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Local And Practical—This Is How We’re Preparing Our Holiday Tablescapes This Year

We talk to premier designers Teddy Manuel, Anton Barretto, and Jet Acuzar to get some ideas on designing our holiday tablescapes intentionally


This year might have been one of the most challenging years we’ve had, but Christmas is definitely not cancelled! In fact, more than ever, we’re looking forward to making the most out of this holiday season to focus on what’s really important: spending time with our family, celebrating the birth of Jesus, and sharing the blessings and cheer with other people.


Just like every Christmas, food will remain a centerpiece in our holiday celebrations. Food is very much a central and binding experience for every Filipino family, that’s why it also makes sense for us to put effort into how we present the food that we’ll dig into. So, how are you planning to decorate your tables for this year’s festivities?



Designing your table set-up for the Christmas or New Year feast shouldn’t be hard. It doesn’t have to be a splurge either, given the challenges that we’ve gone through this year. It’s really just opening your heart and turning your intentions into something that will bring cheer to the home. Maybe it’s a local piece that you’ve invested in this year, or last year’s old decorations—you can turn all of that into something beautiful and festive. It’s about being practical about the decorations you’ll use, and being intentional about the things that you buy.



We talk to premier designers Teddy Manuel, Anton Barretto, and Jet Acuzar to get a feel of how they’re planning to set up their own tables this year, and get some inspiration from the designs, elements, and centerpieces they’re incorporating in their homes.


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Anton Barretto

Designer and Metro Home host


How are you celebrating Christmas this year and how are you setting up your own holiday table?

In the past years our Christmas celebration starts with a family dinner, then we go to our parish church for mass that will be followed by Noche Buena and opening of presents. This year, our family will continue our Christmas tradition (since there are only 5 of us) like we always do, but Mass will be celebrated via Zoom.


I am the one assigned to do the Christmas table every year. I normally recycle Christmas decor that we have collected over the years and stored properly. I’m thinking to do something natural and organic, nothing festive and over the top. Colors will be muted and subtle. I have these lovely ornamental birds crafted out of fabric so a few of them will be the super stars of our Christmas table this year.



What is your recommended motif for this year? Any important things that you're keeping in mind?


I’ve always believed that Christmas is all about red, green, and gold; the mix of colors is guaranteed to give you a festive vibe. Even if in the past years I’ve deviated from those colors, I always go back to that combination.


Whether to go minimalist or maximalist, that usually depends on how I feel. The collective emotion from the start of the year to December dictates how the decor around the house will be. I don’t normally follow trends when thinking about decorating for Christmas. The thought process usually starts when I find something that inspires me and makes me think of Christmas, then I think of elements to mix and combine.



What for you is the value of designing and splashing some beauty into our homes for the holidays, especially with how challenging this year has been?


I’ve always believed that decorating for Christmas provides that spark of joy. It puts me in a festive and jolly mood. When the house is decorated, coming home after a “bad day” shifts my mood; it’s a stress reliever. And for me, the essence of Christmas decorating is the Belen (creche)—it reminds us of why we should be happy and why we should make others happy. That’s the true value and importance of Christmas.


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Jet Acuzar

The Forewoman


How are you celebrating Christmas this year and how are you setting up your own holiday table?

This year, we are celebrating with our immediate family, taking all the precautions such as quarantining, social distancing, and undergoing a swab test before we gather. I'm also having an extra-long outdoor table made so we can all gather together outside with space in between when we sit down. 


The design this year will have very practical requirements, especially for tablescapes.



What is your recommended motif for this year? Any important things that you're keeping in mind?


For this year's table scheme, I think we all need to go with what sparks joy! I can do a very bare serene table when I need calm or a really fun table with all sorts of things piled up on it! I think I want to do a table this year that uses only things I already have.


As a starting point when designing, it usually starts with a fabric, plate, or some element I fall in love. I then base everything else around this. That’s why when it comes to the question of whether to go maximalist or minimalist, I say, I love a matchimalist table! For example, I match the table cloth with the table napkins. I learned this from obsessing over everything Fiona Leahy does!



It’s also nice to go local. I have my eye on some handwoven Ilocano textiles from Balay Ni Atong Pindangan after I saw the tablecloths my sister used for her wedding. I am hoping she will lend them to me! They are festive in a way that celebrates everything Filipino. Thing is they don't have matching table napkins!


I also found some great pieces from @cariloo_ph, @curiousercollected, and @piefinds. I've invested in some heirloom pieces from @balaybalai which I am very much looking forward to using. 2020 I think has given us time to think about our past decisions including acquisitions made for the home.


For me, music is also so important. On my Christmas playlist is Harry Belafonte, Boney M, and Pentatonix Christmas Albums.



What for you is the value of designing and splashing some beauty into our homes for the holidays, especially with how challenging this year has been?


Designing for the holidays is important now most especially, because as many of us are just at home, we don't notice how much time has actually passed. Changing the decor, reminds me of what month it is. It’s a hopeful reminder that life goes on!


Beautifying your home for the holidays also helps us deal with the sadness that 2020 brought. And because this year has been incredibly tough, celebrations become more meaningful.



There are many things we can't control, but we can control how a table is set, what music we play, the food we serve in a private setting. And in a world where everything and everyone share their private lives on a public platform via social media, this is a chance to make us reflect on what private moments with our loved ones truly mean to us. Perhaps this is the time to learn to celebrate private joys in an increasingly public world.


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Teddy Manuel

Floral and event designer, educator


How are you celebrating Christmas this year and how are you setting up your own holiday table?

Just like the previous years, it’s celebrated with family, although extra precaution is taken this year. My parents are both seniors and with a high-risk profession like mine, so I need to make sure I don’t put them at risk. I will definitely get myself tested before joining them.

In the previous years, Christmas time is our peak for the business so we normally don’t have time to plan for our own spread. This year, I’m considering making centerpieces complimented with holidays scents, and I will make them available for the public on the TM Floral School.



What is your recommended motif for this year? Any important things that you're keeping in mind?


This year, I would go for a more toned down look. I want to be more sensitive to those who are struggling because of the pandemic. I would go for locally sourced materials, but definitely, going the extra mile and making them my own.



What for you is the value of designing and splashing some beauty into our homes for the holidays, especially with how challenging this year has been?


The holidays are all about rekindling relationships and that is what’s most important. What you put in your homes or tables, no matter how small, is just complimentary. Try to look for things you have on hand. Even your plant collection would work just fine! What this pandemic taught me is that we need to put value on the essentials.


To uplift the Christmas spirit, a little decoration would help.  You just need to be creative in looking for materials or by recycling and making use of what’s available. Spend on something only if you can, and most importantly, share.


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Check out the gallery below for more holiday tablescape inspiration