It's December again, and you know what that means: Christmas! And what better place to celebrate it than the Philippines? Aside from having the most number of Catholics in Asia, the Philippines also has the distinction of having the longest Yuletide season in the world. Still not convinced Filipino-style Christmas is the best? Perhaps these unique ways of celebrating the Yuletide season will convince you to turn the other cheek.
Four Words: Ayala Triangle Lights Show
Back in 2014, Conde Nast Traveler named the Ayala Triangle Lights as one of the most spectacular Christmas lights (shows) around the world. Even today, this annual event continues to captivate both Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike, with dazzling Christmas lights synced to the tune of euphonious music every 30 minutes from 6:00 P.M. onwards.
This year's lights show will last until January 8, 2017, so be sure to catch it if you're visiting Makati City. Also, don't forget to keep our Ayala Triangle Lights guide handy while you're at it!
Tasty Food All Around
In the Philippines, people celebrate Christmas Eve with a feast called noche buena (literally "Good night"), the perfect excuse to throw "diets" out the window and gobble up as much food as you can. It's also the perfect excuse for cooks of all stripes to show off their culinary skills, and whip up the most mouthwatering Christmas feast their guests will ever see.
No noche buena is complete without bibingka, puto bumbong, hamon, and queso de bola. Because both bibingka and puto bumbong are sticky — not to mention sweet! — treats, they're both believed to usher in good luck and prosperity for the new year (since they allow fortune to stick to you, get it?).
Meanwhile, hamon is sold in supermarkets nationwide as soon as the Christmas season looms. The best-known varieties are under the "CDO" and "Purefoods" brands, which in turn have several sub-varieties such as whole ham, pre-sliced ham, flavored ham, etc. Keep in mind that hamon prices skyrocket as Christmas Day approaches, so be sure to grab one for your cart while prices are within reach!
As for queso de bola, there are so many ways to enjoy it. You can take one salty slice and pair it with a sweet fruit, mix it into fondue, or use it as a substitute for parmesan cheese. Either way, queso de bola is a must-eat every Christmas — or even when it's not Christmas at all!
Cool, But Not Freezing, Weather
Who says Christmas has to have snow? If you live in Manila, and you're looking for a place to cool down this December, head up north to Baguio City, the rather ironically-nicknamed "Summer Capital of the Philippines." Because the city is surrounded by mountains, and pine trees grow all around, Baguio is much colder than you'd expect of a typical Philippine destination.
In case you'd rather have a white Christmas, the Philippines has you covered (no pun intended). There's the ice skating rink at the SM Mall of Asia, the Trails to Antarctica at the Manila Ocean Park, and the Snow World at Star City. The earlier you schedule a trip to any of these, the more likely you can beat the crowds as they pour into the aforementioned destinations this season.
Prefer to stay somewhere else this Christmas? Browse through our tourist spots tag, and you'll find the best places to visit in the Philippines from December to early 2017. The most recent posts are on places with a Type I/III climate, so you can enjoy them rain or shine!
Happiness All Around
Despite their hardships, Filipinos always find reasons to smile. In fact, the Philippines recently ranked as the 20th happiest country in the world according to the Happy Planet Index. If that sounds hard to believe, you obviously haven't seen Christmas in the Philippines.
For one, even the poorest of the poor go out of their way to celebrate the season. With materials like pots and cardboard, plus a not-so-tiny dose of creativity and ingenuity, they can come up with musical instruments for caroling that can put their commercial counterparts to shame. You can also see street kids sharing what meager belongings they have with peers, which makes you pause and reflect on what Christmas and generosity really mean.
On a lighter note, as we've mentioned in a previous post, parties and Filipino-style Christmas go hand-in-hand. Office workers prepare for the occasion as early as two months before, and employers come up with increasingly unique takes on the monito monita tradition. (For more details on what monito monita is, see the link to the phrase "previous post" above.) And let's not get started on how each of the millions of Filipino households commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Philippine Christmas traditions may not be what you call "unique." But they sure are colorful and fun, which is pretty much what the Yuletide season is all about. In the meantime, have a merry Christmas, and enjoy your weekend!