Palo, considered the seat of Catholicism in Leyte, is an enchanting Christmas village with colorful blinking lights and other holiday symbols festooned in the town’s plaza, houses and offices.
The first-class municipality (annual income: over P55 million) with a population of 56,781 (2010 census) is popularly known as the Christmas capital of Eastern Visayas. It launched the Palo Christmas Festival on Friday and would sustain the event up to the Feast of the Three Kings on Jan. 6, according to Mayor Remedios Petilla.
Residents will not only enjoy the sights, sounds and decor at the plaza but will also be treated to nightly shows, including competitions of models wearing recyclable materials during the “Paskoshion,” hip-hop, caroling and dance drama.
Fourteen of the 33 villages will vie for awards for the best decorated and lighted main street. These are Buri, Arado, Cavite East, Cavite West, Cogon, Sta. Cruz, Naga-Naga, St. Michael, Salvacion, Guindapunan, Pawing, Baras, Luntad and San Fernando.
Other contests involve the search for the best Christmas lantern, Santa Claus-making, best decorated barangay hall, best Christmas tree using recyclable materials, best “belen” (Nativity scene) and best lighted and well-decorated government agency office.
Palo is known worldwide as the place where Gen. Douglas MacArthur first landed to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese occupation forces on Oct. 20, 1944. It was the capital of Leyte until it was changed to Tacloban, which is 12 kilometers away.
It is also where the Archdiocese of Palo’s ecclesiastical government and its secondary, tertiary and theology seminaries, and the archbishop’s residence are found.
An added attraction in Palo, which has brought happiness to many people, especially children, for the past 25 years, is Saborens’ Christmas Fantasy House in Luntad. The place features assorted holiday decorations, toys, Christmas trees and miniature “Christmas villages” cast in a western setting—all brought by Enrico Saboren from abroad where he works.
It is not just Palo that has lined up activities to celebrate the birth of Christ.
On Dec. 16, when “simbang gabi” (dawn Mass) starts, Hotel Alejandro in Tacloban City will open Paskong Pinoy. Stalls in front of the hotel will offer native delicacies, such as “suman at tsokolate,” “puto,” “kutsinta,” “sapin-sapin,” “biko” and even “suman” Cebu and Bicol’s “binut-ong.”
In Catbalogan City, capital of Samar, provincial officials launched a “Light-a-Tree” contest with the theme, “Christmas around the world,” on Dec. 1, making the capitol grounds ablaze with Christmas lights designed as St. Basil’s Cathedral, Eiffel Tower, Golden Gate Bridge and Disneyland characters (US).