At Santa’s Village, the author gets an ‘exclusive’ interview with Santa Claus.

In the Arctic Circle with Santa
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - December 4, 2017 - 4:00pm

ROVANIEMI, Finland — Whether you’re the future king of England or the little king of your barangay in Quezon City, you inevitably scribble a wish list on Christmas to Santa Claus, arguably the face of the Christmas holidays (before a child realizes the spiritual dimension of the season, that is).

Even Prince George sent through his father Prince William a letter to Santa during the latter’s official trip to Finland last week.

Amid his official functions, the heir to the throne delivered  to Santa his firstborn’s list, which contained only one wish: a police car.

Around the time William was in Finland, a group of Filipinos (all adults, mind you) on a tour of the Lapland in northern Finland also met Santa Claus in the only village in the world with the Arctic Circle postmark: Santa’s Village.

Travel agent Shan Dioquino David, president of Corporate International Travel and Tours, organized the visit to Santa’s Village in the Ultimate Lapland experience itinerary she prepared, “because there is a child in all of us.”

Shan also arranged for me to interview Santa Claus, and wearing a red vest marked “media,” I was ushered by his assistants dressed as elves to a homey parlor in Santa’s Village for my “exclusive” interview. Apparently, the “elves” strictly adhere to protocol in the Arctic Circle. I couldn’t just “ambush” him with my questions after whispering to him my Christmas wish.

* * *

With a kindly voice and twinkling eyes, Santa is the only guy I know who smiles best with his eyes. For who has actually seen his lips? Yet you know he is smiling.

What is it that most people who line up to see you wish for? I asked Santa during my brief interview.

“Happiness!” was his immediate reply.

And why should we believe in Santa Claus?

“I believe in myself,” he mused. “And you know where I belong? In your hearts. And as long as I am in your hearts, I have a home.”



* * *

Annabelle Sanz Espino grew up having only hotdogs on Christmas Eve. That was all they could afford. Her parents couldn’t let her dream of making a list for Santa Claus, because they knew he couldn’t deliver. To Annabelle, at least.

Now a mother of three boys, ages 19 to 26, Annabelle fulfilled a childhood dream last week in this city.

After working hard all her life and setting up a successful business with husband Alex, Annabelle flew to Rovaniemi in Finland, official home of the “real” Santa Claus (only Rovaniemi gets an Arctic Circle postmark not available anywhere else) and fulfilled a childhood dream in her golden years.

“To be seated beside Santa was the highlight of my trip,” she said, tears in her eyes. “It was a childhood experience I never had.”

Next year, she plans to bring her two younger sons to Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, in northern Finland so they, too, can meet Santa.

“Even for adults, there is the thrill of meeting Santa. It is never too late to meet Santa Claus,” said Shan Dioquino David, who foresaw the desire of many to live their childhood dreams in the snow-blanketed Arctic Circle.

The Lapland experience she arranged included chasing the Northern Lights, a reindeer sleigh ride, a snow mobile ride, a husky sleigh ride, ice fishing and a coveted visit to Santa’s Village, which receives 300,000 visitors a year.

* * *

Almost totally destroyed during World War II, Rovaniemi today is a modern city known for being the “official” hometown of Santa Claus, and for viewing the Northern Lights.

Santa Claus’ original home lies in the mysterious Korvatunturi (“Ear Fell”) in Finnish Lapland. Since the exact location is a secret only known to a chosen few, he decided to establish an office in Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, in 1985. Rovaniemi received the status of the Official Hometown of Santa Claus in 2010.

According to online sources, in 1950, Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, visited Rovaniemi to witness the rebuilding process.

She wanted to visit the Arctic Circle, and Rovaniemi officials rushed to building a cabin eight kilometers north of the city. According to official sources, the cabin marked the birth of Santa Claus Village and still stands today next to Santa Claus Main Post Office.

Highlight of the year is Dec. 23, when Santa “departs” on his mission to hand out presents to children all around the globe. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell Rudolph apart from the other reindeers on his sleigh!

Since 1985, Santa Claus has reportedly received 15 million letters from 198 countries, which makes Santa Claus Main Post Office a must on any visit to Santa Claus Village. The gaily dressed  postal “elves” serve customers all year round in their headquarters, which is a real post office operated by Posti, Finland’s national postal service. Every letter sent from here gets a special Arctic Circle postmark not available anywhere else, so your Christmas greetings sent to home are going to be extraordinary.

So myth or magic, man or showman, Santa Claus exists. He exists when you believe that the Christmas dreams of your childhood, including getting a gift from Santa, made you want to be a better person when you grew up. And when there are times that life isn’t all that jolly, memories of a childhood when one believed in all things good, including Santa, will always bring a smile to one’s lips.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

(For inquiries, call Corporate International Travel and Tours at 631-6541 or e-mail at

(You may e-mail me at

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