The Spirit of Bethlehem, Part I

Tomorrow is September 1, the first day of “ber” months and the unofficial start of Christmas celebration in the Philippines. Radio stations will play Christmas songs and Filipinos will start greeting each other “Merry Christmas”. Some will start saving money for Christmas gifts, others will start planning a trip or two that will coincide with the holiday break. In the rush of activities, sometimes people forget that Christmas is a celebration centered on Christ.

In order to kick off this holiday season, I visited The Spirit of Bethlehem in Marikina City. The Spirit of Bethlehem showcases the private collection Gigi Abaya-Carlos of over 500 Belen, nativity sets, posters, paintings, and sculptures from all parts of the globe.

According to The Spirit of Bethlehem, “A Belen is a three-dimensional art depiction of the nativity scene of Jesus Christ. It could be a crèche (a “crib” or a “manger”) or tableau that represents the infant Jesus in the manger surrounded by Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and their flock, and the Three Wise Men. The word Belen also means Bethlehem.”

The Belen or nativity sets exhibited are far from the cardboard cutout Belen that I grew up seeing in Iloilo. These Belen are made from different materials, like wood, resin, yarn, ceramics, glass, resin, wax, stones and pebbles, and Pinatubo ash. They are a feast to the senses, with the explosion of colors and layers of textures that a cardboard cutout Belen does not possess. Some Belen are classically gorgeous while some are just over-the-top in terms of additional characters and details. Nevertheless, all are captivating and reflect the religious fervor of their country of origin.

This entry focuses on Belen made in the Philippines, whose photos passed the no-overwhelming-reflection and no-overwhelming-hand-tremor tests.

Belen by Maggie Carlos. Material: Paper Tole

Belen by Maggie Carlos. Material: Paper Tole

Belen by Aleli Vengua. Material: Resin

Belen by Aleli Vengua. Material: Resin

Belen made in the Philippines. Material: Resin

Belen made in the Philippines. Material: Resin

Belen made in the Philippines. Material: Yarn

Belen made in the Philippines. Material: Yarn

Belen made in the Philippines. Material: Hand-Painted Wood (Baguio City)

Belen made in the Philippines. Material: Hand-Painted Wood (Baguio City)

The Belen from a wider perspective

The Belen from a wider perspective

Belen made in the Philippines. Maybe the one I like the most in the bunch, just because the Filipino spirit is so much alive and kicking. The details are so spot-on: the indigenous Filipinos, the salakot (headgear), the carabao, and the lechon, among others.

Belen made in the Philippines. Maybe the one I like the most in the bunch, just because the Filipino spirit is so much alive and kicking. The details are so spot-on: the indigenous Filipinos, the salakot (headgear), the carabao, and the lechon, among others.

Belen made in the Philippines. Material: Glass. This photo does not give this Belen justice.

Belen made in the Philippines. Material: Glass. This photo does not give the appearance of this Belen justice.

Belen made in the Philippines. Material: Rope

Belen made in the Philippines. Material: Rope

Belen made in the Philippines. Material: Paper (Paete, Laguna)

Belen made in the Philippines. Material: Paper (Paete, Laguna)

Belen by Maggie Carlos. Material: Paper Mache

Belen by Maggie Carlos. Material: Paper Mache

Belen by Impy Pilapil. Material: Ceramic

Belen by Impy Pilapil. Material: Ceramic

Belen by Aleli Vengua. Material: Wood

Belen by Aleli Vengua. Material: Wood

Belen made in the Philippines. Material: Pinatubo Ash

Belen made in the Philippines. Material: Pinatubo Ash

Belen made in the Philippines. Material: Wood

Belen made in the Philippines. Material: Wood

Belen handcrafted by Maggie Carlos. Material: Stones and Pebbles

Belen handcrafted by Maggie Carlos. Material: Stones and Pebbles

Belen made in the Philippines. Material: Resin

Belen made in the Philippines. Material: Resin

It also gives the person next to it a bright glow. ☺

It also gives the person next to it a bright glow. ☺

A cordoned off room with more Christmas-related items.

A cordoned off room with more Christmas-related items.

Shelves filled with Belen from different cultures

Shelves filled with Belen from different cultures

Thank you, Me-Ann, for taking my photos with the Belen. 🙂

For Belen from around the world, please read The Spirit of Bethlehem – Part II.

To read about the neighbor of The Spirit of Bethlehem, please proceed to Museum of Miniatures.

 

Where: The Spirit of Bethlehem is on the 2nd Level, E-com Building, Riverbanks Center, Barangka, Marikina City. One must use the stairs or elevator at the E-com Annex to get to The Spirit of Bethlehem.

When: The Spirit of Bethlehem is open for public viewing from Friday to Sunday, from 8am to 5pm. It is open to walk-ins and group tours. From Monday to Thursday, The Spirit of Bethlehem is closed to walk-ins but open to group tours of at least 50 people, with at least three days notice. It can accommodate group tours for holiday schedule as well, three days notice is also required for that. 

How much: The entrance fee for The Spirit of Bethlehem is P75.00 (US $1.75) per person (which also includes entrance to Museum of Miniatures). 20% discount is given to Senior citizens with ID cards. Teachers with ID cards are free.

How: I do not know how I got there. 🙂 I just relied on the help of nice strangers from Marikina. J I think one can take a jeep bound for Marikina-Bayan from Gateway (Aurora Boulevard) or from Katipunan LRT Station. The walk from the entrance of Riverbanks to E-com Building is quite long. Buy a drink at the start of the walk.

 

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