MANILA, Philippines — What inspired Jose Mari Chan to create timeless Christmas songs?

In a virtual press conference last week, the so-called Filipino “Father Christmas,” as Globe Studios’ Quark Henares quipped, shared that it all started in Iloilo.

“I grew up in Iloilo City, immersed in all these joyful, colorful and memorable music,” Chan recalled.

“So, in composing my Christmas songs, I was inspired to derive the little things and happy tunes from all the memorable music that I grew up with. So listening to my Christmas songs, you can feel that they came from the music that I grew up with.”

According to the Original Pilipino Music (OPM) icon behind all-time favorites “Christmas In Our Hearts” and “Christmas Past,” he makes sure that all holiday songs he composed encapsulate Filipinos’ value of being family-oriented.

“You know, the spirit of Christmas is always family. So, to bring out that spirit in my songs is very important.”

That spirit of family togetherness, he said, can be felt strongly from the medley of his songs he personally curated for this year’s Festival of Lights.

Apart from picking songs from his repertoire that could brighten the mood of the afternoon or the evening, the medley for the virtual Festival of Lights, together with animation and other special effects by Globe Studios, aim to transmit the spirit of Christmas to everyone.

“(With) the lights and the music, you remember the star of Bethlehem, the sound of the joyful, angelic voices, that first Christmas morning,” said Jose Mari. 

Chrissy Roa, Marketing Head of Ayala Land Estates, which is behind the annual festival, said that from over a million physical visitors in Ayala Triangle Gardens, the festival garnered 5.5 million viewers last year when the festival was launched virtually for the first time.

This means, she said, that the festival has become so loved – from the Makati community to the global audience. As such, this year, they envisioned the festival to be bigger and better to bridge the distance between families and enable them to celebrate and experience Christmas anytime and anywhere.

“Families and friends may be physically apart, but the country’s most-loved Christmas lights and sounds show aim to give deeper meaning and greater joy to the holiday by connecting everyone—near or far—through the Festival of Lights: Virtual Edition,” she added in a statement.

Shiella Aguilar, AyalaLand Project Manager, said that the festival aims to spark hope and optimism with enhanced visual elements that come in two interactive videos.

“(The festival) allows us to connect with the community, to reach global Filipinos who can’t come home this Christmas, and give them a taste of Filipino Christmas they can virtually watch with loved ones,” she said at the virtual press con.

According to Henares, who leads Globe Studios’ production of the festival in partnership with Acid House, the visual feast aims to give a sense of normalcy by presenting it into two parts: first, a holographic 360-degree animated recreation of the lights show in Ayala Triangle Gardens; and second, a two-dimensional animation of a story of a Filipino family. Both installments feature Chan’s heartwarming medley.

The first part can be viewed here, while the second will be launched in a few weeks in Make It Makati social media pages.

Chan, who sang live at the actual Festival of Lights some years back, said, “It’s always delightful to be associated with the most joyful season of the year. So immediately, without hesitation, I said yes, let me be part of this (virtual) Festival of Lights.”

“This Festival of Lights should bring us the spirit of hope, that times will get better and that we are confident and hopeful that it will happen very soon,” he enthused.

Like his timeless hits, he reminded everyone, “You should always be as young as Christmas morning.”

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