(STAR) A time-honored Christmas tradition will soon take place in the metro’s premier lifestyle hub — the well-loved and much-anticipated lighting of the Giant Christmas Tree at the Araneta Center.

Since 1981, the Giant Christmas Tree at the Araneta Center, inspired by the Rockefeller Center’s Giant Christmas Tree in New York, has served as the city’s most popular Christmas icon with the traditional lighting ceremony officially signaling the start of Yuletide festivities in the city.

Almost a hundred feet tall and dazzling with more than 10,000 lights and hundreds of stars and balls, this year’s Giant Christmas Tree is a sight to behold with huge ribbons and colorful gift boxes serving as accents.

At 5:30 p.m. of Nov. 6, all roads will lead to Araneta Center once again as the hottest stars from ABS-CBN and the top Quezon City officials led by Mayor Sonny Belmonte join the festive Giant Christmas Tree lighting.

Expect an impressive array of ABS-CBN stars such as Anne Curtis, Erik Santos, Karylle, Gretchen Barretto, Sheryn Regis, Nikki Gil, Rachelle Ann Go, Rhap Salazar, Gab Valenciano, Sinosikat Band, Kris Lawrence, Yeng Constantino, Claire de la Fuente, Princess Velasco; Mickey Perz, and Sam Concepcion as well as the reigning Bb. Pilipinas beauty queens — Bb. Pilipinas Universe Pamela Bianca Manalo, Bb. Pilipinas International Melody Gersbach, and Bb. Pilipinas World Marie Ann Umali.

Celebrate with ABS-CBN and Purefoods Fiesta Ham as the holiday tradition continues at the Araneta Coliseum parking lot on Nov. 6 and witness Christmas like no other only at the metro’s pioneer lifestyle center.

For more details on this and other events at Araneta Center, log on to www.aranetacenter.net.

Living & loving the Philippines (The Philippine Star) Updated October 25, 2009 12:00 AM

[PHOTO AT LEFT - philstar.com’s ‘I Love Philippines Year 2’ winners: Kaye Gerobin (sixth from left), grand prize winner of an 13-inch aluminum MacBook, and (from left) Erika Marie Narciso, Alex Jhocson, Ed Bolanos, Nadine Ebervia, Honey Machuca, Ma.Celina Anonuevo, Kay Gerobin, Jasmine Tansenco, Mariel Alfonso, Bleau Aquino, and Aston Martin Aquino.

MANILA, Philippines - This year’s “I Love Philippines Year 2” received a wide variety of entries, from a six-year-old student to a TV producer, bringing in different travel perspectives and showcasing what they love most about the Philippines.

Now on its second year, “I Love Philippines” is a philstar.com video and photo essay contest that features rich and colorful travel destinations, local delicacies, crafts, traditions and festivals in the country’s 7,000 plus islands.

Aside from documenting their experiences, contestants were given added tools — Apple’s iPhoto, iMovie, iWeb and GarageBand 09 — which enabled them to capture, organize, customize, edit, compose and share photos, videos, and blogs about the best in the Philippines.

There’s no excuse not to travel

A budget-conscious tourist won first prize and the much-coveted 13-inch aluminum Apple MacBook with her winning entry entitled “This is why I love the Philippines.” Kay Gerobin, a producer who does merge plugs for Solar Entertainment, shares how she accidentally learned about the contest: “I was strolling inside a Mac store one day when a staff told me about the contest.”

Since she does not own a Mac, she had to bring her photo and video collection to the store, borrow a unit and ask assistance from some of the staff members, who according to Gerobin were very patient and helpful.

A mix of work and vacation, her entry showcased what she love to do most — travel and meet other people. “I’m just lucky to have a job that allows me to go and visit these places,” says Gerobin.

Gerobin adds that in traveling there are always options to choose from so there’s no excuse not to travel: “In my work, we don’t choose expensive accommodations, even the places where we eat, everything is affordable because we advocate low-budget traveling.”

For instance, Gerobin recommends Ilocos as one of the must-see places in the country because aside from its beautiful beaches, windmills, and breathtaking sceneries, the place boasts inexpensive accommodations and friendly people.

Don’t be a stranger in your own country

A 29-year-old road tripper placed second with her entry “Sa Pilipinas” and received a slim and sleek Apple iPod Touch. Honey Machuca, an events organizer, musician and writer, went all-Filipino with her two-minute photo essay with narrative.

“My goal here is not just to show the nice places but to impart the heritage of our country. That when you visit a place, there’s so much culture that you can immerse in,” explains Machuca.

Machuca also relates how she utilized the iLife program to complete her entry, which is a collaboration of everything she does — play the guitar, write poems and take pictures — in one project.

With a vow not to be a stranger in her own homeland, Machuca went on a road trip with her brother and a couple of friends in 2006, which took them from north to south for two months via ro-ro (roll-on, roll-off) transport service.

“Every time we went to a new place, we simply immersed in the culture of that place. It was really life- changing for me because I realized that we Filipinos should know our own country first before going to other places,” shares Machuca.

Travel doesn’t have to be far

A spontaneous traveler grabbed the third spot with her entry “Getting Lost” and got an Apple iPod classic. Erika Marie Narciso, who works in a bank, wanted to share her travel experiences from a different point of view.

“I want to share a different perspective. I believe that travel doesn’t have to be far, you can see a lot of interesting things nearby. So I have photos from far-off places and some just outside my home,” says Narciso.

Narciso also notes that between planned and spur-of-the-moment trips, those out-of-the-blue outings are the most fun because “you never know what happens next and the challenge to make the trip worthwhile is always there.”

She cites an interesting place called Anawangin, which she discovered during one of her unprompted visit: “When you’re facing one direction you see a beach then when you look the other way there’s pine trees and mountains so it’s two different places but it’s actually just one.”

Meanwhile, the youngest winner this year is a Grade 6 student from San Pedro Poveda College. As an only child, Nadine Ebervia took a personal approach in creating her entry “The Philippines in the eyes of a 12-year-old,” by highlighting the moments she spent with her family.

Like Gerobin, Ebervia also underwent iLife09 training: “It was a fun experience because I was able to compile all our family trips. So I do encourage other kids to document everything and share their travel experience with others.”

Ebervia, together with Alex Jhocson (“I love Philippine travel”), Jasmine Tansenco (“My Philippines, a video essay”), Ed Bolanos (“Where my love lies is home”), Ma. Celina Añonuevo (“Real Island Living”), Bleau Aquino (“Bohol, a paradise unleashed”), and Mariel Alfonso (“I love Philippines — Bohol”), was given a 4G iPod Shuffle.

On the other hand, Aston Martin Aquino, Jennifer Cahapay and Alecx Daniell Garcia also won 4G iPod Shuffle during the casting of online votes for the best entry.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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