AFTA teachers group aces Christmas caroling contest
By Lindy Rosales
The Kalayaan Hall was packed and festively decorated, a Christmas tree surrounded by tiny lanterns lighting up stage. Children romped around the hall, people greeted friends, as contestants huddled in groups for final instructions.
The December 3 Christmas Caroling Contest — with the theme “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit” — ushered in holiday festivities at the Philippine Consulate. This was also the first caroling contest under Consul General Tess Dizon-De Vega who greeted the crowd warmly.
“Caroling has a long tradition around the world,” she said. “It’s best known as having started in the United Kingdom which was England at that time. The old carols were not always for the Christmas season or the birth of Christ , but this has evolved through the years.”
Filipinos have put a wonderful twist on the tradition by adding their own spin, she noted. It may be a dance choreography or the ‘tansan’ which are flattened bottle caps strung together and whipped around like a tambourine.
She said, “Caroling is a wonderful tradition that we hope will continue and which the Filipino community here in the United States are trying to keep alive.” She congratulated the organizers and sponsors for supporting this “camaraderie of competition.”
The first prize of $1,200 was awarded to the Association of Fil-Am Teachers of America which garnered 95.66 points from the judges. The men dressed in barong Tagalog and women carrying abanico folding fans, AFTA rendered its carefully choreographed number: “Simbang gabi, simbang gabi … simula ng pasko sa puso ng lahing Pilipino…”.
As champions, AFTA was invited to perform a special number at the Philippine Center’s Parol Lighting on December 6.
The second prize of $800 went to Servant Voice whose members wore white robes with red scarfs on their shoulders. “Whose child is this, who, laid to rest.” They earned 94 points.
The Philippine American New Jersey Junior Chamber International placed third which carried a cash prize of $500. The members glowed in red. They sang “Happy birthday dear Jesus, happy birthday to you. I’m so glad it’s Christmas …all the carols and bells, makes the holiday swell… and it’s all about you.” It was a song reflecting the true meaning of Christmas, that is, until the group ended it with the folksy, “Thank you, thank you, ang babait ninyo!”
Fourth placer was JCI New York. Their members were dressed in a variety of costumes including Ner Martinez who accompanied them on the piano wearing a red-and-green Santa suit. This group also had a young child singing with them, which was a great way to encourage kids in the audience to sing along. The group went home with $300.
Hosts Ramil Buenaventura and Isabella Estella said the winners were evaluated based on four categories: vocals, harmony, presentation and overall effect. The judges, musical talents all, included pop artist Jared Babuschak, classical singer Kay Habana, and romantic balladeer Jerome Gentolia.
Grace Labaguis of Synergy Production & Marketing, which organized the contest, thanked the contestants for their spirited participation. Some in the audience were lucky to win a round-trip ticket to the Philippines courtesy of Philippine Airlines.
The caroling contest ended on a high note with everyone looking pleased as they walked out of the Philippine Center. It is my hope that this contest will endure as we keep memories of old Christmases close to our hearts.