By Gelyka Ruth R. Dumaraos / Photos from DOT OPAA
Thousands of spectators welcomed the lighting of various world-class destination replicas in this year’s Christmas Symbols Festival in Tangub City, Misamis Occidental.
Over 100,000 visitors witnessed the opening of 17 entries from different local and national agencies featuring mounted international landmarks including the Dubai Miracle Garden, Atlanta Botanical Garden, Temple of Athena Nike, Patterson Park Pagoda Tower, Copenhagen’s City Center Theme Park, The Transparent Church of Borgloon, and Nautilus House among others.
Dubbed as the Christmas Symbol Capital of the Philippines, the city located south of the province has been known to be a top destination in Northern Mindanao during the Christmas season for the past 27 years.
The brainchild of Tangub City Mayor Jennifer Wee-Tan, then first lady of former mayor and now Misamis Occidental Gov. Philip T. Tan, the festival aims to popularize international destinations to the locals of Tangub and its neighboring towns.
In 1992, then-Mayor Philip put up a giant Christmas tree in the town plaza to help ease his first lady’s homesickness following her move from hometown Cebu City after their wedding.
The giant Christmas tree was eventually a welcomed spectacle for the townspeople. Mayor Jennifer then suggested putting up more lighted Christmas symbols around the plaza, an idea that came out of love and compassion for the locals of Tangub.
In 2014, the festival launched the theme “Discover the World in Tangub City,” which made the town even more popular as a Christmas destination. Spectators look forward to the yearly Christmas village, featuring a massive display of colossal replicas of popular destinations in the world.
Mayor Tan underscores that these displays will not be repeated in the years to come, so visitors are always up for a yearly surprise on displays.
But while the replicas are constantly changing each year, she says that the community-based fanfare will always be present. “What’s constant in this festival is the spirit of volunteerism of the people. It is unchanging,” adding that it highlights the Filipino Christmas spirit.
“You go to Disneyland; you’ll feel like you’re in a foreign country. The displays are done by professionals. But when you are here, you’ll feel the Filipino kind of Disneyland and it’s not done by professionals. It is done by people who are purely passionate at heart.”
Tangub City Tourism Officer Baby Paller says that agencies participate in gratitude to the taxpayers of the city. She also adds that the participants are the ones who shell out the funds in building their masterpieces. “We do this out of passion. The festival is our way of giving back to the locals of the city for their yearlong support.”
Mayor Tan also says that the influx of tourists during the Christmas season also brings a boost to the livelihood of locals.
Based on their data, in the past years, their December income covers eight months of their livelihood.
Department of Tourism Regional Director for Northern Mindanao Marie Elaine Unchuan meanwhile, notes that the Christmas Symbols Festival has been a major attraction not only within the city but to the whole Mindanao, as well.
She says, “People in Mindanao are well aware of this fiesta. But we are very determined to bring this to nationwide attention, especially to people in Luzon and Visayas.”
Festivals all-year round
Aside from the Christmas Symbols Festival during December, Tangub City celebrates the other three festivals scheduled per quarter. The Stadium Lights Parade Festival is being celebrated during February while Sobremesa Fair Festival, a summer trade fair, is being observed in April alongside the yearly Santacruzan. Dalit Festival, dubbed as the mother of all festivals in Mindanao is celebrated in September.
As for other attractions, Tangub City takes pride in Belvedere, a scenic spot in Fertig Hills in Mount Malindang, which promises a 360-degree view of the city and its neighboring towns. The Gardens of the World, designed by award-winning architecture firm Palafox Associates, is also soon to be opened in the area. It is projected to be one of the main landmarks in Misamis Occidental with the Asean heritage site Mount Malindang as its backdrop.
It may be a small city, but Unchuan eyes a tourism boost in Tangub in the years to come because of the construction of the Panguil Bay which shall connect Lanao del Norte to Tangub City. Currently, the way to Misamis Occidental to Lanao del Norte is either by land through Zamboanga, or a 15-minute ferry ride from Tubod, Lanao del Norte, to Ozamiz City. The bridge is set to be the longest bridge in the Philippines by 2021.
The Christmas Symbols Festival will last until January 8, 2020.
Image credits: DOT OPAA