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Expat Exchange - Best Places to Visit in Philippines for Christmas Cheer
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Clark Economic Zone in Angeles City, Philippines


Best Places to Visit in Philippines for Christmas Cheer

By Betsy Burlingame

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Summary: Plan a day trip or weekend getaway to get some holiday cheer. This article highlights the best places to visit in Philippines for Christmas cheer.

As the holiday season approaches, the Philippines transforms into a festive wonderland, with its cities and towns adorned in colorful lights and Christmas decorations. Expats and digital nomads looking to immerse themselves in the local holiday spirit will find a variety of places across the archipelago that celebrate Christmas with unique flair and enthusiasm. From vibrant street parties to serene church gatherings, here are some of the best places to visit in December to experience Filipino holiday traditions.

San Fernando, Pampanga

Known as the "Christmas Capital of the Philippines," San Fernando in Pampanga province is famous for its annual Giant Lantern Festival, locally known as "Ligligan Parul." This event, typically held a week before Christmas, showcases enormous and intricately designed lanterns that illuminate the night sky. These lanterns, some as large as 20 feet in diameter, are made by local artisans and are a testament to the Filipino craftsmanship and festive spirit. The festival is accompanied by street performances, food stalls, and a jubilant atmosphere that's perfect for holiday revelers.

We Recommend: Don't miss the chance to try the region's famous holiday treat, bibingka—a warm, coconut-flavored rice cake that's especially popular during the Christmas season.

Ayala Triangle Gardens in Makati City

In the heart of Makati City, the Ayala Triangle Gardens become a spectacle of lights and sounds with the annual Ayala Triangle Gardens Lights and Sounds Show. From early December to the first week of January, visitors can witness a dazzling display of Christmas lights choreographed to holiday music, creating a magical experience. The gardens are surrounded by restaurants and shops, making it a perfect spot for an evening stroll or a festive night out with friends and family.

We Recommend: While there, indulge in some hot tsokolate, a Filipino hot chocolate made from locally sourced cacao, which is a perfect treat to enjoy while watching the light show.

Baguio City

Baguio City, known as the "Summer Capital of the Philippines," offers a cooler climate that's reminiscent of a winter Christmas. The city celebrates the holiday season with the Baguio Christmas Village, which features a variety of Christmas displays, live nativity scenes, and a festive market where visitors can buy local handicrafts and holiday treats. The crisp mountain air and pine-scented ambiance add to the yuletide atmosphere, making it a cozy retreat for those looking to escape the tropical heat.

We Recommend: Try the strawberry taho, a local delicacy made of fresh strawberries, silken tofu, and syrup, which is especially popular in the cool climate of Baguio.

Cebu City

Cebu City is another top destination for Christmas festivities in the Philippines. The city's Fuente Osmeña Circle becomes a hub of activity with the annual Pasko sa Sugbo (Christmas in Cebu). The park is adorned with a giant Christmas tree and various light installations. Throughout December, visitors can enjoy nightly cultural shows, concerts, and a food market offering traditional Cebuano holiday delicacies.

We Recommend: Be sure to taste the lechon, a roasted pig dish that's a staple at any Filipino feast and is particularly renowned in Cebu for its crispy skin and flavorful meat.

Dapitan Arcade in Quezon City

For those who love holiday shopping, Dapitan Arcade in Quezon City is a must-visit. This shopping haven is known for its wide array of affordable Christmas decorations, from twinkling lights to handcrafted nativity sets. During the holiday season, the arcade is bustling with shoppers and the air is filled with the spirit of Christmas as people hunt for the perfect decorations to adorn their homes.

We Recommend: Look out for the beautifully crafted parol, a traditional Filipino star-shaped Christmas lantern, which makes for a great souvenir or gift.

Iloilo City

Iloilo City celebrates Christmas with a unique blend of tradition and modernity. The Iloilo Business Park hosts the annual Iloilo Festive Walk Parade, featuring a parade of colorful floats and performances by local schools and organizations. The area is also known for its impressive Christmas light displays and towering Christmas trees, creating a festive environment that's perfect for holiday photos and evening walks.

We Recommend: Don't leave without trying the batchoy, a local noodle soup that's perfect for warming up during the cool December evenings in Iloilo.

Vigan City

Vigan City, with its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture, offers a historical backdrop to its Christmas celebrations. The cobblestone streets of Calle Crisologo are lined with antique shops and heritage houses adorned with festive decorations. The city holds a Christmas parade featuring traditional calesas (horse-drawn carriages) and a series of events that highlight the local culture and history, including the Vigan Heritage Festival.

We Recommend: Sample the Vigan empanada, a crispy, savory pastry filled with meat, vegetables, and egg, which is a popular street food in the region.

Star City in Pasay City

For families and those young at heart, Star City in Pasay City offers a Christmas-themed amusement park experience. With its various rides, attractions, and festive decorations, it's a place where the holiday spirit truly comes to life. The park also features an indoor snow village, giving visitors a taste of a white Christmas in the tropical country.

We Recommend: Enjoy the classic amusement park snacks like cotton candy and popcorn while taking in the sights and sounds of this festive wonderland.

The Philippines offers a unique and vibrant way to celebrate the holiday season. Whether you're looking for traditional festivities, shopping havens, or festive amusement parks, there's something for every expat and digital nomad to enjoy in December.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.


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