Filipinos in Yukon are staying connected through strings of lights

The Canadian Filipino Association of Yukon uses strings of lights to bring the community together at this time of year.

The Canadian Filipino Association's fourth annual lights decoration contest

Aurora Viernes is the Canadian Filipino Association of the Yukon president. She's been in Whitehorse for over two decades and says Christmas lights are an important tradition the community is celebrating. (Sissi De Flaviis/CBC)

As COVID-19 cases increase across the country and governments advise against traveling and gathering, the Canadian Filipino Association of the Yukon put on a house light decorating contest to keep the community connected. 

For a second year in a row, the Canadian Filipino Association of the Yukon had to cancel their highly anticipated Christmas party, but this year's contest, themed Festival of Lights, is bringing unity, says Aurora Viernes, president of the association.

"This contest ... also reflects what we have back home where we do have this tradition of Christmas lights. We're trying to practice this in the land which we now call home, Canada," she says.

"The light symbolizes hope and I'm hoping and praying that we will get over this pandemic and then we will go back to normal," said Viernes.

Viernes says Christmas light decorations are a big part of the holiday traditions in the Philippines. 

The Philippines have one of the longest Christmas celebrations in the world. Celebrations can start as early as September.

This is the fourth annual house lights decorating contest and it's open to all Filipino-Canadian residents in Whitehorse.

According to Statistics Canada's census of 2016, the Filipino community in the Yukon comprises of one of the largest language groups with 805 people speaking Tagalog as a first language.

"[This contest] is very special for us because it's been 12 years since we've been out of our country," says Randy Andres Moya, who won first place in the single detached house category.

The Contest

The house on 99 Teslin won 2nd place for single detached houses. (Submitted by Ted Laking)

The night of Dec. 18, Viernes and Nesty Paron, one of the contest organizers, drove around Whitehorse in a white mini van to check the lights at the nine participating houses. 

There were four judges who scored the houses based on three criteria: creativity, display arrangement, and overall appearance.

To even out the playing field between house types, there were two categories one for single detached houses and one for trailer house, condo, town house or apartment.

Besides showing off decorative creativity to the community, winners on each category also win a financial price.

For the first category, prizes are as follows: 1st place is $500, 2nd place is $300 and 3rd place is $200.

For the second category, prizes are $300, $150, and $100.

Meet the winners