A sister’s dedication: House in Talisay transforms into ‘Santa Wonderland’

CEBU CITY, Philippines — When was the last time you celebrated Christmas with your family? Are you celebrating this joyful occasion with them this year?

Imagine the delight of discovering a magical surprise awaiting you at home for Christmas. In Brgy. Cansojong, Talisay City, Cebu, a house is adorned not only with a Christmas tree and lights but also features various Santa Claus decorations—a true Santa Claus wonderland.

Yes, you imagined it right—a house full of Santa Claus.

READ MORE: Christmas in the Philippines is incomparable: A balikbayan’s tale

Dr. Burt Ruedas and Mrs. Stephanie Ruedas filled their home with the Christmas spirit, adorning it with a variety of Santa Claus styles, including dolls, pillows, hanging ornaments, figurines, and more, placed throughout different parts of the house.

But behind these festive and vibrant decorations lie a meaningful story of dedication.

Dedicated to sister, mom

Stephanie, the woman behind the Santa-decorated house, said that it was a dedication to her sister, Diane, and their mother who has been bedridden for almost five years now.

Talisay home santa

A photo of Stephanie (2nd from the left) and Diane (3rd from the left) together with their aunt and other sisters. | Contributed photo

Stephanie primarily wanted to surprise and welcome Diane who came from the United States and would be celebrating her first Christmas in the Philippines after 30 years.

Besides that, Stephanie shared that growing up, their family consistently decorated a tree and adorned their home with decorations each year.

“Every year, we have themed Christmas trees and it just stopped when my mom got sick way back [in] 2019 and then [a] pandemic came. It was just last year that we seemed having Christmas tree,” she said.

Their family has never had a Santa-themed Christmas before, Stephanie said.

Last year featured pastel-themed decorations, mainly flowers. In previous years, they embraced various themes based on agreed concepts. Looking ahead, she plans to continue the Santa Claus theme, envisioning an upgraded version — the “all-over the world Santa Claus,” where each Santa represents a different country through their attire.

READ MORE: An OFW’s oath this Christmas 2023: ‘I’m giving back to myself’


Santa house Talisay

A Santa Claus clad in Barong Tagalog while holding the Philippine’s famous lechon. CDN PHOTO | Niña Mae Oliverio

Decorating the house

As early as September, Stephanie started to decorate their house because she wants to enjoy the decorations for a longer time.

This year, Stephanie completed decorating her house by December 21. The decorations were not set up simultaneously since some were ordered online, and others, brought from the US by her sister Diane, took some time to finish.

Stephanie also frequently rearranges the decorations as she tends to change the placements of the designs.

READ MORE: The Heartwarming Role of Santa Claus in Christmas Celebrations

The house boasts over 200 Santa Claus items, with an estimated cost of nearly a million pesos. Stephanie emphasized that Diane financed all the decorations and entrusted her with the design.

Diane, the ninth among 11 siblings, supports Stephanie’s creative endeavor. Stephanie, being the youngest, hopes for good health, peace, and prosperity this Christmas.

Diane’s wishes align with a desire for overall well-being—physical, mental, and spiritual. Additionally, she yearns for more quality time to spend with her family.

Diane, a US-based nurse, and to whom the decorations were dedicated to. CDN PHOTO | Dave Cuizon

Why Santa Claus?

An online encyclopedia defines Santa Claus as a Christmas figure in the United States known for bringing gifts to children. This is why Stephanie and Diane find Santa Claus significant, inspiring their theme.

In their upbringing, both Stephanie and Diane believed in Santa Claus. It was a cherished part of their childhood—a symbol of a generous gift-giver.

READ MORE: Christmas in the Philippines: Five things most Filipinos abroad miss

“Aside from that, I want to celebrate it [Christmas] nga happy ko kay for the past four years, dili kaayo mi happy because of our mom. But I’ve realized it’s really wrong because makatingog lang akong mommy, muingon akon’g mommy, ‘Di ko ganahan ana, ganahan ko’g happy mo,” Stephanie said.

Santa house Talisay

Growing up with Santa

As kids, their parents encouraged them to write wishes and place them in Christmas socks, leading them to believe that Santa would fulfill those wishes. As they grew older, they discovered their parents were the ones making the gifts happen.

While recognizing the true essence of Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ, Stephanie and Diane still embrace the festive spirit of Santa Claus during this occasion.

“Christmas is for kids. And Christmas also is a time of giving. What did Santa do? Manghatag siya og gifts. I think that’s how it symbolizes Christmas: cheers, happy,” Stephanie said.

READ MORE: Christmas wish of Lapu-Lapu fire victims: To survive

Diane also shared the same viewpoint.

“I always say, Santa is coming to town. ‘Oh, it’s a good theme.’ I’ve always been a provider to the family, so it’s kinda like the giver kind of thing. So I said, ‘Oh, I’m Santa. Santa’s coming to town,” she said.

They chose red as the main theme, as it’s both Diane’s and their mom’s favorite color. In addition to this, the family keeps a Belen in their house, displayed throughout the year.

First time to celebrate Christmas since 1993

Diane hasn’t celebrated Christmas in the Philippines since 1993. Returning after 30 years, Stephanie chose to welcome her sister by incorporating a memorable icon into their celebration.

Santa house Talisay

Diane, happily watching the children singing a Christmas carol while wearing their Santa hats. CDN PHOTO | Niña Mae Oliverio

“After 30 years, it’s the first time that I’ve been here and I see their preparations. They (Stephanie) put a lot of effort into this and I have always had this idea of Santa. It’s always like Christmas is Santa Claus. And I was surprised that they managed to get all these Santa Claus decorations,” Diane said.

When Diane saw the decorations when she got home on December 21, she said that it was “wonderful” to be back as she immediately felt the Christmas spirit.

“They did a lot of work and I think they did a good job. It’s really very cozy…It’s really Christmas,” Diane said.

“It’s a very different atmosphere, different feeling, the vibes, the people. We Filipinos we’re big on Christmas. It’s about sharing being together with families and it’s so nice to come home and have that feeling,” she added.

Santa house Talisay

A glimpse of some of the decorations inside the Santa-themed house in Talisay City. CDN Digital photo | Christian Dave Cuizon

Diane said that in the US, she lives alone with her dog. However, when she returns home here, she has her family with her.

“Sometimes, we’re so busy in our lives that we [forget] what’s the most important thing in life ‘cause we’re so busy with the hustle and bustle, trying to earn a living,” she added.

Diane, a licensed nurse practitioner in the US, recognizes that being with family and loved ones is crucial, especially during Christmas. Despite working during the Christmas season for the past 30 years, she values the importance of family.

Life-changing event

Diane shared with CDN Digital that a life-changing event motivated her choice to spend the holidays with her family.

Santa house Talisay

Diane was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2023 and underwent extensive surgery for treatment. Thankfully, she is now cancer-free, but acknowledges the ongoing battle against the possibility of it returning elsewhere in the future.

This life-changing event made her recognize that “life is too short” not to spend it with her family.

READ: To you who mourn at Christmas

“The little life that God will give, I’d rather wanna spend that, if I can, with my family,” she said.

While Diane may have a Christmas tree in the US, she expressed that the experience is different compared to being with her family.

“It’s a different feeling. You go home, you see the tree [but] you’re far away from your loved ones. It’s kind of a different feeling,” she said. /clorenciana

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