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Why Jose Mari Chan Refuses To Be Called 'Mr. Christmas'
PHOTO BY courtesy of Yvette Fernandez, @uniqlophofficial/Instagram
  • At 74 years old, multi-awarded singer-songwriter Jose Mari Chan has a newfound celebrity status among Filipinos. To many, he has become “Mr. Christmas,” whose face (memes) you’ll see on your social media feed as the “-ber” months approach. However, he begs not to be called such.

    “I don’t like people to call me Mr. Christmas, because really, it’s a little bit irreverent. There is only one Mr. Christmas. I’d rather be called the little drummer boy that heralds the advent of the season,” he told SmartParenting.com.ph during the Give the Gift of LifeWear event by popular clothing brand Uniqlo, the Christmas jingle of which he sang with another Pinoy icon, Lea Salonga.

    PHOTO BY courtesy of Uniqlo Philippines
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    Nonetheless, as the man behind the popular songs “Christmas in our Hearts” and “A Perfect Christmas,” which never fail to spark the holiday spirit each time, we asked Jose Mari Chan what Christmas day is like for them, their formula for a lasting marriage, and how, with 5 children and 8 grandchildren, he remains youthful all these years.  

    What family traditions do you observe during Christmas?

    We always go to church together, and Christmas morning [the kids] come to the house. Three of my kids are now married and have families, so on Christmas morning we gather to open the gifts underneath the Christmas tree, and then we have a meal together. 

    What gifts do you usually give your grandchildren?

    For the grandchildren especially the 3-year-old, of course they expect toys. And my youngest grandchild, loves Peter Pan. Wendy. Tinkerbell. So we know what to get for her. And for the elder ones, especially because one of my grandsons is a soccer player, we get sports outfits for them.

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    And then I have a son who has 3 sons who have perfect pitch, and two of them sing with the choir in the church. Their tastes have changed. They are no longer into toys. So we get them books, even songbooks so they can learn to play the piano. 

    Being a musical family, do you do like the Von Trapps (of “The Sound of Music”) and sing as a group on Christmas day?

    In one of my concerts, [my son] Joe and his 3 kids sang a capella together. That’s the first time that they’ve done that so I’m hoping that they continue to do that in my future shows.

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    You’ve been married to your wife Mary Ann for 49 years. What is the formula for a successful marriage like yours?

    It has to be our faith in our Lord. That has to be number one. Remember Father Peyton used to say, the family that prays together stays together. Number one, it’s our faith. But on the daily basis, we do things together. When we go to the movies, we go out, we go on vacation, we always do things together. 

    I think one of the things that helped our family is the fact that [we] lived in New York for 11 years, between 1975 and 1986. At that time, we had just been married 5 years. We moved to the U.S. for our sugar business, and being away from all our friends, we became closer. On weekends, there were no parties or social events to attend. It was just our family, by ourselves, we would do things together. So that made us much closer.

    In the 11 years that we were there, we discovered new things together so that really helped a lot. When we came back [to Manila] in ‘86, I found out that a few of my classmates were separated from their wives. So I’m convinced that doing things together can really help bind a family. 

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    What is the best gift one could receive for Christmas?

    The gift of good health is very vital, because you are unable to do the things you love if you’re not healthy. If you are sick, you’re bedridden, then the quality of life deteriorates. So the gift of good health is very important. And to have good health, you cannot just expect the Holy Spirit to give it to you; you have to help yourself by eating right, exercising, and not abusing yourself. 

    What do you do to stay healthy?

    I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, and I exercise every day. I get on my treadmill and brisk walk for about 35 to 45 minutes a day. Then I go to work in my office.

    Why do you choose to still work at 74 years old?

    My father taught me that you [should] never retire from your work because then your brain slows down. You can delegate, you can do less, but you cannot retire completely. And my advice to young people is to keep on reading, because reading will slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s. 

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    What book are you currently reading?

    There’s a book I want to read, it was written by Dr. James Donelan, it’s called God’s Crooked Lines. But right now I’m re-reading a book that I read 30 years ago. It’s called Snowflake which is very inspiring and gives you an insight into life. 

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