The COVID-19 pandemic may have brought a lot of changes, putting to a halt to a lot of celebrations and festivities for almost a year. But as the world adopts to the new normal and with the dust settling down, life also returns to its daily grind.

In Puerto Princesa City, the pandemic did not stop the Filipino-Chinese community from bringing back life on the streets as it began a week-long celebration of the Chinese New Year along Valencia Street where Chinatown is located, on Monday, February 8.

Vice-mayor Maria Nancy M. Socrates, Manggahan barangay captain Margil B. Avanceña, Sr., Puerto Princesa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (PPCCII) president Arjie Lim, business owners John Kenneth Tan, Princess Tan, and key persons in the Filipino-Chinese community led the symbolic banging of the gong before lighting the Chinese lanterns displayed along the street to signify the official start of the celebration.

As part of the festivities, the road was closed  from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. to give space to food stalls and other shops in the street market, where tables and chairs were also set-up for those who want to enjoy food and have fun watching the entertaining performances of Palawenyo talents, such as dragon dances and live band among others.

The street market will run until February 12, where people could enjoy acoustic nights on Tuesday and Thursday (February 9 and 11), and a dance concert on Wednesday (February 10).

In his speech, Lim echoed the significance of the celebration in the culture and history of the Filipino-Chinese community.

“The Filipino-Chinese New Year Festival, coinciding with the Chinese New Year, started through mayor [Lucilo] Bayron and the city government’s intention of honoring and giving recognition to the ChiNoys, the Filipino-Chinese business people na nag-tiyaga at nag-simula na matulungan ang ating ekonomiya sa buong Palawan,” he said.

According to Alyssa Marie Tinay, leasing manager of Chinatown PPC, the management made efforts to push for the celebration and provide entertainment to the people despite the pandemic.

“Hindi lang naman kasi Chinese ang nagse-celebrate, kahit ako na pure Filipino nag-aabang ng Chinese New Year para na rin pampaswerte. Kaya yung Lion at Dragon Dance itutuloy talaga para na rin makapagbigay aliw sa atin,” Tinay said.

Socrates also expressed support on behalf of the city government.

Celebrations like this, she said, gives hope to the people of Puerto Princesa and Palawan.

“The Year of the Ox promises prosperity, success in business, wellness, and health, and advances in career, the year that we have to look forward to since last year parang puno ng kabigatan, this is something we have to welcome with optimism,” Socrates said.

Socrates also thanked the Filipino-Chinese community that has always been helping the city since it became a town.

“The city grew the way it is now, also because of you. In spite of the pandemic, tuloy-tuloy ang hanap-buhay at negosyo ninyo, huwag lamang mawalan ng trabaho ang ating mga kababayan,” she said.

She encouraged the people to support the celebration, especially the business activities going on within the week, as this is also the chance to recover and improve from the difficult situation of the sector last year.

Aside from the fun activities coming in the next days, the highlight of the Chinese New Year celebration is to give back to the business people and hope for a better year ahead.

“This also serves as a kick start sa ating business sector, kailangan nating mag start ulit. Kung dati nagkaroon ng pandemic nag slow down, ngayon ay kailangang magbalik ang sigla ng negosyo. Magandang tulong ito na lumalabas ang tao, bumibili, at gumagalaw ang ekonomiya ng lungsod,” Lim stated.

“Sa celebration, given na abangan ng tao ang fireworks, for the businesspeople, it will give signal that we have to be hopeful in the future. It’s important that we are resilient that after trials, na nalagpasan natin ito balik naman tayo sa saya,” he added.

The Chinese New Year, the start of the Year of the Ox, will be observed on February 12.

Other exciting activities prepared for people to enjoy along Valencia Street include a motorcade at 9 a.m., dragon and lion dance at 1 p.m., free Tikoy tasting at 2 p.m., street market at 3 p.m., and live band and fireworks at 7 p.m.