Charmie Joy Pagulong – The Philippine Star

November 23, 2021 | 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — As the month of December begins next week, Jose Mari Chan has reminded us of what his iconic Christmas songs mean as we celebrate holidays in these extraordinary times.

Also known as Joe Mari, the singer-songwriter has always been associated with the season, starting off with the “ber” months, because of his timeless classics Christmas in Our Hearts, A Perfect Christmas, A Wish on Christmas Night, and many more. But he refused to be dubbed as the country’s “King of Christmas Carols.”

“I am just one of the many artists who wrote songs and carols. It just so happens that Christmas in Our Hearts has remained a favorite for the past 31 years, but that does not make me the King of Christmas Carols,” he told The STAR in an e-mail interview when he led Shopee’s 11.11 – 12.12 Big Christmas Sale Online Media Event.

Nevertheless, the song “reminds us that the reason for this season is to celebrate the birth of Jesus,” he said. It also means that “As a Christian, we need to have a grateful heart for all the blessings we have been showered with and at the same time, be cheerful givers because the spirit of Christmas is giving and sharing.”

In the lyrics, “May the spirit of Christmas be always in our hearts,” is “saying to be prayerful, be grateful, and be thankful for all the blessings. It reminds us to be a cheerful giver, share our blessings with those in need, for those who’ve been blessed with sufficiency, there are many Filipinos who are hungry and without jobs who we can reach out to and help,” he added.

And the Christmas season is “perfect opportunity to do so,” said the Ilonggo musician and businessman.

He considered Christmas in Our Hearts as “God’s reward” to him.

“In my 54 years of recording career, I have written many songs and produced many hits over the years. Many of those songs have been forgotten, but I feel that Christmas in Our Hearts is God’s reward to me,” he recalled.

“You see, music is God’s gift to man and how I use this gift is my gift back to God. God has rewarded me with this song I’ve written to celebrate His birth, and it has become a hit all these years because of Him,” shared Joe Mari.

On the role of music at this stage of his life, he said, “Music relaxes me and takes me back to places and people in my past. It has the gift of reminding you of summer days, sunshine, and happy moments.”

Seven years ago, the 76-year-old musician released a Christmas album titled Going Home to Christmas, which featured 22 brand-new songs. He hopes that “everyone can either stream online or buy copies of (it) so they can make it a part of their holiday celebrations.”

The last song that he has written is a tribute to his parents. His father passed away in 1994 and his mother last February. “I wrote a special song to thank them for everything they’ve done. I have not released it as at the moment no one really buys CDs anymore so I’m still looking for an avenue or platform to sell my songs.”

Apart from the glittering lights, the beautiful music and the joyful prayer time, what he loves about Christmas is that it is also the time for reflection.

“Reflection on the months that have just passed and the year that has just passed. That’s the best for me. Time for reconciliation with those that we have hurt and time for strengthening our family ties. I always remember that the spirit of Christmas is giving and sharing. I’m very happy that Shopee made it meaningful for all of us.”

Joe Mari, who has been the e-commerce platform’s celebrity ambassador for four years already, said he “feel blessed” to be part of the Shopee family and that his “songs are now associated with this most joyful season of the year.”

With Joe Mari leading its Christmas campaign for annual 12.12 Big Christmas Sale, Shopee Philippines director Martin Yu reiterated how Christmas “holds a special place in Filipinos’ hearts.”

“Shopee Philippines hopes to make this year’s festivities even more memorable for both our users and sellers. As the holidays approach, we aim to bring more joy to shoppers and help them save more on things they love by curating the best deals. We’ve also pioneered efforts to expand our digital ecosystem to help more consumers, businesses, and communities access and benefit from e-commerce,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Joe Mari’s Christmas wish this year is for this pandemic to end. “I am an optimistic person, so I am looking forward to a Merry Christmas for all my countrymen — that we all be free from COVID, Filipinos remain healthy, and for them to spend Christmas the way they used to spend Christmas in the past,” he shared.

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