Holiday Public Art

Smiles light up Bacolod’s Christmas trees, adorned with masks symbolizing the city’s Masskara Festival

Holiday Public Art

A Christmas tree in every town plaza is probably the most common public art in the Philippines. That’s because Christmas hereabouts is a singular sensation, celebrated for four months. Expect to see, nay feel, a transformation, through music and lights, as early as the first week of September. In Negros Occidental, every town plaza mutates into a holiday wonderland. But it’s not just a time of festive decorations, but also a period of reflection upon the rich culture and defining traditions of the communities within. 

Ronnie J. Baldonado is a seasoned Negrense photographer known for his skill in presenting his subjects uniquely, and for his omnipresence. Ronnie is just everywhere all the time, being pressed to service by both public and private entities, running up and down the province, and with his trusty camera capturing moments in the twinkling of an eye. So when it was time to capture the twinkling Christmas trees of Negros, hands down Ronnie was the photographer of choice. Here now are his snapshots of the Christmas trees of Bacolod, Talisay, Silay, EB Magalona, La Carlota, and La Castellana.

Floating christmas tree inside the Provincial Capitol Lagoon.

Bacolod City

On the sprawling grounds of the Bacolod City Government Center stands the city’s Christmas trees adorned with the iconic smiling masks of the Masskara Festival. One giant tree next to the central fountain, five smaller trees on the steps leading to the entrance of the center. Collectively, they are a symbol of optimism in trying times, embodying the spirit of Bacolod citizens who face challenges with aplomb.

The Talisay City plaza transformed into an electric forest filled with ornaments of heritage that hold stories of generations past.

Talisay City

At the public plaza of Talisay City, a captivating arrangement of dangling lights with a larger-than-life Christmas lantern shaped like a tree highlights the Yuletide display. Appearing like an electric forest straight out of a fairytale, every hanging ornament tells a story of previous generations, reflecting the town's commitment to celebrate its cultural heritage.

Barangays showcased creativity in a recycled tree-making contest, turning the area beside San Diego Pro Cathedral into a colorful display of festive trees made from indigenous materials.

Silay City

Known for its ancestral houses, Silay’s Christmas décor is inspired by its commitment to preservation. As a project initiated by the city government, 16 barangays each created a Christmas tree made from recyclable materials. The display conveys a fusion of meaningful messages, from conserving resources to showcasing the people’s artistic heritage, all in one elegant holiday stage.

Municipality of EB Magalona

In EB Magalona, the Christmas tree is a catalyst for unifying its diverse townsfolk. From farmers to artists, to everyone in-between, this season allows the lines to blur as the year ends and families come together to celebrate the holidays. This is genuinely reflected in the Christmas tree set up at the public plaza and town hall. Unassuming renditions that evoke down-home values often lost to modernity. 

La Carlota City

Rich, colorful, flowery mosaic-like decorations draped across the façade of its city hall are in stark contrast to the humble Christmas tree that stands in the middle, made from star lanterns, or parols, stacked on top of each other. The over-all visual effect inspires deep reflection on the true significance of Christmas, a lowly manger bearing the Child Christ cheered by an entire universe.

Municipality of La Castellana

La Castellana is known for its Bailes de Luces or festival of lights. This is the peg of the Christmas décor of the town. La Castellana does not disappoint with an amazing array of streaking lights and a stunning installation depicting the nativity scene. But wait, there seems to be no Christmas tree. Or, could it be that the entire set up of lights is the Christmas tree itself, and the people are all part of it?  

Barangays showcased creativity in a recycled tree-making contest, turning the area beside San Diego Pro Cathedral into a colorful display of festive trees made from indigenous materials.

If a picture truly is worth a thousand words, then Ronnie J. Baldonado’s gift is his way of composing photographs, so that those thousand words convey a solitary thought, from where an unlimited range of emotions bursts forth. While he takes pictures of lights and trees, we see hope and unity. And while he continues to click away at the moments that are supposed to shape and define our future, he will also be leaving us mementos to look back on, of how we once were in some Christmas past.

Article by: Liway Espina
Photos by: Ronnie Baldonado

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