Here’s Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Christmas in Manila, Philippines

In the Philippines, Christmas is just around the corner! Enjoy a heartwarming vacation in Manila, where Christmas is clearly in everyone’s hearts (from September to January) and feeling ‘excited’ is an understatement. Because the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic nation, this season is much-awaited for all kinds of families, festivals, and traditions.

We’re sure that you’ve heard the iconic carol, ‘12 Days of Christmas’, so get ready for ‘90 days of Yuletide’ in the Philippines! Locals start their holiday countdown as soon as September 1 (sometimes even earlier!). Check out this ‘nice’ list of things to expect so you can fully experience Christmas in Manila:

What to Expect during ‘Ber Months’ in Manila:

Christmas decor and lights everywhere

Sunset over Manila Bay (image via Shutterstock)
Sunset over Manila Bay (image via Shutterstock)
V Corporate Center, Salcedo Street: Makati, Philippines (Image via Donna Almonte, KKday)

Imagine hotels, malls, and the city streets brimming with Christmas cheer! Admire festive, giant Christmas trees inside hotel lobbies, rainbow-like lights that twinkle to the beat, red and green home interiors, Santa Claus figures, the works! Christmas decorating is also a beloved family tradition, with the nativity scene being the highlight.

Hear Christmas music starting September 1

Drop by Ayala Triangle in Makati for a musical lights show! (image via Shutterstock)
Drop by Ayala Triangle in Makati for a musical lights show! (image via Shutterstock)

If you think it’s too early for Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas’, then think again! You’ll hear that on repeat, along with Idina Menzel’s duet with Michael Bublé, ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ and other Christmas classics. Locals with karaoke machines will be belting their hearts out to their own rendition of Filipino carols, ‘Pasko na Sinta Ko’ and ‘Pasko na Naman’.

Look out for kids (and even adults) who compete with the entire neighborhood by going door-to-door and singing (or rapping!) carols. No matter where you go, whether it be fancy restaurants, fast-food chains, chic cafes, noisy bars, even your Filipino friend’s house…trust us, no place will be spared from Christmas tunes.

Behold the iconic music of Jose Mari Chan

It's JMC's time to shine! (image via Sonny Thakur, IMDb)
It’s JMC’s time to shine! (image via Sonny Thakur, IMDb)

Speaking of Christmas tunes, hear the celebrated songs of Jose Mari Chan, a famous Chinese Filipino singer-songwriter (and the eternal rockstar of the season)! His quintessential carols can be heard everywhere; blasting from nearby radios; blaring all over jeeps and mall speakers; playing from jamming sessions all over TV and social media.

Spot his friendly smile and the twinkle in his eyes as he makes mall appearances as early as September 1. Get instant LSS (last song syndrome) from hits such as ‘Christmas in Our Hearts’ and ‘Perfect Christmas’.

Feast like there’s no tomorrow

Enjoy a delicious noche buena with loved ones! (image via Jess Simbulan, Facebook)
Enjoy a delicious noche buena with loved ones! (image via Jess Simbulan, Facebook)

Everyone is looking forward to Christmas family reunions. Not only to reconnect with their ‘too nosy’ aunt, get lovingly scolded by grandma, or to fawn over new baby cousins. It’s really the mouthwatering holiday food that brings everyone together!

Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve means tucking into multiple plates of Christmas ham, queso de bola, macaroni salad, liempo (pork belly), and more! Don’t even get us started on sinfully sweet desserts, which range from creamy leche flan (egg pudding) to flour-covered chocolate crinkles.

But even before December 24, companies, friends, and acquaintances may be exchanging food as giveaways before the month even starts. It’s not unusual for locals to fret over gaining weight because of this very tempting occasion; this is exactly why dieting is a common New Year’s resolution. Good luck to everyone who’s trying to lose the holiday gut!

Watch out for Christmas bazaars

Get your wallet ready for this once-a-year bazaars
Get your wallet ready for great bargains in hectic Christmas bazaars!

What better way to spend that 13th month pay (Christmas bonus) than to go thrift shopping? Christmas markets, which pop up starting November as a 3 – 5 day event, boast a wider selection of goods.

From the massive Noel Bazaar to the no-name flea markets, delight in finding the cheapest shirts and dresses (for as low as US$2.00!), jewelry, perfumes, bags, shoes, ube (purple yam) jam, and anything you can think of. Buy things like keychains, pastries, and accessories in bulk for a discount – they make great gifts or souvenirs for everyone!

Pro-Tip: Haggle down as much as you possibly can or go around to find similar-but-cheaper alternatives.

Time for Church: Simbang Gabi

Our St. Joseph Cathedral (image via Jayreel Bacurayo, Flickr)
Our St. Joseph Cathedral (image via Jayreel Bacurayo, Flickr)

Lastly, how could we fail to mention the spiritual tradition that is Simbang Gabi? If you’re open to the experience, attend a series of 9 dawn masses from December 16 – 24 (this can be as early as 4:00am!) Aside from strengthening religious faith, Filipino families use the chance to bond and eat bibingka and puto bumbong (rice cakes) after the mass.

Everyone is welcome to reflect and pray inside a church, take in the decor and nativity scene, join activities for charity, and immerse themselves in the sentimental season. ‘Tis the season for love and forgiveness after all – perfect for family reunions.

Pro-tips from a local:

Christmas decor (image via Shutterstock)
Christmas decor (image via Shutterstock)
  • Stay aware of your surroundings. While most Filipinos are hospitable to tourists, scammers may take advantage of your generosity and ask for donations to non-legitimate charities
  • Keep your valuables close especially in large crowds while thrift shopping
  • Take advantage of early Christmas promos from gadget stores, mall brands, and handicrafts at pop-up bazaars. This includes online platforms too, so watch out for KKday PH promos and KKday global discounts as early as today! 

We hope you’ll plan and celebrate a wonderful Christmas in Manila while feeling the holiday spirit! It’s gonna be noisy, funny, heartwarming, nostalgic, and unforgettable with all the sights, food, gifts, and the presence of loved ones.

For more cool things to do in the Philippines, check out our articles below: