Seeking to relive tradition, Christmas caroling contest offers prizes, plane ticket to Manila
By Cristina DC Pastor
They dithered at first, then decided to join last-minute.
To their surprise, the Filipino-American Society of St. Joan of Arc won first prize of $1,200 at the first Christmas Caroling Contest held December 5, 2015 at the Philippine Center on Fifth Avenue. The group donated the check to the Saint Joan of Arc Parish in Jackson Heights, Queens.
“We said, sige try lang tayo,” said society president Jane Marie Buenaventura. “Then, we won!”
They sang “Silent Night,” although theirs was a slightly altered interpretation of the original 1818 hymn co-written by German organist Franz Xaver Gruber and Austrian priest Joseph Mohr, and popularized by American singer Bing Crosby.
“Our Silent Night had touches of reflection…with drama,” explained Jane. “We included the words Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, and toward the end Ramil was raising a statue of the infant Jesus.” Last year’s theme was “Jesus is the reason for the season.”
Ramil is Jane’s husband, a middle school teacher at The Renaissance Charter School also in Jackson Heights and an active member of the club.
Eight – out of about 30 — members from the society got together on four occasions to practice. On December 5, the carolers, wearing red kimono shirts rose to the Kalayaan Hall stage and sang their number.
“Blessing talaga. Thank you Lord,” cried Jane, who works for a home-based travel agency.
This year’s caroling contest will have for its theme “Ang pasko ay sumapit.”
“Growing up in the Philippines, Christmas caroling is definitely part of our holidays,” recalled Grace Labaguis, marketing director of Synergy Production & Marketing, Inc., which is organizing this year’s Christmas Caroling Contest on December 3 at the Philippine Center’s Kalayaan Hall.
“Just before the holidays, my cousins and friends would form a group, prepare our musical instruments such as the ‘tansan’ and the ‘tambol,’ practice our favorite Christmas songs. We would sing in front of our relatives’ gates. If they (house owners) are in the mood for some Christmas spirit, they give us a couple of pesos. If not, they would just shout out “patawad po.’”
Grace remembers the laughter and the good times. It is those “fond memories” she hoped the caroling contest will relive among organizations in the New York area. “There’s more inquiry and excitement this year,” she said.
Said Mylz Tolentino, WU Marketing Diaspora Manager, “Through the caroling contest, we are excited for the jolly holiday tunes to bring back memories and the familiar camaraderie that comes with this holiday tradition. Western Union has always promoted the Filipino lifestyle and legacy through our WU Pinoy portal on social media. It’s one way for us to give back to the community.”
Joseph Francia, First VP and Head of GMA International said his media organization is pleased to be part of this project.
“The warm response to its initial staging last year validated the need to support cultural activities that strongly resonate with the Filipino-American community. Christmas caroling is part of the Filipinos’ cherished tradition of celebrating the Yuletide season,” he said.
In addition to the cash prizes is a round-trip ticket to the Philippines courtesy of Philippine Airlines.
“Christmas is in our hearts as Filipinos, and this is why Philippine Airlines — The Heart of the Filipino — is once again joining the joyous and spirited Christmas Caroling Contest,” said Area Manager-NY Michelle Narvaez. “For generations, our homegrown carols have transported us to the warmth of our homeland, just like how Philippine Airlines has flown Filipinos back home and beyond for 75 years.”
Other sponsors include Sweet Habana Catering, Ladies for Rizal, Beauty Health NY, RTA Travel, USA & Orientours Co. Ltd., Ayala Land International, Promdi Bar & Grill, Fil-Am Who’s Who, Fiesta in America, DSY Music, JB Productions & Assumption Alumni Association Abroad. Media partners are Filipino Reporter, Filipino Express, Fil-Am Who’s Who, OSM and Asian Journal.