June 21, 2024

The jokes about Santa not coming to town because of Covid-19 or Rudolf catching the Delta variant are our way of coping with the restrictions of the pandemic. The absence of the symbols of Christmas makes us melancholic, then the memories of the jolliest Santa hereabouts come back to us because Christmas was a month-long schedule of activities prior to the pandemic.

We took it for granted that one day, Christmas could be suspended or worst that our Santa would be no more.

The longest live Santa who took up the role in 1972 was the late newsman Narciso Padilla.

He initiated a series of activities with then Camp John Hay Air Base commanders the Share-A-Joy program with toy giving and games at Camp John Hay.

This morphed into the city celebrated Silahis ng Pasko as the donors and organizations involved in the activities made it a tradition to give annually and expand the beneficiaries of the program. A few years later, the City Social Welfare and Department Office involved the Day Care centers, and the Mardi Gras was born.

The different schools later came to the Mardi Gras in costumes yearly on Dec. 1. Each year seemed to make this grow into happier events and occasions. The luck Christmas baby and New Year baby programs are the most meaningful and symbolic for the season. These babies were instant celebrities. The death of the living Santa put a stop to some of the projects that were under the care of Santa Nars.

This year, Santa in the person of Fritz Padilla, son of the late Padilla, went to the Children’s Ward at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center last Dec.18.

Reviving the annual Christmas program of his father, Fritz said this was his way of paying tribute to the project that survived more than four decades because of the dedication of Nars in coordination with the CSWDO and other government and non-government organizations.

Simplified as a gift-giving activity, the more than 45 years of the Silahis ng Pasko that used to begin with the Mardi Gras couldn’t be revived as yet.

In 2019, Santa Fritz first year was abbreviated with the quarantine and this 2021, he decided to wear the Santa hat and jacket again. The Christmas and New Year’s babies will hopefully be revived this year. The last published Christmas baby with Santa Nars was in 2016 with Micaella Ilao of the former ABS-CBN posting with Teresa Mapanao and her baby Jacob. In those years, cash prizes and gifts donated by different companies in Baguio City were received by the mother and child.

Santa Fritz gave his first Christmas baby, Mohammad HannefBatua, Christmas cheers in 2019 with mother, NorlainiPangandaman and father, Mohammad Batua. Nurse Jennifer Rojo witnessed the giving of baby needs as gifts to the baby.

With the spirit of the Christmas season at heart and the lifting of some of the restrictions from Covid 19, Santa Fritz asked the BGHMC Advisory Board to partner with him for the hospital project of food and candy distribution.

The celebration is to be continued with a citywide distribution of cheers led by OCSWDO Betty Fangasan on Dec. 23 for selected 4Ps beneficiaries. The cheers for the families are to include some games and sharing of food.

But aside from the cheers given to the children at the hospital, it is worth noting that each year, the BGHMC administration initiates the Christmas decoration contest for the different departments and this year, the Pediatric Ward ran away with the top prize. Entering the ward, one is already warmly and happily welcomed with the buntings of candy canes and lollipops outside. Upon entry, the Nutcracker editions made from recycled and colored cartons fill one with memories of Christmas spent in other places.

The Santa sleigh was the most attractive and functional because Santa Fritz fit the complete role of gift bearer. I failed to get the full name of the artist who designed the wheelchair sleigh but my hat is tipped off to him for the ingenuity. The commonplace wheelchair became more meaningful for a hospital Santa bringing gifts. The carton version of Rudolf is also surprising because he is almost life size.

The care and details to the snow-covered homes and the lights and silver paper give people joy as they enter the new Pedia ward. The Christmas tree as the centerpiece should lift up the spirits with the blinking colorful lights. This gives one a reason to give more.

Thanks to Santa Fritz, the fruits and candies will cheer up the caregivers or the children who are able to eat the simple bags of cheer. The front liners get their share of fruits to keep them fit for their job.

The BGHMC Advisory Board will partner with cheers for the other beneficiary families and in the spirit of his father’s tradition, we are new sponsors to grow another series of activities for Silahis ng Pasko beyond 2020.