MANILA –– Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.
Wait, we’re not talking about the rainbow. We’re talking about the different colors of Christmas lights up on display on the quiet Policarpio Street in Mandaluyong City.
Policarpio is a small street outside the busy shopping centers and entertainment areas of the city in the eastern part of Metro Manila. At first sight, Policarpio seems like a very long road — with a mix of old and new houses. The attraction, however, is found in the houses with facades lit up with spectacular Christmas lights — such as those in the form of colorful stars that blink in the beat of Yuletide songs, a Christmas Nativity with blinking lights around as well, and a Santa Claus house that has wowed even the Canadian Santa himself.
For this Christmas, resident Mrs. Norma Lim decorated her house with lines of light-emitting diodes (LED), as usual. But the zing comes from a huge garden-themed “Belen,” or the Nativity, with colorful LED bulbs in forms of stars on top of the next-door building, the Lims’ office.
Mrs. Lim said her decorating tradition started 23 years ago with a small Belen.
“We started with a Belen, a small one until it grew larger and larger. Then we added lights,” she related.
A simple tradition for Mrs. Lim and the residents of Policarpio Street lit the fire, so to speak, in other communities to follow suit. The people of Policarpio Street have clearly inspired others to also feature spectacular exhibits all around the country.
“It’s a joy because, in Policarpio, many followed, so the whole country is happy. During Christmas, all towns decorate,” Mrs. Lim said.
While Policarpio Street has catapulted the Christmas decoration tradition into other parts of the country, Mrs. Lim still wishes many other towns would “copy” what they did on Policarpio.
“We hope this could be spread in the whole city and in each province, so we could give joy to the people,” she said.
Focused on the spirit of giving during the season, Mrs. Lim said she does not consider the cost for decorations anymore, as she only aims to give joy.
“The cost — it’s just labor of love,” Mrs. Lim said.
Twenty-three years and counting, the businesswoman pledges to continue decorating every year until she could no longer do it.
“I will continue while I can still do it,” she said.
From a pie server with the face of Santa, working on a Santa to another Santa on a Macbook, the Suva residence in Policarpio seems to have everything Santa.
The house is easily recognizable with its life-sized Santa Clauses on top of the terrace. But the biggest treat for any visitor is inside the house with its expansive collection of Santa, spanning countries and time periods.
“I’ve collected for more than 40 years. Some of these are antiques, they are really heavy,” Mrs. Carmen Suva, owner of the house, said.
Mrs. Suva said her fixation with Santa started in her childhood years.
“When I was a child, when I’d accompany my mother to the grocery, she’d always scold me as I always disappear because of Santa Claus, especially in November or Christmas time. I’d always touch the display. When I was out with someone, I’d always disappear because I’d always stop to look at Santa,” she recalled.
But she said she’s not alone in the efforts to make the House of Santa. Mrs. Suva emphasized she had lots of help from friends, family, and some reporters she took care of during her long career in government service at the Office of the Press Secretary.
“When I was working in Malacanang, whenever the President leaves, I would also travel along, as I handle the reporters,” she said. “When work is finished at night, we go out and they buy all kinds of items. They are delighted because I always look for Santa Claus and I bring that home. When we arrive back home, some reporters would also give me small Santa Clauses. Then the collection grew and grew. The others were gifts from my cousins and brother abroad on my birthdays and Christmas time, so the collection grew and grew. When I also see new Santa Clauses, I also buy them,” she said.
One of her friends, she said, even came to her place to check what’s missing in her collection, and then gave her what seemed to be lacking when she came back.
“One of my friends from Nueva Ecija visited and asked, ‘What else are you missing?’ When she came back, she had a straw. My friends are like that, they check to see what’s missing,” Mrs. Suva said.
The house is such an uncommon spectacle, not only for Filipinos, but even for the so-called Canadian Santa Claus, who was amazed by the huge number of little him.
“The foreign Santa Claus, the one who goes to malls, he went here three years ago. He was amazed because it was his first time to see lots and lots of Santas. He said there were some in Canada, but not this plenty and unique,” Mrs. Suva enthused.
House of lights
A sparkling gate filled with Christmas lights and parols also takes the limelight on Policarpio Street. The splendid house is owned by the Dalisay Family, who do the decorating, themselves, to make other people happy.
When asked about the cost for the colorful spectacle, Mrs. Baby Dalisay, instead, emphasized the importance of Christmas.
“It’s just small. What’s important is — we give — so the people will be happy. They could go around and they will feel it’s Christmas time, especially the people and children. These kinds of decorations give joy and honor God,” she said.
The Dalisays started decorating with a few lights in 1993 and the display grew and grew until it caught the media’s attention in 1998.
“We started in 1993, but there weren’t many lights. In 1995, the lights became many. The newspapers started featuring it in 1998,” Mrs. Dalisay said.
Truly meticulous with their preparation, the Dalisays put up their decor early September or October, then lights it up on the first week of November.
“Sometimes September and October, we put it up. Then we light it up the first week of November,” Mrs. Dalisay said.
With these three houses of the Lims’, the Suvas’, and the Dalisays’, it wouldn’t be a surprise if one would want to stay and linger some more in the dazzling spectacle of Christmas lights and bright, colorful displays on the now famous Policarpio Street.