PIXAR, Pasko, and Parols!

Filipino Representation in Disney UK’s 2020 Christmas Advert

During this pandemic, the holiday spirit may be hard to find as one of the main things holidays usually mean for many of us is family. Quarantined and separated from our loved ones during Christmastime makes it so difficult to feel connected; however, Disney UK created and released their annual Pixar Christmas Advertisement that brought our families abroad closer to us.  

As a part of their “From our Family to yours” campaign, the 3 minute short featured a Filipino family with several familiar “Pasko” (Christmas in Tagalog) traditions. Upon pressing play on the short, 1940 Philippines is shown, lit up with traditional filipino star-shaped lanterns called Parols with a few words of Tagalog spoken in the background. 

Beginning to focus on the Filipino family, we hear the little girl say “Tatay!” meaning “father” or “dad.” Then, there’s a meaningful pause. The daughter takes her father’s hand and brings it to her forehead. In Filipino culture, this is the most common and expected act of respect to those older than us called “mano po” (“mano” for hand and “po” used to address elders respectfully).

A painting that illustrates the most respectful Filipino gesture done to our elders, “mano po.” (Jasmin aka j0rosa)

Seeing something every single Filipino child has learned from an early age on a screen, representing a culture and it’s traditions that are not often portrayed in Western media makes so many Pinoy families feel acknowledged and celebrated during such a closed off time. So many people retweeted the Disney Short excitedly after watching the first powerful 18 seconds, as it reminded them and pulled them closer to family they cannot go visit or grandparents that have passed on. 

“Honestly, it was just so cool seeing the mano po in a Disney short since I’ve done it my whole life. Cultural representation is so important, and it made me so excited to see people that looked like me on my screen,” says Dean Mendoza ‘23.

After the iconic “mano po” scene, the short moves on to 2005 in some Western suburb-esque townhome showing the little girl grown up into a “Lola” (Tagalog for grandmother). With her granddaughter, she passes on the tradition of making the Filipino Christmas star-lanterns, the parol. Traditionally made with bamboo sticks and thin Japanese paper, we see Lola and her granddaughter taking the sticks to make the star frame before covering it with colorful paper.

In any culture around the holidays, I think we can all reminisce on the times our grandparents, parents, or any family member passed on their traditions onto us, whether that be a dish you made together, a game you played or decor you created. 

Although, as we get older, like the granddaughter in the short, the once exciting and fun holiday activities we did with our families become old and second to new plans we may make with friends. However, the granddaughter soon realizes as she comes home to a dark home with the Parol craft supplies on the coffee table, that brushing off family traditions may not be as harmless as we think. She knows she hurt her Lola’s feelings, and makes it up to her by staying up to fill the house with handmade Parols, showing her Lola that she appreciates her and what she was taught. When her Lola wakes up, she is reminded of Paskotime in the Philippines with all the Parols hanging from above. Embracing her granddaughter, she feels more at home than ever.

As the handmade parols hang in the background, the Lola and the granddaughter hug one another, embracing the true essence of Christmas: family. (Disney Pixar UK)

“The video really just brought me back home to the Philippines. I related to the feeling the Lola in the short had when she saw all those Parol lights hanging in her home, transporting her back to the Philippines. That’s how I feel with my family during Pasko. It’s when I feel at home the most,” explains a teary-eyed Keana Ravello ‘22.

“It is not the decor or the traditions itself that make the holidays feel so special. It is the family we are surrounded by that pass on these traditions that make Christmas magical. Whether your family is Filipino or not, really allow yourself to be engaged in the traditions and stories your family has to share during the holiday season. Truly immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit with your loved ones in song, crafts, movies, food and whatever you can think of.

Like the Disney campaign, from my family to yours, Maligayan Pasko (Merry Christmas)!