Christmastime in a bottle
First posted 11:14pm (Mla time) Dec 24, 2005
By Linda Bolido
THE LADY'S CHOICE HAS BECOME THE people's, too, as more than a hundred communities throughout the Philippines rallied around the new squat glass jar of the popular mayonnaise brand of consumer product manufacturer Unilever.
The new Lady's Choice bottle for mayonnaise and sandwich spreads became the symbol this Christmas of bayanihan, an increasingly endangered Filipino tradition. From the northernmost province of the country, Batanes, to the heartland of Mindanao, entire towns and cities worked together for weeks to come up with their entries to Unilever's Christmasterpiece Bayanihang Pasko 2005, the first of what will be an annual competition for the best holiday season emblem that a community could produce through teamwork.
The rules were simple. Among others, participants had to form themselves into teams of at least 10, use a minimum of 100 new Lady's Choice bottles, and the resulting structure should be not less than 15 feet tall. When the dust settled, rather after thousands of bottles had been emptied, the modest town of Naawan in Misamis Oriental, halfway between the capital Cagayan de Oro and Lanao del Norte's Iligan City, emerged victorious as the "Most Creative Town or City."
The municipality of 17,000 built the Arc of Friendship over the main highway. Consisting of two towers, with a footbridge linking both parts, the Pride of Naawan, as Mayor Dennis L. Roa called it, could very well be the town's own Arc de Triomphe. Though it did not cost as much to build nor would it last as long as the Paris landmark (entries must be left intact until Jan. 15), the bamboo-palm-coconut arch won for the town at least P1 million in prize money (there were additional prizes in cash and kind). It also earned Naawan bragging rights over Tangub City in Misamis Occidental, which had been dubbed the Christmas Symbols Capital of the Philippines. In fact, almost every town and city in Mindanao that participated in the contest knew Tangub would be a formidable opponent. The city had been into the Christmas business for 13 years, hence the title conferred on it by the Department of Tourism.
Tangub did win a silver and a bronze for two of its seven entries.
Roa had the help of a former advertising man and a native son of Naawan, Bai Manginsay, in conceptualizing the award-winning arch. With the prize money, the mayor said he would set up a creativity center that would train people, particularly out of school youth, in livelihood activities.
Naawan celebrated its victory in style, courtesy of Unilever. Despite the heavy rains on the evening of Dec. 17, people from the town and neighboring municipalities came in droves to watch, among others, Jolina Magdangal and Jimmy Bondoc perform.
Iligan, which had three entries, won a special citation. The Department of Education's entry, which featured traditional symbols of the season like the Christmas tree, used the most number of bottles-2,672-beating the local government's replica of city hall by just a few jars. Mayor Lawrence Cruz said the people of the city were so into the spirit of the competition that they even brought unopened jars. Not wanting the items to go to waste, the mayor had them used for sandwiches for the volunteers' merienda.
Though only about one per cent of Iligan's population is Muslim, Cruz made it a point to make them feel part of the whole project by having a crescent beside the cross on the roof of "city hall."
In Tangub, with seven entries to fill with Lady's Choice jars, Mayor Jennifer Tan and Vice Mayor Edemar Alota, who supervised the project, said they would probably lay off the mayonnaise and sandwich spread until February. That the city has this Christmas thing down pat was obvious from the complexity and diversity of its entries. The city engineer's office's bronze-winning project even had a revolving "bottle" of Lady's Choice made of rice straw looming over a large umbrella covering the nativity scene (the umbrella was supposed to be a metaphor for faith and the encompassing protection it offers).
Judges in this year's competition were National Artist Alejandro Roces, glass sculptor Ramon Orlina, architect Ma. Cristina Turalba, Tourism Assistant Secretary Eduardo Jarque and Unilever's Alex Tacderas.