In this country, Christmas, a celebration common to all nations with Christian heritage, is a lengthy party that starts (un)officially on the first day of September. I guess we’re the only nation that makes a big fuss with the onset of September, as it, according to the radio jocks nationwide, is the month that Filipinos begin to count the days till Christmas day.
And guess what Christmas tune you’d hear on the radio from that day on? It’s “Christmas In Our Hearts” written and sung by businessman-turned-singing icon Jose Mari Chan.
Ironically, this is the song he least anticipated to become a big hit.
In fact, when that song was released along with other songs in a Christmas album of the same title on Nov. 17, 1990 by Universal Records. It was the cut “My Perfect Christmas” that was promoted by the record company. But the album sold, and in 2006 it posted over 600,000 units in the Philippines alone, giving it a Double Diamond by the Philippine Association of the Record Industry (PARI). At the same time, Filipinos who bought the album also discovered the tune “Christmas In Our Hearts” and began playing it in parties, and holiday gatherings. Radio jocks also took the cue from the public’s partiality to the tune and added it to their playlist of Christmas tunes, until it became the national anthem of Christmas in the Philippines.
Chan’s Christmas album is considered to be the first OPM album to surpass the Diamond status. It is currently the biggest-selling album in the Philippines, selling clos to a million copies to date.Jose Mari Chan and became known to Filipinos, as "The Father of Philippine Christmas Music."
The song has an interesting story behind it. In 1990, two years after he returned to the Philippines after long years of stay in the US along with his family, then Universal Records head Bella Tanphoned him and suggested he came up with a Christmas album. And he did, one of the tunes he submitted was “Christmas In Our Hearts” the lyric of which he culled from a poem by a friend Chari Cruz-Zaratewho asked him to help put music to it as she and her classmates wanted to sing it for their silver jubilee as a class.
Though Tan, (she passed away several years ago after the album became a big hit) didn’t think it was “too Christian” to be the “carrier single” for the promotion of the album, “A Perfect Christmas” was it. the tune even surpassed the carrier single in popularity later.
On Dec. 22, Jose Mari Chan is “Going Home To Christmas.” It’s his holiday gig with Rita Daniela as guest. The show is like a throwback to Christmases we have celebrated many years ago. And like the song that ushers in the “Ber” months in the Philippines, it surely will be give you the feeling of Christmas In Our Hearts.”
Louie Ocampo works with Chan as musical director of “Going Home To Christmas” 8 p.m. at The Theatre at Solaire.