Christmas is probably the prettiest time of the year! People light up their homes with as much light and color as they can. Red and green poinsettias brighten gardens and living rooms. Christmas trees are put up with a variety of themes and colors. But nothing, I believe, spells Christmas more than the belen.
A staple in the Filipino home, the creche is said to be one of St. Francis’ legacy to us. The first ever Nativity scene was seen in 1223, with St. Francis of Assisi getting real people to reenact Jesus’ birth.
Growing up, I remember how my two grandmothers would prepare for their elaborate belens – with an assorted number of shepherds, animals, angels, and of course, the Holy Family. I would always be in awe at the preparation that putting these scenes up entailed.
So, when I learned from a friend priest about this belen exhibit featuring the personal collection of Fr. Genaro Diwa, our family made it a point to visit.
The collection is composed of various creches from different countries, including Australia, Peru, Spain, and China. The collection now numbers more than a hundred, with various themes, sizes, and materials. This one is from Alaska…
and the one below is from Australia showing an angel hugging the Holy Family. It’s one of my favorites in the collection.
I love the Filipino belens that depict typical Filipino scenes, like this one that includes men making lechon and a woman carrying wares on a bilao.
This nativity scene showing Santa Claus offering a gift to the Infant Jesus is also special!
While our family has yet to fulfill the dream of having a life-sized belen, or one as elaborate as my grandparents’, we are happy to relive the beauty of the story of Jesus’ birth by visiting exhibits like this.
A tradition that began five years ago, the exhibit is located at the Arzobispado de Manila in Intramuros and will run all through the Christmas season. Do try to visit!