Christmas in Our Hearts: The Essence of Christmas in the Radio-TV Sphere

[Requested by MJH]

IT’S EXACTLY 100 days before Christmas and by tonight, every newscaster will notify them how many days are left at the end of each program. They have not yet released their Christmas IDs until by November but surely, Christmas is closer.

Jose Mari Chan, our very Mr. Pinoy Christmas, has been busy guesting in every media outlet possible since September 1st, despite his advanced age at 76 years old. Although his popular holiday album “Christmas in Our Hearts” was released 31 years ago, it has become a melodic trademark associated with the four-month-long festive season.

The lyrics of the titular hit single are definitely not secular — that role goes to “A Perfect Christmas” — but religious.

Oh boy, there goes that ear-worming lines. Even if you remove the music, you’d still sing along as you read its lyrics. 

What role did this song’s lyrics play in today’s traditional media landscape?

[VERSE I-A]

Whenever I see girls and boys 

Selling lanterns on the streets

I remember the Child

In the manger as He sleeps

This week, 26 million girls and boys are starting a new school year at home doing their modules or, as in the immediately preceding blog post, aiding it by watching DepEd TV (or its regional initiatives). Face-to-face classes are discouraged for the second year in a row, although, we are not alone with the prohibition from this traditional mode of instruction during a pandemic as Venezuela does.

Not long ago, our Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Moderna COVID vaccines for emergency use for ages 12 to 17 — mimicking the US counterpart’s pronouncements but supply on hand here is scarce. Approximately 13 million are in that age bracket — therefore, about 26 million doses should be ordered — but we have 4.3 million doses of it and administered it to the top-most priorities (e.g. A1, A2). Our National Government deliberately and insistently procured a large number of vaccine doses from the maritime hegemon and the country that started the global outbreak, where they failed to disclose their data on clinical trials to see if the efficacy of the original strain to the dominant Delta variant worked and lasted longer. (Although all brands prevent severe cases and reduce hospitalizations, this dominant brand dominates in terms of breakthrough infections.)

[VERSE I-B]

Wherever there are people

Giving gifts, exchanging cards

I believe that Christmas

Is truly in their hearts

Our gift ideas nowadays are no longer written on paper and go in person to the stores and the malls; we use Shopee and Lazada on our phones.

On November 10, 2019, the Battle of the 11.11 E-Commerce Giants’ respective super shows happened during their Sunday late-night entertainment block. Since last year, both online retail stores were absorbed into one giant network — the former (now limited to cable) still appended both platforms on their noontime show — as the new next in line did but has yet to catch up to the competition.

Physical Christmas cards, like CD albums, are considered relics of the past. GIFs and social media platforms like Instagram are now used to create and send holiday greetings to friends and family. Not to promote shamelessly but for some people who want to go up the ante but don’t have time to create the digital stuff in an image editing software can use Canva.

Speaking of greeting cards?

Before the pandemic, the crew behind the cameras would appear on the screens after newscasts on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, holding placards with good wishes for their families who would be unable to return home due to their duties. Last year, we don’t see them in compliance with physical distancing protocols. 

[PRE-CHORUS I]

Let’s light our Christmas trees

For a bright tomorrow

Where nations are at peace

And all are one in God

Last September 1, GMA greeted good morning in Unang Hirit with Christmas trees in the background of the hosts; TV5 chose to wait until late afternoon to light up their network’s Christmas tree in Reliance premises during Frontline Pilipinas with a holiday campaign slogan for the network (wherein it will be manifested as a CSID or as a movement ID very soon).

About the “bright tomorrow?” This is another Christmas in a deliberately prolonged pandemic; the developed world is going back and adapt to a better normal.

Currently, less than one-sixth of the country’s population is fully vaccinated. Our ex-military-backed Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) initially set a goal of 70 million people to constitute “herd immunity” by Christmas, but with two surges so far this year, the dominant Delta variant has pushed for an increase in the threshold. The cumulative full inoculation tallies are below the logistic trend as of this month’s trend, thus, we could aim for “population protection” instead. The real mass vaccination would spurt with the filing of certificates of candidacy for the 2022 national and local elections next month.

In terms of the studio audience returning to some shows after being suspended in March 2020, I asked you in the June survey what rate and capacity you think it will happen. A median respondent would prefer readmission when at least 55 percent of the national population has been fully vaccinated, with a cap of around 40%. We would achieve this by the end of November, based on the S-curve trendline, but don’t be surprised if it takes until 2022.

[THE CHORUS WILL BE DISCUSSED AT THE END]

[VERSE II-A]

In every prayer and every song

The community unites

Celebrating the birth

Of our Savior, Jesus Christ

Our very first Turf blog post published on December 14, 2013, was about expected TV specials throughout the period, and that annual tradition has continued for almost eight years and counting — through the good times, and, at this point, the bad. 

The reason why I started this is that December 16 is the first day of Simbang Gabi masses and they have certainly aired such televised Masses for those who are infirm and some shows that come after. Last year, with the pandemic and the loss of a broadcast behemoth, the duty has passed on to TV5 while Veritas 846 and affiliated Catholic Media Network and archdiocesan-owned radio stations continued to uphold the obligation. Thanks to Facebook Livestream, we can watch on their nearest or favorite parish church as if you’re spiritually there.

The Christian faith is with us for 500 years, enduring the pages of our history books from colonial rules, a world war, a dictatorship, calamities and recessions in between. (This twin crisis, too.)

[VERSE II-B]

Let love, like that starlight

On that first Christmas morn

Lead us back to the manger

Where Christ the Child was born

While the second half of the second stanza is about Christ’s love — the true meaning of Christmas and the Gospel it encompasses — I have a different kind of love in mind.

A major media giant’s Christmas special used to draw a sold-out crowd at Smart Araneta Coliseum, with fans screaming when their favorite love teams performed; now, it’s adapted in a virtual setting. While they keep insisting to continue their annual production even if they lost their license to broadcast; their financial reports bled red.

Meanwhile, the limitless, dominant broadcaster’s Christmas concert special of their original talent search competition on Christmas Day last year didn’t receive the love it gets. The comedienne tried to sing the K-Pop song fluently but was bashed by the loyal girl group band; comparing the fallen (now resorted to YouTube livestream) to the default, the former was praised for using an English translation instead.

[PRE-CHORUS II]

So, come let us rejoice
Come and sing a Christmas carol
With one big joyful voice
Proclaim the name of the Lord!

Kids and young adults used to go around the neighborhood singing Christmas carols and begging for loose change or simple pleasures before the pandemic. On FM radio, you can hear them very early this month, but after All Saints’ Day, it will pick up. Choirs from various schools and organizations perform on the breakfast shows until the most joyous day arrives. The University of Santo Tomas (UST) once performed a Christmas Concert as part of their Paskuhan celebrations.

Now, it has been done virtually and payments are going contactless. UST didn’t do it due to the outbreak of the pandemic and they may plan to resume it — virtually or be scrapped anew; it’s up to the pontifical university but there won’t be fireworks.

[CHORUS]

Let’s sing Merry Christmas
And a happy holiday
This season may we never forget
The love we have for Jesus

Let Him be the One to guide us
As another New Year starts

With all of the stressful issues that have arisen as a result of the pandemic, and more chilling effects to come, it appears that we have no choice but to pray and ask God to guide us into a new chapter of life and a new resolve.

The coming New Year (2022) will not only be a presidential election year, but also the centennial of our country’s broadcasting; if I continue typing, this will be the most serious game plan I will have to undertake.

Christmas is not a season of material things. We remember it through short films and that nearly scary PSA. As our music legend puts it:

And may the spirit of Christmas
Be always in our hearts


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