Towns, cities and provinces - each prepare their own design of the Christmas tree every year with utmost emphasis on the purpose of spreading the lovely spirit of the holidays.
Abundant Christmas lights of vibrant colors to awaken the joy of everyone who will witness its glory is a basic requirement for an amazing one.
Many beautify theirs with humongous Christmas balls of red, blue, or gold, some would complete it with shimmering gold ribbons.
Traditionally, it is a common rule that a tree must be colorful and bright.
While the province of Ilocos Sur stayed true to these unwritten guidelines with the sparkling Pinoy parol or star lanterns, they did not settle for the usual.
Instead, they went beyond aesthetics and artfully incorporated local products that screamed the identity of the heritage province.
Installed in front of the provincial capitol that took almost a month to build and decorate, the 44-feet tall Christmas tree of Ilocos Sur is adorned with the One-Town-One-Product (OTOP) of the different municipalities and cities.
Each tier of the tree is decorated with star lanterns, Christmas lights, and Abel Iloco or hand-loom woven textiles from almost any of the towns in the province.
The Narvacan town and Vigan City’s Longganisa and Bagnet are instantly noticeable from all the ornaments.
The Balikutsa, a natural sweetener made from sugarcane extract from the town of Santa Maria is also visible on all levels of the tree.
Moreover, the soft broom of Sugpon and Alilem appears on the fourth level of the tree framing the Calamansi juice and onions.
Various Buri crafts, sweet corn, Bolo, Tinubong and Basi are also featured on the province’s tree.
Meanwhile, visitors may take photos with the Christmas lights formed to resemble a carabao, a mini Bahay Kubo, and a Santa Claus figure among others.
But the surprises of the tree is not limited to its outside appearance. Its base encapsulates a mostly-white "Belen '' or nativity scene, with accents of gold—a striking contrast with the full picture of the tree cast with vibrant hues of royal blue.
The formal lighting ceremony was held on December 6, led by Governor Jerry Singson, Vice Governor Ryan Singson and the rest of the provincial officials together with the mayors of the different municipalities, to signify the beginning of the holiday season.
“The Christmas season is our opportunity to celebrate as one family and one province, and to make each other feel our love and compassion. This is the perfect time to show the true spirit and meaning of Christmas,” said governor Singson.
The formal lighting of the tree was topped off with a grand fireworks display witnessed by the people of Ilocos Sur and tourists alike.
With the unique theme of the Christmas tree, the locals felt a sense of pride that their heritage is strongly valued.
While for the non-Ilocanos, it is an opportunity to look at what the province can offer, all in one tree—the OTOP Christmas tree. (JCR/ATV, PIA Ilocos Sur)