Among the best memories I have of Christmas was the COD Christmas display show that used to be staged every year in front of their department store in Cubao. I remember excitedly looking forward to my cousins’ arrival from La Union because my mom always used to take us as one happy bunch.
On the street, in front of COD, we would squeeze ourselves in wherever we could to find a good spot to catch the show and watch in awe as colorful mannequins came to life, telling the story of Christmas amid lights and music.
Nowadays, it’s easy to forget those magical days of the past, especially when Christmas becomes a blur in the midst of shopping lists, family reunions and bumper-to-bumper traffic that comes with everyone scrambling in the holiday rush.
It can also be difficult to find the joy of the season when you’re busy staring at prices and bills.
But there is nothing like a child to bring back all that magic with just one finger pointing at a lit-up parol. And there’s no better time to understand the nature of God’s generous love than during this season of giving—not just gifts among friends, but among those who would truly need and appreciate it.
This season, wouldn’t it be nice if our kids could learn to cherish Christmas not just for the gifts, but for the magic of family bonding and memories that it brings, as well as the opportunities for giving and sharing?
Fortunately for us, we live in the Philippines, which I like to think is the Christmas capital. We have no snow, and Santa Claus looks nothing like the typical Filipino, but we do have more Christmas spirit than anyone I know! And because of this, you never have to look too far, or spend too much, when it comes to finding a way to bring cheer into your children’s lives. Christmas shouldn’t be measured by the money you spend on your kids, but by the time you spend with them.
The first stop on my list of Christmas cheer givers is the Ayala Triangle Park (bordered by Paseo de Roxas, Ayala and Makati Avenues). It’s a lovely park in the middle of Makati City that offers a Christmas lights and music show every hour beginning at 6 p.m. until 9 p.m., every day until Dec. 30.
My husband Miguel and I took the kids here last week, and it turned out to be such a relaxing evening for us as we sat on a bench and watched the show and stars come out. But the real lights to watch out for are those in the eyes of the kids.
The show lasts for about 15-20 minutes but if you’ve got time, you can stay in the park all night and watch the lights come on every hour and go home at about 9:30 p.m. In between light shows, you can grab a bite in one of the many restaurants all around or bring a picnic basket with you and have your meal right there in the park while watching the lights.
The kids won’t get bored, either, as there are so many children all around, and you know how easy it is for them to soon become best of friends while chasing after one of the friendly dogs on a walk with their equally friendly owners.
The next stop on our Christmas cheer list is the SM Mall of Asia. I didn’t know what to expect when my mom called and suggested we go to MOA last Saturday afternoon. But what a wonderful time we had! We arrived at the North Arcade at 5:30 p.m. sharp, just in time to find our spot along the line and catch the start of the Grand Festival of Lights Parade.
There were 11 creative floats in all that passed us one by one over a span of about 30 minutes, and each one was preceded by dancers in colorful, brightly-lit (Yes! Their costumes all had lights!) costumes.
While standing in line, we watched a marching band of dressed-up toy soldiers, unicyclists, mascots, Santa’s elves, Christmas trees and stars, snow men, and candy canes whirling merrily by to the tunes of the most popular hits of the season.
Adriana was particularly delighted when one of the dancing fairies stopped directly in front of her to give her a high five! But nothing could compare to Juanmi’s joy at the sight of a Lightning McQueen car float coming at him with none other than Thomas the Tank on his back! With all his pointing, grunting and shouting, you’d think he had won the lotto.
Each float had its own theme, which ranged from Santa Claus to snow queens, but my personal favorite was the Kultura-sponsored float (each float is sponsored) which had Higantes on it. That was totally awesome. I’m not sure of its connection to Christmas, but after seeing your nth Santa and reindeer, it’s a refreshing change to see something that is uniquely Filipino.
And Christmas or not, their Filipiniana-themed float was a charming sight to behold, as a horse pulled an elaborately decorated carriage with a beautiful dalagang Filipina, in full Maria Clara attire, waving demurely from within.
After the parade, we decided to walk over to the South arcade to catch the fireworks at 7 p.m. We parked ourselves in a nice spot on the second floor, directly in front of the Christmas tree, and to our surprise, at about 6:30 p.m., we found ourselves watching the parade all over again, but this time from a higher vantage.
The kids enjoyed watching it for a second time, though they preferred it up close. Soon, the lights all around were shut off or dimmed and the fireworks lit up the sky. While my preschooler enjoyed each sparkle and crackle, my poor toddler burst into tears at the first burst of light. Fortunately, it did not take much to soothe him and soon he was watching intently as well, though he did wrap himself tightly around me like a little koala.
Just when we thought the show was over and it was time to head home, the sweet voice of a chorale group was heard singing our favorite carols, which made us stay for another half hour. What a treat it was to be able to watch the carolers singing from the stage set up around the Christmas tree.
And speaking of Christmas trees, right beside the giant tree you’ll find a grand carousel and a mini train ride that happily choo-choos around the area. Warning: If your kids see this, you may find it difficult to drag them away without letting them go on at least one ride.
As my mom watched the fireworks, she and I had a good laugh as she recalled those days when she used to look for places to take me for entertainment. Now here we were, still looking for Christmas cheer but for a completely new little audience. The places and times may change, but one thing that never will is the joy of having the family together, enjoying the magic of Christmas.
This week, we are planning to find a few more places to bring the kids to in order to both get some cheer and give some cheer, as well. I’ll be sure to report those back to you guys, in case you’d like to visit them with your own family.
*If you want to catch the parade at MOA, it will run every Saturday at 5:30 p.m. except on the 24th.