Nativity scenes from all over the world

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Different scenes of the Nativity at the Riverbanks Center remind the public of the true meaning of the season

Different scenes of the Nativity at the Riverbanks Center remind the public of the true meaning of the season

A unique Belen display at the Riverbanks Center
A private collection of hundreds of Nativity Scenes—also known as the Belen—from all over the world finds a home at the shopping and tourism destination that is the Riverbanks Center in Marikina City.

Aptly titled “The Spirit of Bethlehem,” the Belens are on display in one of the new buildings at the sprawling commercial complex, right next to the Joey Velasco Gallery where the famous “Hapag ng Pagasa” sits prominently with the rest of the late artist’s work.

The exhibit aims to provide the citizens of Marikina, as well as visitors to the city, to experience, appreciate and embrace the true reason of the season.

A lady by the name of Carmen Abaya-Carlos owns the impressive Belen collection. She would usually open her home in Quezon City from November to March each year to share her Nativity scenes with others, before deciding to exhibit them in Marikina.


According to Carlos, she had also displayed the collection at the former building of the Department of Education in Marikina City from 2006 to 2009. Now permanently displayed at Riverbanks, more people who come to the commercial complex for its many unique attractions can now view the collection.

The Belen museum boasts of numerous pieces from here and abroad, collected over decades of Carlos’ devotion to the Infant Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Friends and family had also gifted her Nativity Scenes through the years.

Among those on display is Carlos’ very first Belen bought in 1952 at a religious trade store.

Meanwhile, her most precious pieces include several Lladros of Spain, which her late husband would hand-carry from trips abroad, and the Goebells from Germany.

Several Belens from other countries like Spain, Mexico, Guatemala, Africa, Israel, and the different regions in the Philippines also show the differences in culture of their places of origin.

The most priceless pieces, however, were handcrafted by family members, like that of Carlos’ niece Maggie, who hand painted a Nativity Scene on stone. Another came from her good friend Aleli Vengua who was collector, and passed away in 2004. Vengua and Carlos were a tandem at the collection’s former location in Marikina City. Honoring an informal pact, Carlos placed Vengua’s miniature collection adjacent to the new Belen museum.

Also worth a visit at the Riverbanks Center is “The Museum of Miniatures,” which is a collection of tiny replicas of furniture and other things that can be found in a European mansion; and of course, the Joey Velasco Gallery of spiritually moving art pieces

The Spirit of Bethlehem, The Museum of Miniatures and the Joey Velasco Gallery are located at the second level of the E-com Building of the Riverbanks Center, Marikina City. For more information, log on to www.riverbankscenter.com or call (02) 570-0701 local 332 or 334.

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