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Icons Of Christmas: Jose Mari Chan Prefers To Call Himself The "Little Drummer Boy" Who Heralds Christmas For Pinoys

Almost three decades since his iconic "Christmas in Our Hearts" song was released, the singer-songwriter still finds himself extremely busy with performing it for various Christmas events

He wasn't wearing a Santa Claus costume, not even a red and white ensemble, but he put smiles on people's facesand everyone (kids and adults alike) was especially happy to see him during the merriest time of the year. No one can elicit the same excitement as much as Jose Mari Chan does when the holiday season begins, his voice signaling the start of Pinoy Christmas. 

Every year, the "ber" months mean a packed social calendar for the esteemed singer-songwriter, as he would hop from one Christmas event to another to bring joy with his widely popular carols. "Pagdating ng September, October, November, mas madaming invitations to do mall shows, Christmas concerts. So, very busy pagdating ng Christmas," Chan shares with ABS-CBN News.   

Recently, Chan graced UNIQLO's "Give the Gift of LifeWear" event to perform for the children of Bantay Bata and SOS Children's Village Philippines, alongside seasoned singer and actress Lea Salonga. Over 100 children were treated to a holiday shopping spree at UNIQLO in SM Megamall, but while that was an extremely enjoyable experience, nothing compared to how delighted the kids were the moment they watched Chan and Salonga sing the iconic "Christmas in Our Hearts" song together for the first time ever. Watch their duet here.

Chan recorded "Christmas in Our Hearts" with his daughter Liza, but he revealed that, initially, he wanted to collaborate with Salonga for this song. Songwriter Rina Cañiza wrote the words for it. 

"It’s our first time to sing that song ever, together," Salonga said at the UNIQLO event. To which, Chan replied, "I hope this is not going to be the last time."

Jose Mari Chan and Lea Salonga performed at UNIQLO's "Give the Gift of LifeWear" event.
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The two also performed Chan's "Let Love be the Gift" song, which originally featured his daughter Liza as well. In the middle of their performances, Salonga fondly called Chan "Mr. Christmas." For decades, since "Christmas in our Hearts" debuted almost thirty years ago in 1990, he's been referred to as the "Father of Philippine Christmas," "King of Christmas in the Philippines," and even the "Voice of Christmas." But Chan politely refuses to be branded as such; instead, he likes to simply think of himself as the "little drummer boy" who heralds the holiday season for Pinoys. 

True enough, when Filipinos start hearing his songs being played in malls, other establishments, and public transportation, they're made aware that Christmas is just around the corner. His gentle and soothing voice never fails to bring back happy Christmas memories that make people look forward to making new ones. The powerful effect of his song creates a sense of familiarity that warms the heart, comforts the soul and, in a way, prepares the body for the Christmas rush that's about to ensue.

Chan's Christmas carols have been so well received and well loved through the years that they have clearly achieved a level of timelessness. Proof of this is how even the Internet-savvy young ones today can relate to his relevance to the season by creating hilarious memes.


Chan has performed "Christmas in our Hearts" countless times, but he never grows tired of it. To this day, he still makes it a point to deliver the most flawless performance of this song each and every time. During the rehearsal for this UNIQLO event, we witnessed how particular he can be, requesting the sound tech team to adjust the minus one so it won't overpower his vocals. He even stepped off the stage and stood in front of it so he could hear how the music sounded blaring through the speakers, to gauge it from the audience's perspective.  

While the Iloilo-born Chan already established a successful music career prior to this release of this holiday favorite track, it undoubtedly took him to a whole new definition of iconic. Christmas in Our Hearts is his seventh studio album and first Christmas album. It remains as the best-selling album in the Philippines with estimated sales of 800,000 copies; the second spot in the list is also occupied by Chan's Constant Change which sold about the same number of copies as his other album. These make Chan the only Filipino artist to have two Double Diamond-certified albums. 

On the first day of September this year, we marked the start of the Christmas season with an interview with Chan, where he talked about what he loves about this special occasion. Watch below:

Asked what he would like to receive this Christmas, Chan says, "To be honest with you, as I get older, I prefer now to give rather than to receive. Many times, I tell my friends, 'Don't give me any Christmas gift. If you like, donate it to a favorite charity of yours, and you're doing it for me." That perfectly encapsulates what Christmas is all about: it's the season of giving.

As for Chan's wish? "May the spirit of Christmas be always in our hearts." 

Photos from EON