Colorful holidays with Lexi and Maritoni
Bright and bubbly, sweet but spunky, GMA-7 teen star Lexi Fernandez clearly relishes the heady preparations, no matter how hectic, for the Yuletide season.
For her, as the Christmas song goes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, memories of which revolve around the family. “I always spend Christmas with my mom (actress Maritoni Fernandez) and brother Liam,” says the 16-year-old singer/actress.
Lexi gets a tad nostalgic watching her 6-year-old brother get all revved up anticipating Santa’s presents. “He’s so cute!” she exclaims. “When I was younger, my mom would fill a bag with little gifts. Then, she would empty the bag on me when I wake up on Christmas morning.” Now, she says, she and mom follow the same Christmas Day tradition, literally showering Liam with gifts every year.
Best in the world
’Tis the season to bond with family, eat and make merry, notes Lexi. She looks forward to the Fernandez clan’s Christmas dinner, particularly mom’s roast turkey. “I also love my mom’s baked and mashed potatoes, and Tita Pit’s lengua. And chocolates, lots of it!”
Sometimes dad Alex comes home from Adelaide. Although Lexi can very well spend the holidays in Australia, she would rather celebrate it in Manila. “Christmas in the Philippines is the best. There’s nothing like it in the world.”
She remembers caroling with her cousins around this quiet village in Makati where her family has lived for over six years. As the oldest of the Fernandez cousins, Lexi often acts as ring leader. “‘The Christmas Song’ was my favorite piece,” she says.
When Lexi was younger, Maritoni gave her one particular type of present each year. “One year, it was all Barbie. Then, Power Puff Girls. There was also a Hello Kitty year,” mom relates.
Riding a float
This year, Lexi’s not wishing to find anything specific under the tree. “I already got the best gift when Mom allowed me to join show biz,” she says.
When pressed, however, she says she’s saving up for a new laptop. “My computer is old na. I didn’t feel the need to buy a new one earlier, since I already had an iPhone.” A laptop, she says, can help her organize music files.
It’ll be a busy holiday season for Lexi. She’s in the cast of Jose Javier Reyes’ “My Househusband: Ikaw Na,” an entry in this month’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). As follow-up to GMA Films’ “The Road,” she was included in another Kapuso youth flick, “Just One Summer,” with Julie Ann San Jose, Elmo Magalona and Enzo Pineda. Lexi is also a regular in Kapuso shows “Party Pilipinas” and “Pepito Manaloto.”
She can’t contain her excitement over the prospect of riding the float during the MMFF parade on Christmas Eve. “It’ll be my first time. I only used to watch it on TV.”
Maritoni points out, “In my 22 years in show business, I’ve never been on an MMFF float. Lexi’s so lucky.”
Mom admits she didn’t encourage her daughter’s show-biz aspirations at first. “I even told her not to tell anyone that she’s my daughter. Then I saw how patient she was, queuing up for auditions, no matter how long the lines were.”
When Lexi got into ABS-CBN’s Star Magic, Maritoni realized that the girl was determined, but she took her to GMA 7 instead.
Maritoni, who is in the cast of the Kapuso show “Legacy,” fondly calls Lexi “my best friend.”
As a child, Lexi was mom’s mini-me, a little shadow following her everywhere. Now, Maritoni has come to accept that her baby is a young lady. “She’s turning 17 on January 5. She gets embarrassed when I hug and kiss her in public.”
Maritoni recalls that Lexi, as a little girl of 6, gave her strength when she battled cancer a decade ago. She remembers that Lexi witnessed every struggle, every trip to the hospital.
The crisis invariably equipped Lexi with precious life lessons. “It made her a stronger person,” mom says. “She learned to value life. Also, I notice that she’s not easily swayed by peers. She’s humble and level-headed.”
Lexi readily gives her time to charity projects—like the Inquirer Read-Along session for children coping with cancer.
Although she’s a normal teen who goes malling with friends, Lexi’s just as content to stay home—playing Rock Band or Wii with Liam, or frolicking in the lanai with Dachshund Barbie and Persian cat Yuki.
“Barbie has been my guardian since I was small,” says Lexi. “Our favorite hangout is the kitchen.” The house is just right for them, she says. “Not too big, not too small. We still get to see each other though we’re always on the go.”
Yet another anticipated family activity is sprucing up the house for the holidays. All the decorative items are recycled, Maritoni says. “Our goal is to make the Christmas tree decor as baduy (kitschy) and gaudy as possible,” Lexi jests.
“If you notice, there’s not just one color,” Maritoni points out. It’s an explosion of colors, Lexi agrees.
“The more colorful, the merrier,” Maritoni says. “I hate thematic all-white or all-red trees. Our tree has red, green, silver, yellow, gold ornaments—of all shapes and sizes.”
Maritoni proudly recalls that she transported the kaleidoscopic parol (lantern) all the way from San Fernando, Pampanga, 10 years ago.
She accumulated the ornaments through the years, too. “I frequented village bazaars and flea markets in Greenhills. They’ve lasted long because I always store them properly after the holidays.”
Some of the trinkets on the tree were home-made, Maritoni reveals. “I bought Styrofoam balls and, with a glue gun, covered them with satin ribbons.”
She says another holiday tradition is bargain-hunting in Divisoria and Greenhills. “Lexi is a smart shopper. She got wedge shoes for only P400 at the 168 Mall in Divisoria,” proud mom says. “She can pick the right gift for every person. She puts a lot of thought into each present.”
Maritoni makes sure to follow the same traditions every year. “Mass, then noche buena. In the morning, we open gifts and have lunch at my mom’s place.”
Another Yuletide custom she has introduced to her kids is the Advent calendar. “I used to order it from abroad pa, but now it’s available at (the deli) Santi’s. It’s like a Christmas countdown. Every day, Liam opens a window on the calendar and he gets a chocolate. It teaches kids patience.”
One family ritual, not just at Christmastime but all year round, is snuggling together in mom’s huge bed. “Liam and Lexi each have their own rooms, but they prefer to sleep in my bed,” Maritoni gasps in mock exasperation.
Actually, she doesn’t mind. Lexi says, “It’s actually practical because we have to turn on only one air conditioner instead of three!”
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