9 Alternative Christmas Getaways in the Philippines

Make this year’s holiday season a little bit different by considering these alternative Christmas getaways in the Philippines

While the Philippines has an extensive history, there are aspects of Filipino culture that did not originate from the country, yet are very much engrained. A notable example of this is the Filipinos’ proclivity for the Christmas season. A predominantly Catholic country, the Philippines celebrates the holidays longer than most countries, with Christmas décor being seen and Christmas songs being heard as early as September.

Since the Philippines is a popular holiday destination, getaways are a significant part of Christmas in the Philippines. As you can imagine, the usual vacation destinations get a little crowded during the holidays. Luckily, when it comes to wonderful destinations, the Philippines has so many options. You may want to look beyond popular choices such as Tagaytay, Baguio, and Boracay and discover less frequently explored options that are just as ideal for the Yuletide season.

1. Filinvest City, Alabang

Although flourishing in its own right, Filinvest City is comparatively more laidback than many other Metro Manila commercial centers. The area is an ideal place to go to for those who want to escape the common “holiday rush,” but may not have much vacation time available.

Alternative Christmas Getaways in the Philippines
Filinvest City Alabang. Photo via Filinvest.com

Positioning itself as the “Christmas Capital of the South,” Filinvest City offers plenty to see and do. This includes viewing the month-long Christmas Musical Light Show held at the River Park of Festival Supermall, as well as spending time and taking photos in Filinvest’s many pocket parks and verdant greeneries bedecked with holiday themes.

Places to check out
Places to stay in Filinvest City include the Palms Country Club, considered one of the finest exclusive clubs in the country; and Crimson Hotel Alabang, a five-star luxury high-rise hotel with many dining options and entertainment facilities. Both offer holiday-themed programs and promos for vacationers to enjoy.

2. Imus, Cavite

Sitting at the boundary of Metro Manila and Cavite, this popular residential location is also an accessible Christmas getaway for those who want to experience the holidays in a laid-back and unique way. The city is renowned for its grand street lights and ornaments, with seemingly all roads leading to a lit-up Imus Cathedral for the traditional dawn mass (Misa de Gallo).

Alternative Christmas Getaways in the Philippines
Imus Cathedral. Photo via Shutterstock

Then there is also the annual Paskuhan Festival, a month-long activity where Imuseños come together as a way of celebrating the season. Every night, variety shows, magic, and comedy shows are staged in the city’s commercial plaza and there are also a variety of musical performances. Locals also perform their own version of Panunuluyan, or the journey of Mary and Joseph seeking a place to rest in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve.

Places to check out
Accompanying the shows and events of the city’s Paskuhan Festival are numerous Christmas bazaars and tiangges all over the city where one can find great deals and bargains on just about any type of gift. In between, vacationers can go to Imus’s different holiday food fairs to try different local delicacies and local versions of different Christmas dishes.

3. San Fernando, Pampanga

Oddly, San Fernando is not always the first place that comes to mind among Christmas getaways in the Philippines, even if it has some of the best celebrations in the country. San Fernando is the home of the Ligligan Parul, or Giant Lantern Festival, an annual event held during December that features a giant Christmas lantern competition. This event is so popular that it led to San Fernando being recognized as the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” Save for the years when the country was under Martial Law, the festival has been celebrated annually since 1931, with each year featuring bigger and bolder lantern designs. It really is a feast for the eyes.

Alternative Christmas Getaways in the Philippines
Ligligan Parul, San Fernando City. Photo via Shutterstock

Places to check out
A trip to San Fernando is not complete without a stop at Skyranch, an entertainment and leisure destination conveniently located beside SM City Pampanga. This outdoor amusement park features an array of rides, the highlight of which is “Pampanga Eye,” which is said to be the biggest and tallest Ferris wheel in the Philippines.

4. Cebu City, Cebu

Cebu City becomes a holiday attraction with its annual Pasko sa Sugbo. This begins on the first of December with a ceremonial lighting of the city’s giant Christmas tree located at the Fuente Osmeña Circle, followed by different events scheduled for the whole month, such as nightly cultural shows featuring local talent.

Alternative Christmas Getaways in the Philippines
Fuente Osmena Circle, Cebu City. Photo via Shutterstock

Then there is Kasadya sa SRP, an annual event hosted by South Road Properties. Kasadya begins in early December and lasts until mid-February, right around the start of the Sinulog Festival. It commonly features a carnival, food stalls, and a bazaar for dry goods. Different programs are held at weekends, and firecrackers are also sold during December in anticipation of the New Year.

Places to check out
Cebu is laden with a number of retail and lifestyle establishments, such as SM City Cebu, Parkmall, SM City Seaside, and Ayala Center Cebu. These establishments offer extended mall hours during the holidays, as well as a number of themed activities that vacationers can also enjoy while in town.

5. Batanes

The furthest one can get from mainland Luzon without actually leaving the country, Batanes is the ideal place to go if you want to experience an overseas vacation without actually going overseas. This island province—nearer to the southernmost point of Taiwan than to Metro Manila—features spectacular landscapes like the rolling hills of Vayang. Indeed, this province offers a sense of serenity that is unique, with a different feel to most destinations.

Alternative Christmas Getaways in the Philippines
Vayang Rolling Hills, Batanes. Photo via Shutterstock

Like most Catholic Filipinos, Ivatans—the locals of Batanes—begin Yuletide celebrations with the traditional Misa de Gallo. What makes it unique is that each of the province’s communities has one or two volunteers beating on drums in the very early morning to wake up residents and visitors so they can prepare to attend the dawn mass in majestic structures like the San Carlos Borromeo Church.

Places to check out
Something of an extended celebration can also be had in Batanes. From December 25 up until the first Sunday of the New Year, every village in the area holds public dances for residents and their visitors where participants share simple or homemade gifts like rice, milk, coffee, candies and biscuits.

6. Antipolo, Rizal

Situated some 25 kilometers east Metro Manila, Antipolo is another ideal respite for those who want to get away from the city but may not have the time or resources to venture too far. This first-class city has a number of attractions for vacationers to explore, including the Mount Purro Nature Reserve, Pinto Art Museum, and, of course, its famous church devoted to the Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.

Alternative Christmas Getaways in the Philippines
Hills of Antipolo City, Rizal. Photo via Shutterstock

What makes it an ideal holiday getaway, however, is the Casa Santa Museum at Jardin de Miramar. Open all year round, it houses an internationally recognized collection of Santa Claus items ranging from life-size singing Santas to Turkish-inspired bronze plaques of Santa Claus. The 3,700-plus-piece collection is considered to be the largest private collection of St. Nick memorabilia in the world. Apart from the collection of Santas, there is also a separate collection of miniature Christmas houses and villages. This is sure to get you in the spirit to be jolly!

Places to check out
The Jardin de Miramar compound is also the location of Isla Palma Resort, a nature-themed events facility made for thematic events, weddings, corporate parties, cocktails, or private celebrations.

7. New Washington, Aklan

New Washington is a municipality with a population of just under 50,000. While modest in size, it has a number of places where residents and visitors can enjoy the sun and the breeze. This includes the Jaime Cardinal L. Sin Park, the Rizal Park, and the Municipal Children’s Park at the town plaza; and Maria Mercedes Resort and Frogs Hollow Resort in Barangay Poblacion.

Alternative Christmas Getaways in the Philippines
Pink Sisters’ Convent, New Washington, Aklan. Photo by Nimfa

Also in Poblacion is Sampaguita Gardens Resort, a 2.6-hectare boutique resort with 48 guest rooms and suites, three restaurants, two swimming pools, and a host of other amenities. The resort is known to celebrate the holidays year round as it is the location of Jojo’s Christmas Cottage, a Victorian cottage showcasing Precious Moments collectables and the JCC Museum of Christmas.

Places to check out
For an extended holiday, visitors staying in New Washington can take a trip to nearby Kalibo, or go as far as crowded Boracay, for the Ati-Atihan Festival. The annual feast in honor of the Santo Niño or Infant Jesus culminates on the third Sunday of January, and consists of a parade of tribal dances, music, accompanied by indigenous costumes and weapons.

8. Las Piñas City

Although this city is still part of Metro Manila, Las Piñas offers a faraway charm that makes it a great holiday getaway. The city remains deeply rooted in tradition, with the Misa de Gallo its prominent holiday custom. The city’s Saint Joseph Church—with its famed Bamboo Organ—is the center of the festivities as morning mass tradition begins in mid-December. The church’s interior and exterior, adjoining convent, school, and entire church patio are decorated with hundreds of lit parols or Christmas lanterns. Activities on the patio include local tiendesitas (vendors) selling local kakanin (native delicacies).

Alternative Christmas Getaways in the Philippines
Versailles Palace, Las Pinas. Photo via Shutterstock

Places to check out
Las Piñas’ location makes it one of the choice places to live for many working in Metro Manila, or the ideal holiday getaway for shorter breaks. Those attending Misa de Gallo in Las Piñas can see landmarks like the Las Piñas Historical Corridor and Plaza Quezon, admire the Versailles Palace adjacent to Alabang, or sample the local kakanin, all of which would take just a day.

Alternative Christmas Getaways in the Philippines
Masskara Festival, Bacolod

9. Bacolod

Bacolod is the gateway to Negros Occidental and is famous for its Masskara Festival, which goes into full swing in October. But Christmas season in the City of Smiles can be a lot more fun for holiday travellers. There are a lot of things you can do here. You may, for instance, put a bit of history in the traditional Misa de Gallo o ‘Simbang Gabi’ by bringing your whole family to hear mass together at the 19th Century San Sebastian Cathedral. It is the most popular historical and religious landmark in Bacolod. It is also during this time of the year when parols of various colors, sizes, shapes and artistry dominate residential and commercial buildings in Bacolod City, making it recognizable as a parol hub in the Western Visayas. Some of the parols on display on plaza and major shopping malls are hand-made by prisoners from various jails in Negros Occidental.

Places to check out
Christmas in Bacolod is incomplete without strolling the Capital Lagoon to experience the Christmas Village. Take joy in looking at the belens and parols or have your photo taken with all the dazzling lights as your backdrop. Fireworks Display at the Bacolod City Government Center is also a highlight on select dates.

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