Christmas memories and wishes

Christmas memories and wishes

It is a time of magic, enchantment, and joy. More than gifts and endless parties, Christmas also holds a deeper meaning for the members of Ballet Manila. Sharing their personal thoughts on this special season are company artists Leanna Villanueva, Glenn Ragel, John Balagot, Henriette Garcia and John De Dios, lighting designer Jimmy Villanueva, administrative assistant Icet Barroso, and Ballet Manila’s treasurer, the beloved Susan Macuja.

Leanna Villanueva looks forward to the charm of a provincial celebration.

Leanna Villanueva, company artist

For me, every Christmas is memorable. This is the time of the year when everyone in our family would go home to our province and celebrate Christmas as a one big, happy, crazy family. But last year I got the chance to celebrate it with my Ballet Manila family, and the audience who watched our Christmas shows. And to see every dancer, and every family in the audience enjoying the gift of dance with a big smile, my heart was overflowing with joy!

My Christmas wish is good health for me and my family. Everything else that follows after that, I’m sure God already has plans for me so I don’t have to make other wishes and just trust Him.

Glenn Ragel enjoys spending time with his family.

Glenn Ragel, company artist

For me, all Christmases are memorable because that’s the time I get to see my family – including my cousins and our grandparents. But since we have a Christmas show, we celebrate it after all the work at Ballet Manila. It’s like the Christmas celebration for us is the month of January.

I have a simple wish and I think it is always granted. Every Christmas, I wish for good health for me and for my loved ones.

Being able to spend Christmas with his father makes the season special for John Balagot.

John Balagot, company artist

The most memorable for me was that year when we spent our Christmas with the whole family complete with our father. It was the first time in so many years. Because my father is an OFW, we didn’t spend Christmas with him when we were young.

My wish for this Christmas ay mabigayan ako nang magandang kalusugan sa darating na taon, at mabigyan ng magandang (is to be granted good health in the coming year, and be given a good) blessing... Love and peace!

Henriette Garcia (rightmost, with Violet Hong and Romeo Peralta) is doing Christmas shows with Ballet Manila this year.

Henriette Garcia, company artist

I think this Christmas is going be the most memorable one. This year, I decided to stay in Manila and do the Christmas shows with Ballet Manila. Doing what I love, and being on stage during this holiday, I couldn’t ask for a more memorable Christmas. And I also get to spend it with my family here in the Philippines.

My Christmas wish is good health, more dancing, and travelling.




John De Dios spends time with Santa at the backstage of Aliw Theater.

John De Dios, company artist

My most memorable Christmas was in 2010 because it brought a lot of life lessons. That was the year I left home – away from the comfort of family and friends – into a really different scenario with no one else. It forced me to be independent.

My Christmas wish is good health.




Icet Barroso misses the Christmas gatherings of her childhood.

Icet Barroso, administrative assistant

My memorable Christmas was when the Gepilano-Barroso clan was still complete. That was from when I was still about a toddler until about 10 years old. It was a yearly thing and I miss it so much. Basta every family event! I love my family!

I wish and hope that our country will endure the next five years. For my family – Ballet Manila and my biological family, I wish for peace and prosperity. Let us continue to excel not only for ourselves but for others. Let’s try to be more compassionate and understanding. For myself, I just wish for good health.


Susan Macuja (with Ballet Manila president Cesar Macuja) wishes more productions for the company in 2018.

Susan Macuja, treasurer

My most memorable Christmas was when the original 12 (dancers of Ballet Manila) were still around and there was a best in costume contest. Shaz (Barroso) wore a tutu and danced on pointes. Jojo Espejo came as a mummy; wrapped all over his body was toilet paper.

My Christmas wish is for more successful productions for Ballet Manila, and a bigger paying audience. Also, peace for our very divided country.

Jimmy Villanueva made this Christmas card to greet family and friends online.

Jimmy Villanueva, lighting designer

On December 25, 2017, it will be my 16th consecutive Christmas working on Ballet Manila's Christmas show. Almost all Christmases before 2001 were memorable, but I guess that first working Christmas Day would be the most memorable as not only was I working for the first time on Christmas Day, it was also the first Christmas show of Star City entitled Belen, and we had 13 shows on that day! We had as guest singer the beautiful Isabel Granada, who not only sang during the show but also inside the lights booth in between shows – singing to minus-one music while crouching down under the control table so as not to be seen by the audience. My wife and daughter were in the park as well, waiting for me to finish work. That was a totally different Christmas Day for me.

Due to financial strains, the wish that first comes to mind is how to solve it. After a deep breath, I realize that my real wish is to see my daughter living her own successful life, while my wife Gem and I enjoy each other's company until death do us part. So I guess my wish is world peace. Hahaha!  Seriously, I do wish to be able to see my daughter happy and fulfilled before my end comes. Only then could I say that my life meant something.

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