Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Home sweet Philippines

Finally, after 3 long years, we again went home to the Philippines. I can't believe how much I missed it! And being the holiday season, it made our visit all the more special and happy.

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 Wikimedia

Nothing speaks more of Christmas in the Philippines than these lovely parols. Although I am not sure if they are unique to our country, it sure is a dominant decor!

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)

Another Christmas "Staple" in our country are the dawn masses or Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo. This starts at the 16th of December all the way to the 24th. The actual mass, depending on where you are, can start as early as 3 am (Talk about sacrifice)!!! The thinking is, if you get to complete all 10 masses, whatever is is your praying for or wishing for,  will come true!

I went to mass 2x only, but boy, despite the endless Christmas parties around, the church is packed! It is such a wonderful feeling -  dawn being a little nippy back home,  and with all this people, fresh from their beds, trying to keep their eyes open during mass ( usually a funny site too). You just have to experience it to know what I'm talking about!

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
Ok, mass again?! "And in Baclaran?! With all that crowd?!" you say.

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

Nothing beats fresh food, cooked right there and then and eaten with a glob-full of yummy rice! Yup, there is nothing like your "very own", Filipino Food still tops on my list on the things I love about home.

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

My husband calls this "the most beautiful mall in the Philippines", and I gladly say "amen" to that. It is structurally well designed, right in the heart of bustling Makati City, with it's buildings, blending in to "nature" and the trees around, just beautiful! The right size too, not to big, not too small, just right. 

Aside from the mall itself it also boasts World-class shopping - any high-end brand you can think of, it's there, both imported (Hermes to Burberry) and local (Aranaz to Randy Ortiz), it is THERE. The restos are also amazing, so many to choose from, very reasonably prized with great ambience. We tried "Mesa" this time around, but I have tried the other excellent restos there before, as for you,  just figure it out as you go, I'm sure it will be enjoyable.

Another mall we frequented was at THE FORT or Bonifacio Global City. This mall is like 2 strip-malls right across each other, outdoors, and very nice. Lot's of restos again to choose from (went to "Texas Roadhouse Grill" with my friends & "Italliani's" with my family). The only downside to this mall is that, you can really only enjoy this AT NIGHT, because, with not a lot of trees, this place can get steaming hot, hot, hot during the day!

This behemoth of a mall, stands right in the middle of the reclamation area in Manila. We frequented this mall often because of it's closeness to my Dad and Mom's office. It is nice and BIG, for sure, but I really couldn't stand the HUGE CROWDS here. Just too much stimulation if you ask me. I do adore the Huge "KULTURA" store there!!! Awesome place  for finding Philippine souvenirs!
Another close-to-home mall, ATC or Alabang Town Center was a frequent hang-out for me and my friends way back when, and is still our favorite closest mall. It has a lot of open spaces and again, not too big to roam around in. Lots of amazing restos (we went to "Red Kimono" - best Japanese I had during this trip).

Ceiling pic

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!

Of course I cannot talk about shopping in the Philippines without getting and delving into the heart of all Filipinos real shopping right?

This is definitely the true go-to-place for Philippine handicrafts. Sure, you can go to "Tesoro's" or "Balikbayan Handicrafts" but, all of those stuff can be found here as well for a fraction of the price! 

I went here with my mom, and I was in "Handicraft heaven"! I love, love, love, it! I bought so much stuff, that we hardly could carry everything and had to go back to get the other stuff I bought! Ha! Talk about being atat (too eager)! LOL! You'll see in my upcoming posts on some of the stuff I brought from this place but for sure, come Christmas time, they will all shine. :)


Almost everything you can find at the mall, you can find it here, or probably originated from here. This place is literally a jungle! A jungle full of people, sidewalk vendors, jeepneys, etc! But again, if your ready to sweat and are willing to haggle for a good price, this is the place for you.

Again, I went here with my mom to buy stuff for Aidan's 7th birthday party (you'll get to see the stuff eventually too), and boy, the amount I spent really made me giddy all over!

6) Jollibee and McDo

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..
Yes, you read it right, longganisa is a type of sausage (I think spanish in origin) that we eat with rice (just like everything else, including spaghetti!) for breakfast, and yes, McDo has it in Pinas.

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....

Crispy Chicken
Yup, FRIED CHICKEN - With RICE!!!!! Super yum especially with gravy! Mwah! This became my kids "staple? while we were back home!

And last but not the least, my hubby's fave, and mine too..
The McSpaghetti!!!!! Only in the Philippines my friends... :)

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
Need I say more? After going to Evening mass at around 9 or 10 in the evening, the family waits for midnight and celebrate already! We welcome Christmas and New Year, together, our stomachs full and our hearts happy! :-)

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...

Residency Friends...

Med school friends...

Friends you grow up with...

College and Highschool friends...

My "Senior" buddies...

Our Wise buddies....

Criste Clan

Baricuatro Clan

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!!!!!!!


  1. Oh I just love the paper lanterns and it is such fun to see what the local McD's offers. :)

    Be blessed!

  2. Thanks Laura! I wish I could bring one paper lantern home, but I'm sure it will just be ruined by the time I get here! Mcdonalds all over the world is really interesting, I once went to China, and they had HOT ORANGE JUICE!

  3. The link you posted on a comment thread of another blog led me here. I love the way you capture the Filipino spirit in your pics and post. I'm in the Philippines but your blog made me nostalgic, haha!


Thank you for reading my blog! Hope you can stop by again sometime! Have a Wonderful Day!!