As the only Asian country with a predominantly Christian population, the Philippines goes all out during its Catholic holidays. And unlike the commercialized approach of Japan, Korea and other neighboring nations with regards to Christmas, the Philippines keeps its more spiritual traditions intact, with plenty of mass celebrations and nativity-themed displays to remind people of the true meaning of the season. Nevertheless, gift-giving, star-shaped lanterns, eating and shopping abound around the month of December, and despite the hard times, Filipinos find ways to joyously celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Visitors donâ€™t have to go far from the capital city of Manila to enjoy the Yuletide; every part of the metropolis have their own Christmas traditions, whether itâ€™s a colorful lantern parade or simply a street thatâ€™s bathed in lights.
Here are 7 must-visit Christmas attractions in Metro Manila:
UP Lantern Parade - usually held during the third Friday of December, the state university’s annual parade has most of the colleges and major organizations (as well as satellite campuses across the country) take their colorful lanterns around the university oval. The lanterns will stop at key points so that short performances can take place in front of assembled students. The final stop is in front of the administration building, where the judges will give out prizes to the winners. UP Diliman is located in Quezon City.
Star City – a year-round entertainment complex in the CCP area in Pasay City that got its start as a Christmas carnival a decade ago. There are indoor and outdoor rides, such as the Snow World, Dino Island, Land of the Giants, Peter Pan, House of Horrors, Dungeon, Kilabot ng Mummy, and Time Tunnel. Free presentations by Ballet Manila are also available to the public inside Star Theater, as well as arcades, shopping stalls, videoke and food centers.
COD Christmas Show – a fascinating moving mannequin play shown from the early days of the Yuletide season up to January 6, the Feast of the Three Kings.Â Formerly performed in the Cubao district, this animatronic and light show has since transferred to Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan, and continues to enchant thousands of people.
Cubao Christmas Tree â€“ the largest of its kind in Quezon City and possibly in all of Metro Manila, this 20 plus -foot tall tree is located inside the Araneta Center in the shopping district of Cubao.
Simbang Gabi – the Christmas novena is a 9-day tradition which honors Mother Mary though attending masses at 4 in the morning. It is said that those with panata (personal intentions), like deciding on the person to marry or passing the board exam, will complete all 9 novena masses so that their petitions will be granted. After the mass, churchgoers treat themselves to native delicacies like bibingka and puto bumbong.
Policarpio Street - a street in Mandaluyong that turns into an electrified display of Christmas pomp every December. The Policarpio tradition started in 1995 when the residents decided to open their displays to the public. The symbol of Policarpio is the Dalisay Mansion, where every square meter of the house and gazebo is covered in lights. A house across the mansion, dubbed “House of Santa”, showcases one of the largest collection of Santa Claus items in the world. Bazaars and food stalls line the lighted street, where the dazzle starts at 6pm and ends at midnight.
Tiangges â€“ A whole cottage industry of Christmas bazaars, called tiangge in Tagalog, springs all overÂ Metro Manila during December. The more famous ones are found in Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan and Divisoria in Central Manila. Inexpensive gift items and holiday delicacies are the things to by in these flea markets, and customers will commonly buy in bulk to enjoy discounts as well as provide gifts for their multitudes of friends and relatives.