BEFORE the popularity of LED Christmas light displays which families and friends use as a background for selfies, there was a prominent holiday attraction of moving mannequins whose indelible images were imprinted on childhood memories.
Manila C.O.D, a small department store located along Avenida Rizal in Manila, opened in 1948. In 1952, businessman Alex Rosario, Sr. spearheaded “Christmas on Display” — an attraction featuring moving mannequins to attract more customers to the department store during the holidays.
“The first display was in Avenida Rizal. It was a can-can dancer made of plaster. Our motors (for the mannequins) were electric fan motors only,” Rey Rosario, CEO and president of Rosario Animated Display — and son of Alex Rosario, Sr. — told BusinessWorld last week, recalling the first display.
The popularity of “Christmas on Display” led to the growth of the business. In 1966 the department store and its seasonal display relocated to Quezon City’s Cubao area where the display was set up yearly until Manila C.O.D ceased operations in 2002.
But the animated display, which through the years tackled everything from astronauts and Sputnik to Filipino life on the farm, did not disappear with the demise of the department store. It instead transferred to the Greenhills Shopping Center where the display was set up on the giant canopy sheltering pedestrians walking from Ortigas Ave. to the shopping. The display was set up yearly until 2016.
Now, 16 years after its last appearance on the facade of the C.O.D Department Store, “Christmas on Display” returns to Quezon City, this time at the Araneta Center. Fittingly, this year’s theme is “Christmas is Home.”
Set up at Araneta Center’s Times Square Park at the corner of Times Square and Gen. Roxas Aves. — a stone’s throw from C.O.D’s original location along General Romulo Ave. — the attraction features more than 40 moving mannequins and a replica of the buildings of the present Araneta Center.
According to Mr. Rosario, the conceptualization for the display began in January and construction started in August.
The latest “Christmas on Display” showcases a homecoming of a Filipino family after 10 years abroad who reunite their relatives for the holidays. The show incorporates nostalgia through the older characters who reminisce about Christmas traditions and the beginnings of the Araneta Center, stories they tell the younger characters.
The display, which opened formally on Nov. 23, has 15-minute shows running from 6 to 10:30 p.m. daily from Sunday to Thursday, and from 6 to 11:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, until Jan. 6, 2019.
“I hope that it clicks, then it could be a yearly thing. I hope that coming back to Cubao would prolong my father’s legacy and give happiness to children,” Mr. Rosario told BusinessWorld during the launch. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman