AMONG workers in Iloilo City, Christmas will not be complete if they are unable to see the colorful Christmas lights that brighten up the entire Iloilo provincial capitol building along Bonifacio Drive every December.
The public’s appreciation has inspired the Iloilo provincial government to make the Christmas lights switch-on better every year that it allotted a million pesos for the initiative this year.
For many capitol employees, especially those who have been working for the provincial government for many years already, the switch-on of the Christmas lights – which this year happened on Nov. 29 – has become a part of their Yuletide.
Marilou Sira, a resident of Santa Barbara, Iloilo who has been working at the Public Information and Community Affairs Office for 32 years already, said she and many other capitol employees expect their building to light up every December.
“Amo ni ang gina-wait namon every December. Karon kon wala lights, daw indi Christmas,” said Sira.
Apparently, she has observed, even outsiders are watching out for the government building to glow – as proven by the crowd of visitors at the capitol grounds whenever the lights are switched on.
That the capitol further brightens up the city at night with Christmas lights enveloping the building lifts her spirits, according to Abby Tumbis, a resident of Miagao, Iloilo working as a sales clerk in a mall in Iloilo City.
Tumbis goes to the capitol after work. Looking at the dazzling lights, she gets moved and amazed – and also relieved of the exhaustion she feels after standing for hours during her shift.
“Kon makita mo sia kon gab-i, daw makuha man kakapoy mo kay gina-remind ka man sang maayo nga bagay sa kalibutan,” she said.
“Makahatag man sia sang kalipay sa mga gatan-aw kay ma-amaze man sila sa mga makita nila nga colors and designs,” she added.
For Christine Camacho, the patterns shown by the flickering lights on the walls of the capitol building are too captivating to miss.
The resident of Molo, Iloilo City has been watching out for the switch-on of the lights every December for eight years already.
According to Camacho, the lights have turned the capitol grounds into an ideal place for families and friends to bond.
“Ma-feel mo gid ang Christmas spirit and ideal gid sia for families nga gusto mag-bonding without spending a single peso – except kon magbakal sila mga street food,” said Camacho.
The appreciation of the capitol Christmas lights has inspired and motivated Aaron Raymundo, officer-in-charge of the General Services Office.
The GSO leads the planning and conceptualization of the Christmas lighting at the capitol – like what designs to use from which some of the lights will be patterned and how other lights are going to be placed on the nearby trees.
“Makita ta man nga na-amaze ang mga tawo. Ina sia daw rason sa aton every year nga i-maintain kag i-improve ta gid (ang Christmas lights switch-on) kay ginabantayan ina sang tawo,” said Raymundo.
For this year the provincial government through the GSO allotted P1 million for the purchase of more Christmas lights, Raymundo revealed.
Since 2014 when he first came to the GSO they have been doing their best to come up with varying designs in the iteration of the Christmas lighting so as not to bore the public, said Raymundo.
This Raymundo believes is the reason that people from not only the capital city, where the Iloilo provincial capitol is located, but also the towns head to the metro just to get a glimpse of how a huge edifice would glow when wrapped in Christmas lights.
The provincial government estimated that more than 5,000 people gathered at the capitol grounds to witness the “opening of lights” on Nov. 29.
Moreover Raymundo is glad that the annual activity has given vendors, particularly those who sell street food to visitors outside the capitol gates, a livelihood opportunity.
More people coming to see the capitol Christmas lights could mean more income for the vendors, said the capitol official.
To give the public more time to marvel at the Christmas lights, the GSO plans to extend the time period during which the lights are switched on as Dec. 25, Christmas Day, draws near.
Currently the capitol lights are switched on every day from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. only.
Capitol started putting Christmas lights on the building during the time of the late Niel Tupas Sr. as governor but the feature became more and more popular during the term of the incumbent governor, Arthur Defensor Sr./PN