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Belenismo sa Tarlac 2010

Brighten up your holidays with a trip to the Belen Capital of the Philippines.

The humble manger gets multiple upgrades as Tarlac's different municipalities create their own versions of the Christmas belen. Take the Belenismo map with you on a trip up north and check out the cool cribs along the way.

The Christmas season in the Philippines is marked with a number of unique holiday displays around the country. There are towering Christmas trees, flickering Christmas lights, and panoramic dioramas peppering the metro. In Tarlac, the festive season marks the beginning of the much-awaited Belenismo sa Tarlac, an annual province-wide contest and exhibit of belen (nativity scene) displays in different forms and sizes that runs from November to January 6, 2010. The competition spans the different municipalities of Tarlac, and each entry can be found in its own locale, making a tour of the belens a trip around the entire province as well.

According to Admin Officer Dax Simbol of the Tarlac Provincial Investment Tourism and Information Office, the Belenismo, which was launched in 2007, aims "to bring back focus to the Holy Family specifically the humble birth of Christ, instead of the traditional lanterns and Christmas trees during the holidays." In line with this value, the organizers also hope to put Tarlac on the tourism map of the country by showcasing the artistry of Tarlaquenos. "They aim to promote local culture and traditions and [hope] that the event would grow into a cottage industry to serve as alternative livelihood for families in Tarlac," says Mr. Simbol. Thus, the different belens have become a way for the locals of Tarlac to hone their skills, talents, and ingenuity as they promote good family values. The attention the event has drawn from tourists has also enabled Tarlac's tourism-related industries to earn more income.  

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This year's Belenismo features 285 belens in the form of dioramas, monumental displays, and paintings made by Tarlaquenos of different ages. The belen-making contest is divided into five categories: diorama, monumental, church, grand non-municipal, and grand municipal. Participants of the monumental, grand, and church categories are challenged to cook a one-of-a-kind belen display with the use of affordable and widely available local materials. All local government units are encouraged every year by the Tarlac Provincial government to take part in this special holiday event, so a tour passing through the different municipalities promises to be a treat, with all the municipal hall facades decked with grand belens.

On the other hand, the solo participants came up with dioramas showcasing any of the other tourist destinations of the country to promote local tourism. These creations, which are displayed in the Museo ng Probinsya ng Tarlac for the whole duration of the Belenismo, feature the breadth of creativity of the Tarlaquenos and share much about the many other wonders of the Philippines.

This year's entries showcased the fine craftsmanship and ingenuity of Tarlaquenos as they were able to create awe-striking displays made of local raw materials such as bamboo, and recyclables such as old newspapers, calendars, and even sample ballots from the last elections.

With the diverse entries, a trip around Tarlac is sure to offer something for everyone--vacationing children and balikbayan relatives and friends in particular! Browse through the gallery of this year's winning entries below and get a taste of what Tarlac has in store for its guests this Christmas season.

To see all the belen displays around Tarlac, coordinate with Engr. Elmer Bulaon of the Museo ng Probinsya ng Tarlac [(045) 493 1773]. A Tourist Police escort will be provided as a guide and will tour visitors around the province for a minimal fee.

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