CEBU CITY, Philippines – The switching-on of the 130-foot "Tree of Hope" officially opened the month-long Christmas celebration this year in this Queen City of the South dubbed as “Pasko sa Sugbo” on the very first day of December Friday evening at the Fuente Osmeña Circle, the Heart of Cebu City.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña together with couple Michel and Amparito Lhuillier, and other Cebu City Government officials led the ceremonial lighting-up ceremony of the giant "Christmas Tree of Hope" which brightens up the Fuente Osmeña Circle.

What is something new this year is that Nightly Activities including food stalls and booths, among others starting on the second day December 2 onward will be transferred in the city's historical Plaza Independencia.

The Plaza Independencia is located 3.7 kilometers away from Fuente Osmeña Circle or about 10-15 minutes travel depending on the traffic. The former is a bit bigger compared to the latter and a walking distance from Cebu City Hall.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said the decision was made to decongest the traffic along the rotunda, citing that the crowd witnessing the “Pasko sa Sugbo” is getting bigger each year thus it should be transferred to a bigger area.

The Nightly Activities will be sponsored by the following, Dec. 2 - Cebu City Dancesports Team; Dec. 3 - University of Cebu Dance Company; Dec. 4 - Cebu Young Talent Inc.; Dec. 5 - Nature Spring Night and KALIPI; Dec. 6 - University of the Visayas and LGBT ft. Reina Diosa; Dec. 7 - GAD Federation and Saint Paul College; Dec. 8 - CIT-University and Ulyses Productions; Dec. 9 - Golden Success College and Cebu Plus; Dec. 10 - Cebu Technological University and UKELELE; Dec. 11- Southwestern University and SSG Federation; Dec. 12 Salazar College - SIT; Dec. 13 - Office of the Senior Citizen's Affairs and Globe; Dec. 14 - Asian College of Technology; and December 15 - STI-Cebu and Pasko sa mga Call Center.

Other sponsors are Barangay Affairs Unit on Dec. 16; Cebu Cover Gayo Awards and JMorning KBand on Dec. 17; University of Southern Philippines Foundation on Dec. 18; CCTN on Dec. 19; YADZ Orgabnization on Dec. 20; Valenzuela Dance Art School on Dec. 21; Jake Productions and Minute Burger on Dec. 22; Gimik sa Cebu and San Miguel Corporation on Dec. 23; TFYD on Dec. 26; Ricky Lopez Production and KAYPA on Dec. 27; PASUGA on Dec. 27; and Zumba Party on Dec. 29.

There will be no schedules for Christmas Eve on Dec. 24, Christmas Day on Dec. 25, and New Year's Eve on Dec. 31, while the month-long celebration will be culminated on December 30.

Meanwhile, the Christmas Tree of Hope which is sponsored by the M. Lhuillier Family annually has become an icon in the city during the Yuletide Season and will stand up until January with the Sinulog Festivity.

For his part Michel Lhuillier stressed that the giant "Christmas Tree" symbolizes the "Hope of the Cebuanos" as they face economic challenges and have shown resilience in the face of calamities.

He further said, as the centerpiece of the “Pasko sa Sugbo” celebration every year the structure also symbolizes a strong partnership between the M. Lhuillier Group of Companies and the City of Cebu, and establishes that their company is truly Cebuano.

The "Christmas Tree of Hope" which brightens up the Heart of Cebu City featured the images of the Holy Child Jesus Señor Sto. Niño as Cebu’s Patron Saint on its base. It is adorned with colorful ornaments such as lanterns and blinking lights, among others.

Thousands of guests and spectators alike flocked to the Fuente Osmeña Circle and its vicinity taking part of the annual celebration during its grand launching day.

Now on its 12th year, the annual event this year is spearheaded by the Cebu City Local Youth Development Office and the Cebu City Tourism Office in collaboration with various stakeholders. (By: Greggy P. Senados/ City of Cebu, Public Information Office)