Christmas lights displays in Manila used to be lavish and extravagant. Unfortunately, the economic miseries of the Philippines have tainted away much of the grandeur of Christmas as I had experienced in my childhood. Light and décor displays used to be so grandiose and one shopping mall would almost always try to outdo the other. Fortunately for kids today, there still are some folks who certainly know how to add charm and a festive cheer to the holidays. Driving around the city, I was overjoyed at finding some substantial Christmas lights displays that will certainly bring the ‘wow’ factor back to the holidays.
Policarpio Street in Mandaluyong has of late emerged as a contender for a don’t-miss Christmas landmark. What started as a lights display among a handful of houses, this residential lane today attracts hundreds and hundreds of visitors every night during the holidays. Admirers and sightseers throng this quiet corner of the city which at night transforms into a lavish display of blazing lights and holiday cheer that would make you wish it were Christmas everyday! The houses usually try to outdo one another, and aside from the blinding sea of flashing lights, you’d see displays including murals depicting Nativity scenes complete with mechanically moving parts! Real live Santa Clauses and his helpers would be dancing on rooftops or parading through the street handing out goodies to the lucky ones. Christmas carols waft through the scene and the air is simply electrifying!
Another favorite pastime of many Christmas lights enthusiasts is to drive through Makati and its array of posh hotels and mall complexes. Each hotel traditionally puts up its own lavish Christmas display on its façade, and they are beautiful. The Ayala malls also offer lots of luxurious lights displays during the holidays, as well as extravagant fireworks shows on select days of the month, most notably during the New Year.
Roxas Blvd. and the Baywalk area by Manila Bay is another popular nightspot with beautiful lights displays. The backdrop of the serene bay and the Manila Yacht Club add to the charm of the place, which is very near the historic district of Manila. The place teems with life at night, and at Christmas, the lights displays are even more alive and enticing.
One of the lesser known displays for the holidays is along a short portion of Granada Street in Quezon City. For the rest of the year, there is nothing quite unique about this street, but nearing December, one will begin to notice the lantern or parol vendors start hanging up their holiday fare along the sides of the streets. The area has started to gain ground of late, and why wouldn’t it? By Christmas, the street magically transforms in to a swirling kaleidoscope of bright colors and flashing lights-a wonderland of beautiful parols in keeping with the Filipino Christmas tradition.
Another gem during the holidays is the Philippine Christmas Village, or the Paskuhan Village as it is called by the locals, which is located in San Jose, Fernando City which is in the outlying province of Pampanga, a mere 65 kilometers from Manila. The village operates all year round and features Philippines arts and handicrafts especially evident in the lanterns, or parols, traditionally made and hung in houses and window sills during Christmas. Christmas is one of the biggest celebrations in the country, and the Christmas village gives you a distinctly Filipino experience of the holidays. The village also features a Christmas Museum, Gardens of the World and a traditional Nativity Scene display.