fiber resin, were purchased in the municipality Kalayaan that is known for supplying Christmas decorations.
Compared to last year, he said the city is starting to snap back into pre-pandemic normalcy with the exception of people still being required to wear their face masks and keep their distance.
“Every night nga ang dami-daming tao sa plaza para mamasyal doon nagpo-photo ops, mga pamilya, barkada (there are lots of people in the plaza to take a walk and take photos with their family and friends),” he said.
“Mas dumami ngayon yung tao compared nung last year. Siguro dahil matagal ngang hindi nakalabas, walang mapasyalan, magalaan kaya sinusulit nila hangga’t maluwag yung ating alert levels (There are more people now compared to last year. Maybe it’s because they weren’t a lot of places to go that’s why they’re making the most out of lower alert levels),” he added.
To ensure everyone’s safety, Lapinid said their office sought assistance from several Kanluran barangay tanod (village watchmen) to implement minimum public health standards.
According to locals, statues of the chubby, jolly, rosy-cheeked old man with a white beard are more uplifting than ever, especially at a particularly trying year for many Filipinos.
Donel Lijauco, who hails from Barangay Tagapo, said he was pleasantly surprised to see over a dozen statues of the legendary figure when he went to the plaza for a jog.
“They’re cute. It’s making children happy. Kahit hindi ako bata, ang saya nila tingnan tapos ang dami nila (I’m not a child anymore, but they just look so cheerful and there’s a whole lot of them),” he said.
Of course, the big, jolly man in the red suit with a white beard isn’t the only star of the plaza.
Lapinid said a Christmas belen or Nativity scene was intentionally installed to remind people that baby Jesus should be placed at the center of the celebration.
Aside from the Santa Claus Village, Santa Rosa’s City Cultural Affairs Office has also prepared a line-up of virtual activities and events throughout the month including community fireworks displays authorized by the city government.
“Nung di pa nagpa-pandemic every night mayroon kaming Christmas and New Year presentations sa plaza, pero since pandemic pa, yung presentation naming ay pinalalabas nalang naming virtually (Before the pandemic we would have Christmas and New Year presentations in the plaza, but since we’re still in a pandemic the presentations are shown virtually instead),” he said.
All activities and events will be live streamed on the official Facebook page of the City Government of Santa Rosa, Laguna.
As Christmas draws closer, Lapinid hopes strolling through the plaza would inspire others to do their part in bringing the season of joy to others, especially the less fortunate.
For him, the holidays should serve as a reminder of the importance of not just giving gifts, but giving back to the community. (PNA)