The Christmas tree is the universal symbol of the holidays. As early as September, Filipino families begin decorating their homes for the season. Christmas trees grow out of nowhere in public spaces and there is a silent competition on which city erects the tallest Christmas tree in the Philippines.

The City of Tagum in Davao del Norte has the tallest Christmas tree in the Philippines. Standing 193 feet high, the tree towers over the park where the New Tagum City Hall is located. The local government held a lighting ceremony on December 1st.

Photo from ABS-CBN News

In previous years, the lighting involved extravagant fanfare with fireworks, large crowds, and live entertainment. We saw the lighting ceremony in 2019 and it was breathtaking. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Paskuhan sa Tagum kicked off with a Holy Mass followed by the lighting of the tree.

Tree Design

The giant holiday tree stands as a beacon of hope for the locals amid the pandemic. Its LED lights consist of colors that symbolize hope, optimism, happiness, and love. The biggest star symbolizes the Almighty and the other 23 stars represent the 23 barangays of the city. Nothing much has changed from last year’s tree, actually.

The road to the tree opens with a LED signage cautioning visitors to “Stay Safe” and the nearby Sunflower Garden’s decor features a tribute to frontline workers. The city government of Tagum decreased its tree budget in favor of efforts to beat the virus.

General Community Quarantine

They may have lit up the tallest Christmas tree in the Philippines but Tagum City remains to be in General Community Quarantine (GCQ). This state shall be in effect for the entire province of Davao del Norte until the end of the year.

Under GCQ guidelines, people only go out for essential activities like buying food and medicine and going to work. Travel into and within the province is very restrictive. People coming in to Davao del Norte need to secure QR codes tagging them as travelers. Locals also need individual QR codes to enter public places. Also, citizens below 18 and above 65 are now allowed to go out unless it is for medical purposes.

Christmas Under Lockdown

Christmas in the Philippines and anywhere in the world is different this year. The virus changed the world almost overnight.

We have been in self-imposed quarantine since early March. The husband and I only go out for supplies twice a month and we pay our bills online. We get fresh produce delivered to our home instead of going to the public market. I even ordered most of our Christmas decor online. We have to be extra careful because our daughters are vulnerable.

Christmas on lockdown is something most of us are experiencing for the first time. Most shopping will be done online and food for Christmas feasts will likely be delivered. Life is hard during these times but we’re not complaining. We’re alive, safe, and thriving.

We would have loved to see the lighting of the tallest Christmas tree in the Philippines like we did last year but at least we’re safe in our homes. The giant tree some kilometers from our city still reminds us that Christmas endures. Its spirit will always bring joy and hope even in the darkest of times.