The Filipino Christmas

There was a time early in my airline career when I had the chance to spend Christmas in the US.  Although I stayed with American friends, I did not have my children with me.  It was also the very first time I did not have a Filipino Christmas…and I was miserable!  The wintry weather limits people to indoor activities.  You don’t see your neighbors having fun because they’re also seeking refuge from the cold, in the confines of their homes.  When you look out the window, you don’t feel the joy of the occasion.  The thoroughfares don’t give any indication that it is the happiest time of the year.  

Because of that experience, I promised myself never to “persecute” myself that way again.  But, several years later, I forgot such promise when my boss gifted me and my children with an all-expense paid Christmas vacation in Guam.  The excitement of traveling with the children during such a joyful season made me forget the not-so-pleasant Christmas experience I had many years earlier.  

Of course, my children and I were miserable!  Although Christmas Eve had us frolicking in the pool of my boss’ hilltop mansion, where we stayed, we were looking forward to a nice Christmas dinner.  When evening came, we decided to attend the only anticipated Mass in the city and then have our Christmas dinner at any of the island’s luxury hotels.  

We were in for a big surprise, as we drove to all the hotels in the island and finding out that all their food and beverage outlets were closed.  After almost an hour of looking for a decent place to have our Christmas dinner, we ended up going to the only place open---a Diner, and we had to queue up for almost an hour.  It was this experience that carved a permanent, throbbing reminder in my head: Never spend Christmas away from home again!  And here are some reasons why Christmas is better spent here at home:

Christmas By Manila Bay

The Department of Tourism, in cooperation with the Automobile Association Philippines and the International School of Sustainable Tourism is putting up the very first “Christmas By Manila Bay” at the Quirino Grandstand, showcasing the Filipino tradition of celebrating the Holidays.  This event was conceptualized by former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor who has left no stone unturned in making this pioneering event a tremendous success.

Star lanterns or ‘parol’ will be among those sold in the Christmas Market of Christmas By Manila Bay
Scheduled for Dec. 15-17, it aims to make foreign visitors appreciate the uniqueness of the Filipino Christmas by highlighting the distinct celebrations done in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.  

Many interesting activities have been lined up:  a Christmas Market will offer the finest Philippine products ranging from houseware, arts and crafts, garments, fashion accessories, attractive Filipino Christmas décor, and many other gift items.  It will also sell delicacies and food items from the country’s different regions.

Lined up for the same event is a Christmas Parade reflecting the culture, values and traditions of Filipino communities, and this will be done along the stretch of Roxas Boulevard, from the Cultural Center of the Philippines to Quirino Grandstand.  Every evening, there will also be a series of musical performances by noted Filipino artists and musical groups.

But the most significant activity of this 3-day event is the Grand Gift-Giving of items solicited earlier from kind donors, distributed to children who are victims of the recent military conflict in Marawi, also to those who still have to recover from the catastrophic effect of Typhoon Yolanda, and to the little ones sheltered by the Hospicio de San Jose.  Entrance to “Christmas By Manila Bay” is complimentary. 

A Filipino Christmas Venue

The Art Deco Ibarra’s Garden started its operations along Padre Faura Street in 2001, and it has wood paneled floors with a beautiful garden patio reminiscent of those we see in Old Manila.  Soon after it opened, it has become a popular events venue and catering service establishment.

Due to the continued increase in the demand for such well-designed venue and its catering services, it opened other locations:  Plaza Ibarra in Quezon City, Bella Ibarra in Quezon Avenue, and Villa Ibarra in Tagaytay.

Just the other day, and in time for the Christmas holidays, the establishment inaugurated its newest and biggest venue, the Casa Ibarra, which is located at the Mall of Asia complex.  The venue has a modern, graciously sophisticated Filipino design, and its interiors showcase a generous display of indigenous materials: capiz shells, raffia fabric and T’nalak, highlighting its uniquely Filipino identity, and exuding the warmth of a typical Filipino home.

Its Salon de Amor on the second floor accommodates 350 dinner guests, with six elegant and beautifully designed chandeliers made completely of capiz shells totaling approximately 20,000 pieces.  Casa Ibarra also has the Alegria Room and the Hermosa Room, both on the ground floor, just as tastefully designed, and each can take in a maximum of 140 guests.  

I can almost see in these venues the many happy faces of those who, just like me, are convinced that nothing beats a Filipino Christmas.  The Christmases in the other countries just don’t have the “jingle” in their bells!


A Chinese trader bought a well from an Englishman.  The next day, while on his way to market, he met the Englishman who told him: “Brother, I have sold the well to you but not the water.  If you use the water, you will have to pay for it.”  The Chinese replied: “Ah, yes, I was planning to go to your place and ask you to empty the water and if you don’t, then you will have to pay rent for using my well for your water.”

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Topics: Filipino Christmas
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