Isn’t it the most wonderful time of the year?
No other season can perhaps bring as much as cheer, warmth and excitement as Christmas does. Bright glittering lights; festive decor and fancy trimmings in every corner; sumptuous meals shared among family and closest friends; and of course, that familiar frenzied holiday rush of finding the perfect gifts for everyone—it really is quite difficult to ignore all the positivity this season exudes. As the songs go, Christmas is the happiest and merriest season, the most wonderful time of the year.
That is simply true in a country like the Philippines, where Christmas is most likely celebrated the longest—at the onset of the so-called “ber months.” And by November, you’ll see many homes already all spruced up, adorned with a well-thought-out themed decor that was probably planned a few months back. With all the sights, smells and sounds of the holidays, Christmas is truly in the air.
Beyond all these however, many look forward to the holidays for a number of reasons. December is the time that many Filipinos come home to their families. Others meanwhile see it as a fresh start—an opportunity to reflect on the year that was and to prepare for a new chapter in their lives. Some take it as a time to finally unwind, hang loose and enjoy the company of family.
But what makes this year’s holidays more meaningful is the fact that there’s now so much hope for a brighter future. In the midst of the pandemic’s heart-wrenching impact on individuals and families who may have lost their jobs or loved ones, many are now more optimistic as they look forward to a better 2022.
Let’s take a look at how some families decorated their homes, and know what makes this year’s Christmas celebration more meaningful than ever for them.
A FAVORITE TRADITION
From her childhood, Matilde P. Robles has always remembered seeing a heavily decorated Christmas tree and elegant trinkets and trimmings in every corner of the room, as soon as this holiday season rolls in.
While the president of Royale Homes Marketing Corp. comes from a family of 10 siblings, Robles was the one who eventually took on the task of decorating their home every Christmas—and even other family milestones such as birthdays—as this was something she really enjoys.
“It became a hobby of mine to style events for my family and close friends just because it makes me happy. Of course, when they do love the decorations, it would make all the planning, the work and the effort all worth it as I was able to help them have a good time celebrating,” Robles said.
“Now that I’m a grandmother to 10 beautiful apos, I want them to feel the spirit of Christmas and the festive decorations at home definitely help me to achieve that goal. It really fulfills me to see them enjoying the decor I design and I’m hoping this tradition will be passed on to the next generation. I am really excited how they will add their own unique twist to this classic Christmas tradition and who knows? Maybe they might even design something better than some of my previous creations,” she explained.
According to Robles, she often gets her inspiration from her travels abroad. She would then source the materials from her regular go-to-stores in Divisoria and malls, and mix these with the items she got abroad. She, however, makes it a point to either recycle or upcycle her decor to fit the new theme for the year.
“We are living in a time when sustainability and minimalism are the new trends and it’s your creativity that will make the difference between ordinary and extraordinary,” she said.
A staple in all of Robles’ decors are vibrant, colorful flowers as these makes her feel “relaxed yet energized at the same time.”
“Flowers never fail to brighten anyone’s day, and with what we have seen in the design space recently, nature elements are becoming popular. They give a sense of soft comfort and they’re something you’ll never get tired to look at. Sure, flowers are not really a new idea, but there is a reason why they are always present in home decorations,” Robles explained.
For this year, Robles takes her inspiration from her farm as the pandemic and the lockdowns restricted them from traveling outside the country.
“During the pandemic, I was not able to travel anywhere but stayed indoors in our farm. I was surrounded by nature and animals so I got inspired by it. I attached some birds, bears and other white animal stuffed toys and mixed them up with recycled silver and white Christmas balls to have that monochromatic winter wonderland theme,” she said.
“I also made use of white flowers to make sure it has that feminine touch. While some might say white is a safe and classic choice, I like to think that it is a flexible color that you can always use if you want to maintain that clean and elegant look while you try something different out of your comfort zone,” Robles added.
WHAT TRULY MATTERS
Christmas is and has always been about family. For interior designer and Inquirer columnist Tessa Prieto-Valdes, this year is all about getting back to what truly matters—her family. And as such, she wanted their holiday decor “to be personal and happy.”
Prieto-Valdes shared that when her children were younger, the whole family was involved in choosing the theme for their Christmas decor.
“Now that they are much older, I am the only one excited to decorate our home. I briefly discuss the theme and get suggestions from them but in the end, I choose the final look which changes annually. Always over the top, I make sure every part of the house has a festive spirit to spread happy and cheerful vibes,” she said.
According to her, the Christmas theme is important for her because that would carry out the entire color scheme and decor.
“Every year, the theme is different, and as I am always so over the top, I make sure every corner has some decor with that theme. My favorite ones were Disney, African, Russian, Game of Thrones, Enchanted Forest and Pinoy,” Prieto-Valdes explained.
She has favorites, too. According to her, there are a lot of mainstays in her yearly decor like the giant Christmas tree, parols, Christmas lights, hanging garlands, table setting and place settings.
“I change the Christmas lights every year for safety. I love to personalise decors as well, with photos and monogram pillows,” she added.
But what further makes this year’s celebration meaningful is that Prieto-Valdes sees 2021 as a year for giving back. As such, most of her decors were sourced from Gifts & Graces, a livelihood program that supports a lot of communities. She shopped online via its Instagram account, @giftsandgracesfairtrade.
Prieto-Valdes added: “With my daughter Jordan Valdes who decided to stay in Siargao to help rebuild homes, our family won’t be complete but the true meaning of Christmas is more heartfelt as we share our blessings and be of service to others. Christmas is truly in our hearts!”
A CHRISTMAS FOR DAD
Ace Marco Neptuno’s family has always been big on holiday decor. While they had a simple, humble lifestyle growing up, her parents made sure that their Christmases were always special when they were kids.
But their decor, she pointed out, was the type you find in curiosity shops.
“The typical Christmas tree we had, I remember, was a young branchy tree trunk and we had to remove the barks to reveal the white inner layer, and we put soap suds on them so they would appear like snow. When the suds peel off, we glue cottons to achieve the same effect. Then we would hang colorful Christmas balls and lights. We loved the lights, especially! Christmas has always been our favorite season, as a family,” Neptuno explained.
This year, however, would be a different Christmas for her and her family.
“This is our first Christmas without our Dad, after a journey with a rare and aggressive gallbladder cancer for almost two years. As we were now mostly away from home, we could no longer get together to play around with Christmas decors,” she said.
According to Neptuno, they were still able to install decorations last year using sustainable and reusable materials as they are big on environmentally sound options. That installation, she said was beautiful. But many years before that, when they were either in the university, or raising their own families, they had stopped putting up a Christmas tree.
But since September this year, Neptuno had been promising her dad that they would have a tree again, which they would place at the part of the house where he loves to be in the morning to feed the birds and where Mt. Mayon can be seen in her glorious beauty.
“Sadly, Dad, our superhero, passed on in November 22 and we haven’t put up any tree yet (at that time). The weeks before that were spent racing against time, in and out of the hospital, as his health continued to fail. Just a few days after the funeral, I came across an article in Philippine Daily Inquirer about this tree (from Augusto 1055)—it almost spoke to me,” she shared.
“I instantly knew it was Dad who was picking that tree for all of us. It was his tree. It was simple. We can have it for many Christmases. It was repurposed wood which made it even more special. I loved it at once. And when I showed it to my siblings and Mom, they all said yes,” she added.
Neptuno said they had a decorator work his magic because “while we love looking at pretty things, we fail a lot on being truly artistic! We just wanted it to be simple, humble, but a standout. In way, that is how our Dad was: he was very charming, and he was very neat all the time and smelled good!”
A lot of the materials that were used to decorate the tree also reminded them of him, according to Neptuno.
“He fancied himself a farmer, but having no acres of land to farm, so he instead grew plants and vegetables everywhere in the house, in the deck, and in the yard. May lupa sya—sa paso. The decorative stones were used by the architect as cladding on the exteriors of the family house when we had it remodelled for our parents. We chose the stones together—Dad and me. We love white a lot. And so we used a lot of whites on the new house: white cladding, white walls, white ceilings, but red for the main door because Mom wanted it that way, and she is the majority, according to Dad,” Neptuno explained.
“Thus, the white tree. Our decorator also put pink flowers which commonly grew in fields where we played at as children. So the decors were also reminiscent of our childhood days,” she added.