There are a lot of things I missed about the Philippines. But here, I have summarized the things I love about our beloved country especially during Christmas holiday.
1) Parol (Lanterns)
From houses to street lights, everyone's got them. Made from Japanese paper to Capiz shells, to all sort of any other material you can think of, these stars are the TRUE STARS of Christmas.
From the airport, you see all these pop-up vendors lined-up with these beautiful lanterns. In fact, I love them so much, I bought 6!!!!!
2) Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo
|Filipinos attend Mass outside St. Joseph Church in Las Pinas City of Manila's metropolitan region Dec. 16. It was the first in a series of daily midnight Masses celebrated prior to Christmas in the Philippines. (CNS photo/Roi Azure, Reuters)|
|Bibingka at Puto-Bumbong!|
This is another reason why you go to Simbang Gabi - THE FOOD!!!!!
Yup, vendors pop up like Kabute (mushrooms) all around and during the mass, the whiff of these delicacies perk you up in a good way!
Bibingka ( made up of rice flour and coconut milk) and Puto Bumbong (Traditionally made from a special variety of heirloom sticky or glutinous rice called Pirurutong which has a distinctly purple color, soaked in salted water and dried overnight and then poured into bumbong or bamboo tubes and then steamed until done or steam rises out of the bamboo tubes. It is served topped with butter or margarine and shredded coconut mixed with sugar- Wikepedia) are synonymous to Simbang gabi, and with these two made fresh, hot and oh-so-yummy, it is really something to look forward to after you get your blessing from mass.
3) Mass in Baclaran Church
Yup, mass again - that is because, as a catholic who's been to hundreds of masses in her lifetime, I have never ever had the feeling I get when I go to mass in Baclaran. Why again you say?
Well, take a look at the picture - hundreds to thousands go to mass on Wednesdays at this church to offer their petitions and prayers to Our Lady of Perpetual Help ALL THE TIME.
Whenever I go to mass here, I always get that feeling that all is not hopeless in the world, that people brave the crowd just because they see HOPE in PRAYING and that they BELIEVE that GOD WILL HELP THEM. It is such a wonderful feeling and my heart just swells with happiness knowing that God is happy seeing all these people at the same time, praying to Him. Some people even "walk" kneeling down all the way to the altar as a sacrifice!
After mass, my mom and I usually have breakfast at Mcdo (McDonald's - more on that later), then do a little shopping, since Baclaran is known for a lot of cheap goods!
4) The Food
We went the usual rounds to our faves like "Hap Chan" and to new restos like "Mang Inasal" -super popular nowadays, around the city.
From to "Mesa", "The Red Crab" to "Dampa", everything was D-elicious!!!!! We especially love "Dampa" right along Macapagal Blvd. because of the fresh seafood! This section is making me hungry again... Better move on to the next :)
5) The Malls
Aaaahhh! Shopping - again, is one of the best things to do around the Philippines. Other than cheaper prices (most of the time), everything you want is readily available and buy-able at the terrific malls.
Case in point, such as this magnificent mall below...
|Shopping Mecca for the Brand-lover|
|Inside the Resort's world Atrium|
The latest craze in Manila at the moment. The newly opened hotel, casino, mall RESORTS WORLD. I think this is from the same group who brought us the Resorts world in Singapore, although this one, is definitely a lot smaller. The mall is tiny, holds only high-end brands like Rolex, Cartier, etc. Hey, what do you expect? The main attraction here is the Casino! Oh, I almost forgot, the latest craze for the "IN CROWD" is the disco-bar called "Republiq". They also boast of a great cinema comeplete with recliner seats and all for a measly P1,400 each!
Jollibee is the Philippine equivalent of Mcdonald's in the U.S. It is a fast-food restaurant with the most number of branches in the Philippines. It is almost synonymous to being Filipino if you love this place (like we do).
YUMMY Chicken Joy and Palabok!!!!!!
McDo = McDonald's in the Philippines. We Filipinos like giving nicknames to not only our kids but also to our restaurants including this also much loved fast-food chain.
But what makes McDo unique? Check this out..
This is what my mom and I eat after we hear mass in Baclaran, it's sort of our tradition in someways. I really love this especially dipped in suka (vinegar)!!!!! Yum!
What it looks like inside - not too enticing to look at, but trust me, it's pretty good!
Another thing that McDo has that McDonalds doesn't have is this....
7) Paputok (The firecracker)
Although I am pretty sure when it comes to fireworks, other countries fare far better in terms of the BANG, BOOM and artistry, what makes the Philippine fire crackers unique is that it can definitely compare with or even beat imported fire crackers when it comes to the LOUDNESS!
Yup, our fireworks are simple, they explode with one of the loudest explosion from the smallest of fire crackers. From the simple "5 Star" to the new "Goodbye Philippines" (creative names huh?!), these little dynamites are anything But quiet (and very dangerous too!)!
The Filipino thinking is that, the loud noise wards off evil spirits and bad luck, hence, the louder the firecracker, the better. And can you imagine thousands of households lighting up these noisemakers almost all at the same time? Along with all the cars honking and children blowing their horns?!!! Chaotically FUN!!!!!! This is what makes New Year in the Philippines pretty unique, festive and colorful (Did I mention dangerous?!).
Trumpet Vendors all around
|Nio watches on|
8) Noche Buena and Media Noche
|Noche Buena with Family|
|Opening gifts on Christmas Eve|
|Proud of his stash|
|New Years Eve|
9) Mother Nature
|Taal Volcano Crater - The smallest active Volcano in the world|
|One of the Craters of Taal|
|Lakeside in Batangas|
|Talisay, Batangas overlooking Taal Volcano|
Another reason to go home is to enjoy mother nature. This is the no. 1 reason actually for tourists to come. We have excellent beaches and resorts and all sorts of natural parks and sites that will satisfy your hearts content. On this trip though, we only went to Batangas, Tagaytay and Mindoro. But hopefully next time I'd like to go to the place pictured above, in El Nido, Palawan.
10) Home - Our Friends and Family
The most important reason for us really....
|Hubby's HS Batch mates...|
|Med school friends...|
|Friends you grow up with...|
|College and Highschool friends...|
|My "Senior" buddies...|
|Our Wise buddies....|
Overall, these people were the main reasons why we wanted to go home. To be able to celebrate one of the most important holidays for us with the people we love is PRICELESS.
And with that, FOR SURE, we will keep on going back... coming back... Home.
Hope you all had a great Holiday season!!!!!!!