The Manor’s tree – lighting strikes a major chord

The vast backdrop of a flaming fireplace on the stage was eye-catching. In gathering dusk, it evoked a bittersweet effect on Saturday night at The Manor Hotel’s garden grounds.

This was heightened all the more by the voices of the chorus singing carols; and that unmistakable hint of the cooler nights ahead.

Christmas joy was ringing through the air. And in a country that celebrates the holidays ahead of everybody else, it arrived first in Baguio City.

Nobody’s sure when the hotel started its Christmas tree-lighting tradition, but for the fourth straight year at least, it has been held in behalf of the Autism Hearts Foundation’s “Fashion Arts Autism Benefits.”

“This is really the start of the Christmas season here in Baguio City, it’s something that a lot of people are looking forward to; it’s the beginning of what is known to be the peak of the peak season here in Camp John Hay,” said The Manor chairman Robert John Sobrepeña.

“This is really the season for family and giving.”

Sobrepeña and his wife, FAAB director Lissa, helped light up the Christmas tree whose ornaments included balls hand-painted by children from the foundation.

These all went on sale, as well as the mural displayed at the hotel lounge — a collaboration of eight children who are also beneficiaries.

Proceeds of the sale and the P2,000-per-plate dinner will be given to the foundation.

“This is the highlight of The Manor every year,” said the hotel’s resident manager Christine Cua. “It has been our tradition here.”

The Manor’s general manager Ramon C. Cabrera said all the people involved in the event are organic in the hotel. “These are the people I work with on a daily basis.”

Brainstorming would usually start by March and the actual preparations would begin by August by his team of “creatives.”

“So it has become a tradition now, and it’s always a challenge,” Cabrera said.

“We also always try to beat the previous years; several years ago our theme was Frozen movie I think it was in 2019, that was really a hit. Because we cater to families especially in-house guests.

This year the event embraced the theme “Spectacular Holidays.” True enough, there were a lights and sounds show, fireworks, live music, free-flowing drinks and a sit-down dinner.

More than 300 people, including regular guests, sponsors and local government officials, attended the evening, not just to get a first taste of the holidays but, more importantly, to help the cause.

“We can help a lot of these children get healthy, become more productive members of the society through the arts — art therapy is the way,” Sobrepeña said.

After all, that’s what Christmas is all about. It starts always from the heart.