[PHOTO AT LEFT - Gabby Lopez (center) and ABS-CBN executives celebrate the Christmas station ID “Bro, Ikaw ang Star ng Pasko” with stars Diether Ocampo (left) and Judy Ann Santos (sixth from left)]

MANILA, NOVEMBER 25, 2009 (STAR) COMMONNESS By Bong R. Osorio - With just 30-something days before the country’s favorite holiday, varying questions start popping up in the minds of Filipinos. While some wonder where to go or whom to spend Christmas with, some ask, “Should we even celebrate?” After all, it has just been roughly two months since the country was hit by two devastating typhoons that ended many lives and left thousands homeless from across all economic levels. As such, any act of extravagance might seem inappropriate, if not impossible, as a great number of Filipinos also lost their livelihood in the aftermath of the twin storms.

But Filipinos are simply unique. No matter how desperate times are, they still find a reason to be happy and to celebrate. Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng caused a major disturbance in the country’s Christmas season (which began last September, when people hanging up Christmas decor and Christmas carols hogged the airwaves), but they were not strong enough to dampen the Filipino spirit.

[Watch & listen to the ABS-CBN Christmas Station ID

ABS-CBN’s 2009 Christmas Station ID (SID) called “Bro, Ikaw ang Star ng Pasko,” aptly captures the Filipinos’ optimism. For those who have not seen the multi-awarded ABS-CBN soap opera May Bukas Pa, “Bro” is the nickname given by Santino (essayed by child wonder Zaijan Jaranilla), the main character of the teleserye, to God. Santino talks to or prays to Bro for help when confronted with critical issues and dangerous situations. Like the Kapamilya network’s previous SIDs, “Bro, Ikaw ang Star ng Pasko” was largely influenced by the current state of the country. It takes off from the wake of the recent typhoons, when a child picks up a soiled parol (star-shaped Christmas lantern) from the ground and salutes a soldier who is off to a relief operation.

The parol is the continuity visual element in the material. It was shown to bring light, joy, and unity to people affected by the calamities. A farmer whose field was destroyed by the typhoon found a reason to smile. Residents of a community helped each other in cleaning their church in the aftermath of the storm. Nurses, doctors, soldiers, and volunteers worked hand in hand to help the victims.

ABS-CBN stars, anchors, reporters, and executives singing with ordinary people stood for something. This aspect of the SID symbolizes how the network acts hand in hand with different communities and groups in relief, and to some extent, rescue operations to perk up people’s spirits and help them move forward.

The message of hope was reinforced by the song’s lyrics, penned by ABS-CBN creative communications head Robert Labayen, a creative genius who has won numerous awards for his advertising campaigns and television plugs. Labayen revealed that it took him two days to complete the song, a long time by his own standards. However, he knew every second of the song was well worth it. “It was one of the hardest I have conceptualized and produced in my storied career,” he said. “I wrote the song right after tropical storm Ondoy happened and the challenge was how to weave in the spirit of Christmas in a message song. This may not be the most poetic material I’ve written, but it comes at the right time. People can easily relate to it.”

With lyrics like “Kung kailan pinakamadilim, ang mga tala ay mas nagniningning (It’s when it’s darkest that the stars shine brightest),” people began to rediscover the bright side amid all the pain and hardships brought about by the calamities. The chorus, which goes, “Salamat sa liwanag mo, muling magkakakulay ang Pasko (Thanks to your light, Christmas is once again bright),” reminds us to move out of the darkness and get into the light, insinuating that we might have lost every material possession we have built for years, but we have not lost everything. We still have God, or Bro, and His light provides more than enough reason to move on and rebuild.

Less than a week after the SID was launched, it has become the talk of the town. The music and lyrics were so viral that in no time at all, Labayen’s words were the words of a multitude that got hooked on the song’s youthful and upbeat groove. Kids sing along and mimic the actions in the song, others convert it to ring tones, while many view and repost the SID in video-sharing sites like YouTube and other social networking sites. “In less than a day, the video had been posted all over the Internet and viewed by thousands. There was an outpouring of positive comments. Real people telling us how they were uplifted by the song and how it reminded them of Christmas in the Philippines,” Labayen shared.

The station ID has also boosted the sales of “Parol ni Bro,” the large Christmas lanterns being sold in selected SM malls to raise funds for Sagip Kapamilya, a relief operation that to this day continues to service affected areas. Likewise, people have also called or flocked to the network to purchase the handheld miniature parols seen in the video.

Filipinos are poised to have one of their simplest Christmases in history, due to the devastations wrought by Ondoy and Pepeng, but to a lot it also makes it more meaningful. Being crisis-tested and suffering major losses make us remember what we have overlooked or forgotten in previous Christmases. First, Christmas is about family. Tragedy makes us appreciate life and after being put in threatening predicaments, we value the presence of our loved ones more than ever before. Second, Christmas is about giving. The typhoons taught us how to be selfless and to look beyond ourselves. It reminded us how satisfying it is to extend a hand and share. And not to be forgotten, especially in our culture, Christmas is about our Creator. Every time we celebrate this holiday, we celebrate the birth of the Savior. As many of us believe that no material gift can ever match what Bro can give us — love, hope and salvation. Truly, Bro is the “star ng Pasko.”

“Station IDs have always been a big thing for our viewers,” Labayen said. “It’s like a tradition every Christmas and summer that people look forward to. It’s not just a parade of stars, but a way for the network to communicate values to the public, and for this year we want them to believe in the resilience of Filipinos and to keep the faith in Bro.”

This Christmas station ID project brings to mind this spiritual message entitled, “The nicest message I have received,” forwarded by my sister, and I would like it to share with you. It reads: “This is God. Today I will be handling all of your problems for you. I do not need your help. So have a nice day. I love you. Remember, if life happens to deliver a situation to you that you cannot handle, do not attempt to resolve it yourself. Kindly put it in the SFGTD (something for God to do) box. I will get to it in My time. All situations will be resolved, but in My time, not yours. Once the matter is placed into the box, do not hold onto it by worrying about it. Instead, focus on all the wonderful things that are present in your life now.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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