This year, young people were seen toying with hoverboards, Virtual Reality accessories, drones, and new installments of iOS and Android phones.
If those gadgets weren’t enough to make the kids happy, surely there must be other new things that would interest them this Yuletide season.
Consider these holiday destinations to feel the spirit of Christmas.
The importance of religion to Filipinos has always been the message of the Nativity scene, or the belen, in the Philippines. It is perhaps the most prominent symbol of Christmas found in countless homes—Mary and Joseph watching over the newborn Jesus in a manger.
In Tarlac, said to be the country’s belen capital, town halls, churches, and business establishments display their respective versions of the Nativity scene to promote the city’s annual competition, the Belenismo sa Tarlac.
The event, now on its ninth year, inspires Tarlaqueños to showcase their creativity and resourcefulness on the art of making belen using indigenous and recyclable materials.
The belen are displayed from the first week of November till early January—enough time to explore and appreciate all 27 entries.
This year, the Tarlac Heritage Foundation invited President Duterte to help judge the entries.
Giant Lantern Festival
Just an hour’s drive from Tarlac is San Fernando, Pampanga, dubbed the Christmas Capital of the Philippines. On Dec. 17, the town vowed to celebrate “the biggest, brightest and most colorful Christmas event in the Philippines.”
That night, a huge crowd gathered to watch San Fernando’s annual Giant Lantern Festival highlighting another popular Christmas symbol—the parol or the star which guided the three wise men to the child Jesus.
At the festival grounds, 10 lanterns measuring 16 feet were lit. Containing 5,000 to 7,000 bulbs each, the giant lanterns had lights blinking in sync with choreographed music.
The audience, composed of foreigners and locals, responded with loud applause.
The lanterns would be displayed until Jan. 1.
Ties that bind
What makes Christmas in the Philippines meaningful is that Filipinos have not discarded the symbols and observed the traditions of the season.
The ties that bind the typical Filipino family remain strong as ever, especially during Christmas. Rich or poor, Pinoys will celebrate the season with gladness in their hearts, many still getting up in the wee hours to attend Simbang Gabi. Rich or poor, they will have food on the table come noche buena. Rich or poor, they will all wish for a happier, if not better, New Year in the age of “Oplan Tokhang.”
As the song goes, “tuloy na tuloy pa rin ang Pasko.”