CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTING. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Saturday (Dec. 3, 2022) leads the traditional Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the Kalayaan Grounds in Malacañan Palace. (Screenshot from Radio Television Malacañang) 

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Saturday led the traditional Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the Kalayaan Grounds of Malacañan Palace, kicking off the Yuletide season.

"I’m very happy to have been able to do this [Christmas] Tree Lighting and it really is a different feeling," Marcos said in his speech.

"And so with the lighting of the tree, it is official. The official Christmas season has begun," he added.

This is the first time Marcos led the annual lighting of Christmas tree at the Palace.

Ecstatic over the switch-on ceremony, Marcos said the occasion gives Filipinos a renewed sense of hope, considering that the coronavirus pandemic restricted public movement.

"Tatlong taon na tayo hindi nakapag-pasko na kagaya ng pasko ng Pilipino. Dahil iba talaga ang pagdiriwang ng pasko 'pag nasa Pilipinas ka. Wala ka ng makikita kahit saan sa buong mundo na mas masaya na tao kapag nagka-pasko at lalong lalo na para sa mga bata (For three years, we were unable to celebrate Christmas the way we do it. It's really different when we celebrate Christmas in the Philippines. Unlike in other countries, people in the Philippines, especially the children, are very happy when they celebrate Christmas)," he said.

Marcos hoped that all Filipinos, especially the children, will have a "very joyful" Christmas celebration.

"I always believe that Christmas is really for the children and so we have made, done everything that we can to make sure that every child, every Filipino child has a Christmas. And that is something that I think is a good goal for us in this Christmas, since we have been blessed, all of us, despite all of the challenges we have faced, here we are, we have all been blessed," Marcos said.

First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos, former first lady Imelda Marcos, and Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio were among those who attended the lighting of the Christmas tree.

During the event, Marcos also conferred the awards on the winners of the nationwide parol-making competition dubbed as “Isang Bituin, Isang Mithiin".

The parol-making contest was spearheaded by the Office of the Social Secretary led by Secretary Bianca Zobel, in cooperation with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Proclaimed winners were the local government units (LGU) of Abra (third), Ilocos Norte (second), and South Cotabato (1st place).

The PHP100,000 cash prize will be given to the first place winner, PHP75,000 to the second place, and PHP50,000 to the third place. (PNA)