Mmmm. December is just a few, short days away that I can already smell the sweet, cool scent of Christmas! The excitement that always comes with the merriest holiday season is so palpable and contagious that one simply cannot resist being caught up in it.
We, Filipinos, are particularly fond of Christmas. In fact, we hold the world record for having the longest Yuletide celebration.
We consider the arrival of the first “ber month” as the signal to adorn our houses with colorful lanterns, twinkling lights, Christmas trees, Belen and other decors; constantly play those Christmas carol CDs; and start buying gifts for our loved ones and our bunch of inaanaks.
And of course, we try to maximize this time of the year by spending it with our families.
For those of you who want that added Christmas-y spirit, here are the 10 places and events in the city that you could take your families to.
Enjoy, create unforgettable memories, and take lots of pictures!
- Casa Santa Museum. We’ve always been fascinated with this jolly, bearded, old man in red suit who delivers gifts to children all over the world in his reindeer-drawn sleigh. With a collection of over 3,700 Santa Claus figures of all sizes, colors and materials, this museum in Antipolo is just the right place for you. It’s open to guests all year round at an entrance fee of ₱180/person. For more details, click here.
- The Giant Christmas Tree at the Araneta Center. This iconic Christmas symbol that stands more than 20 feet tall is truly a sight to behold. For 31 years now, it continues to provide holiday cheer and to touch the hearts of generations of Filipinos. The tree-lighting ceremony held last Nov. 09 heralded a gamut of Yuletide activities and holiday funfare at the Araneta Center.
- Christmas On Display (COD) at the Greenhills Shopping Center. This moving mannequin show that opened last Nov. 14 is a 58-year-old family tradition whose roots could be traced back to its original site, the COD Department Stores in Avenida. It was, later on, transferred to the stores’ branch in Cubao, and again to its present site in 2003. With this year’s theme, A Hometown Christmas, this highly-anticipated show features the stories of our thousands of kababayans who still choose to go back home on the holidays to enjoy the authentic Paskong Pinoy.
- Lights and Sounds Show at the Ayala Triangle Gardens. Also on Nov. 09, the Festival of Lights was formally launched to light up the Ayala Triangle until Jan. 03. With the theme “Beats and Hues”, spectators will be entertained with three different kinds of music – big band and jazz music, African drumbeats, and electronic dance music. As a pleasant bonus, light installation replicas of 10 of the oldest churches in the country were also set up for this year.
- Policarpio Street in Mandaluyong City. The famous street’s annual holiday spectacle has been a regular Christmas tourist attraction since it was started in 1996 by three of the homeowners – the Lim, the Suva and the Dalisay families. People who visit are treated to a sight of houses elaborately and generously decorated with impressive Christmas displays and dazzling lights.
- Snow World at Star City. If you want to experience a White Christmas in Manila, this is your chance. Enjoy the 68-meter long ice slide (presumably the longest ice slide in Asia), the intricate ice carvings and sculptures, the snow-covered pine trees, and an ice town (at -15°C) decked with Christmas fixtures, and yes, an igloo! Admission fee to Star City is ₱65, while the entrance fee to the Snow World is ₱150/person. For more info, click here.
- Trails to Antarctica at the Manila Ocean Park. Go visit the coldest and least explored part of the planet without having to leave the country! The Trails to Antarctica features a walk down the frozen continent through the Penguin Exhibit and the freezing Snow Village. For details on the park schedule, packages, promos, etc., click here.
- Grand Festival of Lights Parade at the SM Mall of Asia. Mark your calendars! This parade happens only every Saturday of Dec. until the Christmas Day itself. Meet and greet Santa Claus and his elves, take pictures of the colorful floats, dance with the costumed performers, or sing along the Christmas carols that loudly accompany the parade. It starts at around 5:30 pm at the North Arcade, goes around the mall, and stops at the Seaside Blvd. for the grand fireworks display.
- Paskuhan in UST. Happening this year on Dec. 18, the Paskuhan is ordinarily held on the last day before the start of the students’ Christmas break. Giddy with excitement over their vacation and the fast-approaching holiday season, the entire Thomasian community welcomes visitors and celebrates the festivities with a parade, a fair, the lighting of the giant Christmas Tree, a concert, and a fireworks display.
- Lantern Parade in UP. On Dec. 14, the Academic Oval (the campus’ main thoroughfare) will once again turn into a spectacle of colors and lights as the UP community welcomes the holidays with the Lantern Parade. On its 93rd year, the long-standing tradition is always well-attended not just by the Iskos and Iskas, but also by the alumni, the employees and staff, their families, and the spectators from outside the UP community. Everyone is treated to a procession of colorful floats and lanterns (with each masterpiece representing a college or group in UP), as well as street performances by various colleges and organizations inside the university. This showcase of talents and pageantry (that sometimes also serves as a venue for protests and a platform in voicing out national concerns) is usually concluded with a fireworks display.
Aside from those listed above, the shopping malls scattered around the city, with their fabulous Christmas displays, could also be alternative destinations for your families. Be warned, though. These places are already very crowded by now, with harried shoppers taking advantage of the seemingly successive holiday sales.
Meanwhile, if you are hunting for a place to shop at considerably low prices, Metro Manila provides a myriad of options. There are Christmas tiangges, Christmas bazaars and night markets everywhere. You might also want to pay the Dapitan Arcade a visit. But, of course, for cheap buys and excellent bargains, nothing could ever beat the old, reliable Divisoria Market.
Finally, lest we forget what Christmas should really be all about, let me leave you with a quote from William Carey Jones.
“The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each other’s burdens, easing others’ loads and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts become, for us, the magic of Christmas.”