Palarong Pambansa

These 7 places in PH shine bright and beautiful every Christmas

Rhea Claire Madarang
Staying in the city or looking to travel this Christmas? Take a look at these magical destinations that shine bright during the holidays in the Philippines

CHRISTMAS IN PH. Where will you be this holiday season? Photo courtesy of Naga Smiles to the World Facebook page

Christmas usually comes not only with celebrations, gifts, and reunions, but also colorful lights and decorations. There are some places in the Philippines, though, that beautifully transform during this season as though under a fairy godmother’s spell, and cast their magic not only among locals but also among travelers who want to see and experience more holiday cheer. 

Below are some places in the country that shine bright and beautiful during Christmas. 

Tangub City, Misamis Occidental

AROUND THE WORLD. For the fourth Christmas now, Tangub City has been exhibiting beautiful displays of landmarks from around the world. Photo by Lazaro Cuizon

Perhaps no other city shines as brightly and as magnificently for travelers as Tangub. During the holiday season usually until the first week of January, Tangub’s plaza is filled with colorful and glowing structures of famous landmarks around the world. Visitors even get a passport to stamp as they enter each represented country’s attraction.  

Riding around the city likewise gives a feel of world travel, as barangays’ welcome arches are also decorated as other countries’ famous landmarks. 

COLORFUL PLAZA. The around-the-world displays can mostly be found in the city’s plaza. Photo by Lazaro Cuizon

The city holds contests for Christmas lights and displays not just for structures with the around-the-world theme, but also for other categories, so the city dazzles visitors also with huge lanterns, well-lit houses and business establishments, and even a colorful public market. (IN PHOTOS: At Christmas, this PH city glows bright with stunning lights)

LANDMARK ARCHES. But these displays can also be found around the city, specifically in barangays’ welcome arches. Photo by Lazaro Cuizon

How to get there: From Manila, take a flight to Ozamiz in Misamis Occidental. Tangub City is around 30 minutes away by bus.

Pototan, Iloilo

IWAG’S BRIGHTNESS. The colorful fountain and Christmas installations shine bright in Pototan’s plaza. Photo courtesy of Discover Pototan Iloilo Facebook page

Around mid-December, Pototan, a municipality around 30 to 40 minutes away from Iloilo City, comes alive with its Iwag Festival, with “iwag” literally meaning “to light.” Aside from colorful street dances, a usual practice during festivals, Iwag Festival’s staple is Pototan’s well-lit plaza.

GIANT TREE. One of Iwag’s staple attractions is a giant Christmas tree. Photo courtesy of Discover Pototan Iloilo Facebook page

 

SHINING BUILDINGS. Around the plaza are buildings strung with lights, like the municipal hall. Photo courtesy of Discover Pototan Iloilo Facebook page

Larger than usual town plazas and even with an astrodome, Pototan’s plaza is decorated with a giant Christmas tree and other colorful Christmas installations. Structures in and around the plaza are strung with lights. The plaza’s fountain looks especially colorful and magical, with lights and colorful decorations. 

How to get there: Take a flight to Iloilo City. From the airport, ride a van to Jaro (or ride a van to SM, then a jeep to Jaro), then take a jeep to Tagbak Terminal. Ride a jeep to Pototan or a bus passing by Pototan. Total travel time from the airport is around 1 hour or more.

San Fernando, Pampanga 

GIANT LANTERN FESTIVAL. Barangays compete with their well-crafted colorful and detailed lanterns at this time of the year. Photo by RJ Abellera

As a home of master lantern makers and beautiful lanterns – locally known as “Parul Sampernandu” – that light up both national and international landmarks, San Fernando has become known as the country’s Christmas capital.

Each year it also holds the Giant Lantern Festival, where intricately designed lanterns of around 10 to 12 feet are displayed as part of a competition among barangays. Also part of the visual treat are the lanterns’ dancing lights and colors, synchronized with music. 

BEST LANTERN. This lantern won as the best in one of the previous years the festival was held. Photo by RJ Abellera

The competition is usually held on the Saturday before Christmas Eve, and usually at Robinsons Starmills. 

How to get there: Ride a bus to Olongapo, Iba, Sta. Cruz, or almost any northbound bus (just ask if the bus is passing by San Fernando) from Pasay, Cubao, or other terminals. You may have to take a jeep to the city proper if the bus will not be passing by there. Travel time is around one hour and a half or more.

Tarlac City, Tarlac

The AFP Belen at NOLCOM, San Miguel, Tarlac City  #Tarlac #belenismo #belenismosatarlac

A photo posted by Kathleen Elysse (@kathlysse) on


 

While its neighboring province showcases lanterns or parol, Tarlac displays unique versions of the belen (Nativity scene) during its Belenismo, which usually runs until first week of January.

Belens that go beyond the traditional look and are made from native materials like bamboo and palm leaves, and recycled materials like CDs and plastic bottles, light up the city’s major thoroughfares and government and private buildings. These unique belens, though, are found not just in the city but in Tarlac’s other municipalities.

#belenismo #belenismosatarlac

A photo posted by Elvin Ryan Plantilla (@elvinplantilla) on


 

How to get there: Ride a bus to Dagupan, Baguio, or any bus passing by Tarlac from Cubao, Pasay, or other terminals. Travel time is around three hours. 

Naga City, Camarines Sur

PLAZA LIGHTS. Christmas displays light up Naga’s plaza. Even its stage is decked in holiday decor. Photo by Xeres Ramon Gagero

All throughout December each year, Naga celebrates Christmas and its charter anniversary. The celebration is aptly called Kamundagan Festival, with “kamundagan” literally meaning birth, also alluding to the birth of Jesus, aside from the city’s anniversary. At this time the plaza and other areas of the city are aglow with Christmas lights and decorations. 

A colorful Christmas parade is held, and Christmas-themed performances like choir carols and the “Yule Dance” are held at the plaza. Each night there are different performances, Christmas-themed or otherwise, at the plaza.

LANTERN PARADE. A colorful Christmas parade like this kicks off Kamundagan’s festivities. Photo courtesy of Naga Smiles to the World Facebook page

How to get there: Take a flight to Naga, or a bus to Naga from Cubao, Pasay, or Alabang terminals. Travel time by bus is usually 9 hours.

Carmen, Davao del Norte

THREE KINGS. Here, particular elements of the belen like the Three Kings are depicted. Photo by Glen Santillan

A little over an hour away from Davao City is the municipality of Carmen, which shines bright during Christmas on its Kahayag Festival. “Kahayag” literally means bright. 

During the month-long Kahayag Festival on December, schools, local government units, and other organizations participate in competitions making Christmas symbols, particularly the belen and Christmas tree. The life-sized displays beautifully brighten up Carmen’s plaza. 

SANTA AND SNOWMEN. Other Christmas symbols are also depicted, like Santa and the snowmen. Photo by Glen Santillan

How to get there: Take a flight to Davao City. Ride a northbound bus going to Tagum, Butuan, Mati, or Surigao, and get off at Carmen Integrated Bus Terminal or in front of the municipal hall. Travel time from Davao City is around one hour and a half. 

Metro Manila

LIGHT SHOW. Ayala Triangle’s lights flash and dance in time to Christmas music. Photo by Rhea Claire Madarang

Yes, Metro Manila. Even amid traffic jams and the holiday rush, Metro Manila’s Christmas charm remains, with towering Christmas trees and amazing light displays and shows. Streets like Ayala Avenue have unique Christmas light installations every year. Government buildings like city halls and also private buildings are festooned – sometimes lavishly – with Christmas lights.

BUILDING LIGHTS. At Roxas Boulevard, buildings like Bangko Sentral become eye-catching during Christmas. Photo by Rhea Claire Madarang

 

Choreographed light shows like the Ayala Triangle’s Festival of Lights and events like the Lantern Parade in the University of the Philippines in Diliman are anticipated by city dwellers every year.

STREET LIGHTS. This year, Ayala Avenue’s Christmas light installations are inspired by the country’s old, historical churches. Photo by Rhea Claire Madarang

There is much to see in Metro Manila if one would brave the holiday traffic jams.

Where will you be this Christmas? Share your stories with us in the comments below. – Rappler.com

Claire Madarang is a writer, traveler and seeker. Her wanderlust takes her on adventures like backpacking for 7 weeks straight. Her seeking leads her to different wellness practices like meditation and healthy (mostly vegetarian) eating. Follow her adventures, tips and epiphanies at her blog, Traveling Light.