Gaye Vergara, a native of this city who has been working as a medical technologist for 27 years in the United States, has been collecting Christmas houses since she started working abroad in 1996.
“When I went to the States I started to buy collectible Christmas houses. I told myself they are beautiful and soon I will display them in a diorama but because I stay alone in a small condominium apartment and the busy life I had did not allow me to fix them, they stayed in boxes,” she said.
Her collections have been in boxes until during the pandemic when she remembered how happy Christmas is in the Philippines.
To cope with the loneliness of being alone during the holidays, and in the middle of the pandemic at that, Gaye, who did not want to meet with friends and families given her exposure to the virus because of her job, the Baguio native brought out her collections accumulated for decades.
“I made mini bricks, miniature roads, and walls for the Christmas diorama I had in mind inspired by the happy Filipino Christmas mood. I used to enjoy doing artwork that takes time, and the activity made me get lost in the idea of celebrating alone,” she shared.
“My Christmas village diorama became my companion at home,” she said.
Gaye, however, pointed out that since she did not allow visitors in her place during that time she cannot share the enjoyment brought by the Christmas houses.
“So, I took a video of them. Because they (my friends and families) were also locked down in their homes, I entertained them with my videos. It also made me happy seeing comments from people on social media about the beauty of my creation and the joy it gives to others,” she shared.
Gaye again made a Christmas diorama in 2021.
She decided to send her collection to the Philippines and arranged it at her parents’ house in this city in December 2022.
“My mom, who loves collecting Christmas houses but simply places them on top of tables or on top of the piano, said I should put it up in public and share the joy that it gave me and those who see the videos,” she said.
Coming home again to Baguio in the third quarter of this year, Gaye started to conceptualize the diorama, which she decided to be displayed in the hallway of 237 Avenue Building along Bonifacio Street, near major universities and academic institutions, for everyone to see.
Along with her parents and siblings, Gaye opened the two diorama displays to the public last November 4.
“I’m sharing it because it gave me happiness amid spending Christmas alone to prevent the possible transmission of Covid to other people. I invite them to see it. It is free,” she said.
“I invite everybody to see the two dioramas of Christmas village. These were the source of joy for me and the others when people were not allowed to be together and enjoy the season. It is not just a collection, it is happiness shared while people are worried and alone,” she said.
The dioramas depict different scenes — one containing the collectible houses, which is one of each kind released every year, showing an old colonial town that has a sentimental tone, while the other is more for the young people since it is interactive and has many moving elements.
“I did them in three months. Some parts, like the rivers and waterfalls, are made of plastered tissue papers that I colored using watercolor,” Gaye said.
Missing the Filipino Christmas
Gaye went to the US two years after graduating from Saint Louis University in 1994 and a year after passing the board examination for medical technologists.
Living outside of the Philippines for almost 30 years, she only spent holidays in the Philippines about two to four times since becoming an overseas worker.
“I suddenly missed the Christmas feeling with my family, especially since my parents are already old. I want to be with them during the season,” Gaye shared.
She said spending Christmas in the US is fun but enjoying it with her family in the Philippines gives her a different degree of happiness. (PNA)