(SPOT.ph) Christmas in the Philippines is like no other. It's a time for family gatherings, reunions with old friends, and the much-awaited (or inevitable, depending on how you look at it) visit of loved ones who have, for some reason or another, settled in a different country. Ultimately, we want our guests to have a good time and show them the beauty of the Philippines. While most of the time that means bringing them to the islands or the provinces, it is worth noting that there are places right in the good ol' Metro you can check out too. December typically means hectic schedules, so if sneaking in an out-of-town trip isn’t possible, don't fret. We've compiled a list of 10 places in and around the capital you could bring your balikbayan loved ones to.
Check out these 10 places you could bring your balikbayan loved ones to remind them why the Metro is great:
Manila Ocean Park
As Manila's main marine theme park, Manila Ocean Park is a top-of-mind destination, especially if there are kids in the group. Let them ogle at all the fishes and be amazed by the over 14,000 marine species in the park's massive oceanarium. Aside from strolling along air-conditioned halls gazing at the park's aquariums, there are also a bunch of shows, experiences, and other attractions that kids and kids-at-heart can take part in.
For more information, visit Manila Ocean Park's Facebook page.
Ah yes, good ol' Luneta. Bring your elders back to what was likely their old hangout to check out how much change time has brought. This massive 58-hectare urban park is regarded as one of the largest in the country, so there are tons of sub-areas in Rizal Park to check out. From themed gardens to historical sites to simple open spaces where you can have a picnic, Luneta is a must-visit, especially on a nice sunny day.
If there's one site you must visit within the walls of Intramuros, make it Fort Santiago. This historical fortress has seen the horrors of war, and while you can’t tell that with the way it looks now, it always pays to learn about its history. Fort Santiago houses many dungeons and is a great place for a history lesson. Plus, it is also home to lush gardens and verdant landscapes, which make it a great place for an afternoon stroll or a place to take lots of pictures for the 'Gram.
For more information, visit the Intramuros Administration's Facebook page.
Amaze your guests with the world's largest multicolor dancing fountain at Okada. After a two-year hiatus during the pandemic, the evening water shows have resumed this year. Catch it daily on this schedule: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., from Monday to Thursday, and from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m., from Friday to Sunday. After watching the magnificent water and lights show, share a meal at the many food establishments in Okada or if you're feeling lucky, have a try at the casino.
For more information, visit Okada Manila's website.
Lakbay Museo x Food Wanderer
Give your guests an aesthetic crash course in Philippine food and festivals by bringing them to the IG playground that is Lakbay Museo x Food Wanderer. For just P799 (P699 if you buy tickets online), explore the massive 3,000-square-meter space that features food art installations of the different regional dishes in the Philippines. There are also exhibits of various famous destinations in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, native fabrics, a collection of grains and beans, a playground with Filipino street games, and other experiences unique to the country.
For more information, visit Food Wanderer x Lakbay Museo's Facebook page.
Are your guests looking to party? Well, there's no other place to bring them than to the hip party scene of Makati’s Poblacion district. There are lots of bars, clubs, and restaurants open 'til the wee hours of the night. You won't run out of spots to get into, no matter how much of a party animal your group is. Hit up Poblacion for a good time with tons of good food, drinks, and music.
Bonifacio High Street
If you've got a group that can’t decide on what to do, a safe bet would be to bring them to Bonifacio High Street. There are tons of things to see and do in this retail playground, so you're bound to find something that'll tickle their fancy. BHS is home to great restaurants, shopping outlets, and some killer installations. Plus, the surrounding area of BGC is a great place to stroll around in and marvel at various art murals, sculptures, and even some buskers for streetside entertainment. It doesn't hurt that BGC is a relatively pedestrian-friendly zone where you can walk leisurely, chill, and just people-watch.
For more information, visit Bonifacio High Street's Facebook page.
National Museum of Natural History
As one of the relatively newer museums in the country, the National Museum of Natural History is a safe bet for museum-loving guests. Get to learn about the rich flora and fauna of the Philippines through this spot's 12 permanent galleries. The museum features creatively curated displays of botanical, zoological, and geological specimens that represent the Philippines' unique natural history. Don't forget to marvel and take some snaps of the massive "Tree of Life" structure situated at the center of the museum that represents how all the ecosystems in the country are connected.
For more information, visit National Museum of Natural History's website.
Got an entire day to spend out and about? Take a day trip to the historic island of Corregidor, once a main battleground during WWII. A day trip to the island is enough for you to see the many battle-worn sites, museums, lush gardens, and monuments the fortress has to offer. If a day trip seems too tiresome, there's also the option of staying overnight. But be warned, if you do stay the night, be on the lookout for the many specters and ghosts said to roam the storied island after dark.
For more information, visit Corregidor Island's website.
Greenhills Shopping Center
If there’s one thing we’re sure your balikbayan visitors will want to do, it’s to shop for gifts to take back to their new homes. Take them on a shopping trip and introduce them, or reintroduce them, to the Filipino tiangge or street market experience at Greenhills Shopping Center. Greenhills is a treasure trove of deals and steals, so they’re bound to find something unique and memorable in this complex. Pro tip: Make sure to remind your guests to haggle, as that's the best part about shopping in tiangges.
For more information, visit Greenhills Mall's Facebook page.