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28 December 2011

Christmas in Philippines

AirAsia Social Media team

By AirAsia Social Media team

I’ve never thought that I would ever have the chance to travel to the Philippines until I received an email from my manager, assigning me to follow a trip sponsored by AirAsia and Department of Tourism of Philippines, to visit Clark and Manila. This time, we are going to experience the Christmas joy in the Philippines!

Christmas is the most important festival to Philippines. No any other country in Asia celebrates Christmas longer than Filipinos do. Philippines has earned the title of World’s Longest Christmas celebration. Christmas carols can be heard everywhere in Philippines as early as September up to January the next year. Christmas decoration is up at tourist attraction spots, shopping malls, business buildings and even in the housing areas. One of the most popular Christmas decoration in Philippines is Parol a.k.a. Christmas lantern. Parol is one of the most iconic and beloved symbols of Christmas.

Clockwise from top-left: (a)-(d) Christmas decorations can be seen everywhere in Clark and Manila (e) Handmade Parol by recycled cans

Another thing to experience in Philippines is the shopping! Do you know that Manila hosts the biggest shopping mall in Asia? It is the Mall of Asia! Mall of Asia is also the 3rd largest shopping mall in the world! How amazing! There are hundreds of boutiques, outlet, stalls, safe and restaurant in Mall of Asia. And of course, the biggest chain hypermarket in Philippines, SM Mall, can be also found in Mall Of Asia. You basically can find and get anything you want in Mall of Asia.

Of course, there are lot more things to be discovered in Philippines! And this time, we are going to discover Clark and Manila!

Clockwise from top-left: (a) Fort Stotsenburg (b) Tree-layered walking path surrounding the parade field (c)-(d) Statues at Fort Stotsenburg

We started our tour in Clark with Fort Stotsenburg Parade Grounds. Fort Stotsenburg Parade Grounds was home to the 1st Philippine Artillery Regiment. It was a relaxing and leisure walk on the lush green and tree-layered Fort Stotsenburg. We then proceeded to Clark Museum located just a few minutes’ walk from Fort Stotsenburg Parade Grounds. Clark Museum is the best place to understand Clark’s rich heritage from the Aetas indigenous people beginnings, with heavy-focus on its military past as United States Air Force base to its current status as a Freeport Zone to business and also leisure.

After a day tour in Clark, we headed straight to Manila to continue our trip in the Philippines! It only took us 2 hours from Clark to Manila.

Clockwise from top-left: (a) Cannon in front of Clark Museum (b) Clark Museum (c)-(d) Artifacts in Clark Museum

Our first stop in Manila is Corregidor Island. Corregidor Island is a small rocky island in the Philippines about 48 kilometers west of Manila which is strategically located at the entrance of Manila Bay. This island fortress stands as a memorial for the courage, valor, and heroism of its Filipino and American defenders who bravely held their ground against the overwhelming number of invading Japanese forces during World War II, December 1941.

It was a half day tour in Corregidor Island. We were toured around in the island on a bus to all the attractions on the island. We visited Battery Hearn, Pacific War Memorial, Spanish Lighthouse, Mile Long Barracks and also Malinta Tunnel. Even though most of the buildings were destroyed during the war, but I still enjoy the beauty of the architecture, with the clear and wonderful weather that we had that day. We ended with a light and sound shows in Malinta Tunnel. Malinta Tunnel used to be a bomb-proof headquarters for the embattled Filipino and Americans defenders of Corregidor during World War II. Now, it serves as the station to simulate the real situations happen in Corregidor Island during the war with the astonishing light and sound effects.

Clockwise from top-left: (a) Mile Long Barracks (b) An hour ferry ride from Manila to Corregidor Island (c) Cannon at Battery Hearn (d) Malinta Tunnel

Philippines is also a beautiful country full of different cultures from different regions. Every region has their own culture and way of living. Zamboaga is the best place to unwind your busy day with local seafood cuisine with Philippines’ cultural performances, featuring the local dance from different regions. And yes, Filipinos love to sing and dance…and very well too! Our dinner was extra enjoyable with their performances.

Clockwise from top-left: (a) Performance at Zamboaga (b) Seafood for dinner (c) Zamboanga at Macario Adriatico St. Malate

Whenever I go to a new place, I always like to experience the life as a local. No other place like Villa Escuredo allowed me to gel into Filipino’s lifestyle and culture. Villa Escuredo is sitted in San Pablo city, 2 hours journey from Metro Manila. Villa Escuredo is actually a sugar cane and coconut plantation site, which was then opened to the public in 1981 as a tourist attraction, offering glimpses of plantation life to tourists. There’s a museum in Villa Escuredo where all the collections of the founder, Escuredo and his family from their local and oversea travels are kept here. It was an eye opening visit to the museum where you can find a lot of historic, religious and cultural artifacts.

After the visit at Villa Escuredo Museum, we took a caribou cart ride to a very special and unique place in Villa Escuredo to have our lunch. Villa Escuredo has the very first hydroelectric plan in Philippines – Labasin Dam and yes, we were going to have our lunch at the Labasin Waterfall which the water comes from Labasin Dam. We were so surprised that our dining area us actually faces the waterfall, in the spillway of the dam! What a great experience! Very authentic Philippine cuisine is served for the lunch. We wrapped up our lunch with their specialty dessert – fried banana coasted with caramel. It was a wonderful lunch – the best lunch that I’ve ever had so far.

Clockwise from top-left: (a) Caribou ride around Villa Escuredo (b) Villa Escuredo Museum (c) Lunch at Labasin Waterfall (d) Dessert – friend banana coated with caramel

If you ask me, do I like the Philippines? I don’t like… I LOVE Philippines! There is so much to see and do in the Philippines! You can find that the Philippines is a unique and beautiful country which is rich with different cultures when you travel from one region to another region. I wished that I had more time in the Philippines to travel around to discover more of the beauty of the Philippines.