Beautiful Belen

Beautiful Belen

by UA&P News Desk on December 2, 2011 - 11:13 am

by Dr. Bernardo Villegas, from his column “Changing World” in the Manila Bulletin

This  year for the first time, office and residential buildings in the Ortigas Center in Pasig City are starting the tradition of a district-wide Christmas Crib Contest (Belenistas de Ortigas).

As described in the announcement issued to building owners or administrators in the Ortigas Center, “Belenistas de Ortigas” is a collaborative effort initiated by the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P), in partnership with the Ortigas Center Association, Inc., and Barangay San Antonio, Pasig City, in order to create a “Belen Town” within the Ortigas Center.

Besides making the whole area a tourist attraction, the project also aims to promote Christian values among the members of the community. The theme for this year’s contest is “To seek a King was their intent, and to follow the star wherever it went.”

“Belenista” is a Spanish word for a person who makes nativity scenes or creates scenes of Christ’s birth. The “belen” is one of the most famous and ubiquitous symbols of Christmas in the Philippines. It is usually seen in churches, schools, homes, and buildings. Some of the more famous belens which have attracted huge crowds in the past were those found at the COD shopping complex in Quezon City and the Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan. Among the provinces, Tarlac is known as the “Belen Capital of the Philippines.” The “Belenismo sa Tarlac” started in 2007 and since then has involved whole communities in the Belen-making competition.

The tradition of displaying the Christmas crib in both private homes and public places goes much beyond a religious practice. It is already part of Filipino culture, as the Christmas lantern (which is being exported to other countries), the Christmas tree (which we imported from Europe and the US), and the “Simbang Gabi.” Among the Christmas traditions, however, the Belen stands out for its sublime religious significance.

That is why it should always be part of Christmas decorations. The center of the crib is obviously the Christ Child Jesus, true God and true man. In whatever place the crib is, people who admire its beauty or simplicity can actually make an internal act of adoration because the Child in the crib represents God made man.

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