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LIST: Instagram-worthy Christmas destinations, events amid pandemic

Kata Dayanghirang (Philstar.com) – December 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Many of us have been confined in our homes for such a long time and the lack of outdoor amusements left us wondering how Christmas can be celebrated like before.

After all, we, Filipinos, have the longest Christmas season in the world, starting from September until the Three Kings celebration in January. 

With Metro Manila under general community quarantine until December 31, measures are relatively more lenient, more shops are open, and the curfew has been shortened. This is good news for many who may want to buy some Christmas gifts or take a break from being stuck at home from time to time. 

As expected, there are quite a lot of Christmas activities that you and your family can enjoy, either at home or outside. For those who are going outside, wear your mask, put on your face shield, frequently wash your hands or spritz on 70 % alcohol and practice physical distancing.

Christmas is fast approaching and yet, the realities of celebrating the holidays with a pandemic can be difficult for most Filipino families today. Despite this, the desire to enjoy our usual holiday activities and observe cherished local traditions remain strong in many of us. After all, the true spirit of Christmas is about hope, joy and the eternal anticipation of good tidings. 

Uplifting the lives of Filipinos and rekindling Christmas cheer in everyone’s hearts underscore this year’s Wonderful World of Globe (WWG).  

“Our aim is to recreate the Christmas we all love. We take to heart our role in renewing the spirit of connectedness within the Filipino family especially at a time when most of us stay within the confines of our homes. It is also a great opportunity for each of us to do more for others and continue spreading cheer to everyone we can reach,” said Ernest Cu, Globe President and Chief Executive Officer.

Through a new partnership with HBO GO, Globe offers a raft of award-winning entertainment to the digital Filipino. With HBO GO, Globe customers can watch thousands of hours of shows and movies any time anywhere using their connected device. Filipinos can stream or download HBO Originals, HBO Asia Originals, Korean and Chinese dramas, Hollywood blockbusters, hundreds of hours of kids and family content and more, including Sam Mendes’ war film “1917,” “Spider-Man: Far From Home” starring Tom Holland, Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” trilogy and Cartoon Network’s “We Bare Bears: The Movie.”

Globe also joined hands with Kumu, a Pinoy-centered live streaming platform, which is home of local and global user-generated Pinoy lifestyle content, and digital content partners like “GKNB (Game Ka Na Ba?),” a gamified FYE (For Your Entertainment) focused on celebrity streams, talk shows, variety content and MYXPH for music. Kumu will also be adding game streaming channels into their mix as part of their offerings on the platform. 

In the past, many Filipino families would look forward to the well-loved tradition on Christmas Day of watching the annual Metro Manila Film Festival which showcases local filmmakers and artists.  This year, Globe and GMovies has partnered with the MMFF and UPSTREAM to recreate the MMFF tradition and bring this year’s nominated films online to Filipino homes around the nation and all over the world. 

Globe also supports a roster of amazing local music artists and local greats with tremendous fan bases like December Avenue, Ben&Ben, SB19, The Juans and Donnalyn Bartolome.
Spend Christmas with SB19, The Juans and so much more surprises. To help keep the holiday spirit and bring families and friends together, TM is spreading good vibes during this season with its FunPasko celebration featuring virtual holiday events, activities, and its catchy jingle. Performed by SB19, The Juans and Donnalyn Bartolome, it showcases the unique ways Pinoys can celebrate this year’s Christmas together even when apart. 

Win prizes such as 5G phones, laptops, noche buena packages, and P50,000 cash when you join the TM FunPasko Monito Monita Raffle. To join, just text TMFUNPASKO to 8080.
With the FunPasko Grand Pakain, TM subscribers can win free Christmas baskets and Chooks-To-Go Chicken until December 11 and P30 off on Chooks-To-Go Oven Roasted Chicken from December 16 to 20. 

Also leveling up the caroling experience are TM Ambassadors: SB19, The Juans, Silent Sanctuary and Matthaios who are set to delightful their fans for a Christmas concert on December 15 via the TM Tambayan Facebook page.

As quick, easy and flexible internet access became the new essential, this year’s WWG is the perfect time to launch the revolutionary product offer of Globe. Surf4ALL is a first-of-its-kind, fully convergent data offer that knows no boundaries across Globe brands. This promo gives you high GBs for all sites and a shareable GB allocation that is seamlessly accessible to up to 4 users or devices. Now, you can share data with Globe Prepaid, Globe Postpaid, Globe Platinum, Globe At Home Prepaid WiFi, and even TM. 

Available through the GlobeOne app, Surf4ALL has 2 promos – Surf4ALL99, which gives you 9GB of shareable data, and Surf4ALL249, with 20GB shared access (15GB + 5GB limited-time bonus data). Both offers are valid for seven days.  It’s the only data product of its kind in the Philippines today to ensure no one is left behind when it comes to connectivity.  This is the true universal data offer for all Globe customers which makes it possible to be constantly connected regardless of brand, device and location.

“We are looking forward to these exciting events that Globe has lined up for year-end and for 2021. Our commitment to our customers remains as we usher in a digital Philippines in the near future. Thank you for the support and for being with us in this journey.” said Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Chairman of Globe. 

Anyone who have been to the Ayala Triangle Gardens and have seen the stretch of Ayala Avenue in Makati City knows that it is one of the most anticipated Christmas destinations in the Philippines. Every year, the main thoroughfare of the the financial district is bedecked with lights and decors while the Ayala Triangle Gardens holds a thematic lights and sounds shows. These have become many Pinoy’s favorite Christmas photo memento.

This year, however, the show continues but you don’t have to go out of your house. With just a click of your button and by visiting its Facebook page, you may watch the 2020 Festival of Lights and Sounds. 

The show was conceptualized in collaboration with Globe Studios. Production was led by filmmaker and director Quark Henares. Together with his team, he recreated the Christmas light show at Ayala Triangle Gardens and turned it into a 360-degree animated video which features an orchestration of laser lights, string lights, meteor lights, holograms, and helix lights dancing to Reese Lansangan’s rendition of traditional songs like “Oh Holy Night” and “Jingle Bells.” 

“The annual lights and sound show has been a family favorite for years. It’s one of the most-awaited Christmas events that brings happiness to people,” shared Mel Ignacio, Head of Makati Estate, Ayala Land. 

“For this reason, Ayala Land and Make It Makati decided to continue the annual tradition by bringing the show through digital channels. We want the event to spark hope among Filipinos—hope that will help them remember that brighter days lie ahead for all of us.”

Apart from the 360-degree video, various light show-themed Instagram filters will also be available. The Finders Keepers contest, which will happen every week in December, may win you a prize by simply spotting a hidden element in the virtual light show.

Mall chain giant SM recently unveiled its Christmas setups in its malls such as SM Mall of Asia. 

In an interview with Philstar.com, SM said the Christmas decorations aim to lighten up the mood of celebrating the holidays in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have dedicated the holidays to help small to medium businesses bounce back via bazaars and pop-up stores.

Araneta City’s life-size belen, decor bazaar  

It has been up since 1991, and this year, it still is up along Gen. Mac Arthur Avenue in Cubao, Quezon City. The belen or nativity scene resonates with us as it depicts a picture of a family, the family of Joseph, Mary and the little baby Jesus. Belens are often centerpieces in a Filipino home come Christmas time, aside from the Christmas tree. 

Araneta City’s life-size belen was lit up via a virtual lighting show on November 27. Passersby and shoppers will be able to see it until the end of the year. 

The belen lighting also opened with the Christmas bazaars at the Gateway Mall, Ali Mall, and Farmers Plaza.

Other activities include the Parolan Christmas bazaar, which offers quality and affordable Christmas decors until December 31; the giant Christmas tree at the Times Square Food Park and other Christmas trees inside the Araneta City malls; and the ongoing Joyful Treats at the City of Firsts promo where diners and shoppers have a chance to win cool Christmas prizes.

Of course, Santa Claus will be in town for a meet-and-greet. Shoppers can also expect colorful fireworks display and virtual choral performances throughout the month. 

Christmas tunnel light show in Ortigas

If you live near Ortigas, you’re quite lucky as Ortigas Land lit its Ortigas East Christmas Street Music Light Tunnel. This year’s stars are dedicated to the front liners who continue to serve the country amid the pandemic. 

The Ortigas East Christmas Street Musical Light Tunnel features bright and colorful stars with their lights backed up with familiar Christmas jingles. Spread along Central Avenue near Tiendesitas at Ortigas East, it continues to light up the area until January 3, from 6 to 11 p.m.

For those who want to take their selfies or groufies, there are marked stations that provide great vantage points for your picture-perfect snapshots. For those who would prefer to stay at home, you can listen to its recording through Ortigas East’s Facebook page.

Jive to the hits of Hotdog, take a virtual tour of iconic Manila

We all love singing, even if we can’t barely carry a tune. One of the foremost promoters of the Manila Sound, the legendary band Hotdog is featured in an online concert on December 13. 

The Manila Heritage Trail and Manila Heritage Alliance, the associations of Manila’s tourism and cultural agencies, are setting the stage for “Hinahanap-Hanap Kita Manila”. It will take you on a virtual tour of Manila’s cultural heritage sites featuring the music of the iconic band, formed in 1972 and composed of Rene Garcia, Dennis Garcia, Ella del Rosario, Lorrie Illustre, Ramon Torralba, Jess Garcia, and Roy Diaz de Rivera. 

Excited to see famous landmarks such as the Manila City Hall, Luneta, Paco Park, Intramuros, Museo Pambata, National Planetarium and Jones Bridge with the distinct, upbeat sounds of “Annie Batungbakal”, “Bongga ka Day”, “Beh Buti Nga”, “Ikaw ang Miss Universe”, “Oh Lumapit Ka” and, of courese, “Manila”? Then this broadcasted online concert is for you and your sing-along loving family. 

The concert will be headlined by Bras Pas Pas Pas with Raymund Marasigan, Ebe Dancel, Armi Millare, Yeng Constantino, Blaster Silonga, Nicole Laurel Asensio, Bing Austria, Bea Lorenzo, Rubber Inc. and Gary Valenciano. Boyet Sison will host the event with Department of Tourism Sec. Berna Puyat and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno as special guests. 

The concert’s various legs were directed by Juno Oebanda, RA Rivera, Paolo Valenciano, Jason Tan, Alco Guerrero and Quark Henares. The concert is produced by Oebanda, Dindin Araneta and Jezreel Apelar with Department of Tourism Culture & Arts of Manila Chief Charlie Duñgo and National Parks Development Committee Executive Director Cecille Romero at the helm.

The online concert is set to continue the tradition of “Concert at the Park” and “Paco Park Presents,” which have been a long-running endeavor of the National Parks and Development Committee. 

Christmas in BGC 

Sparkling lights, gastronomic experiences, a world of shopping choices, and Christmas events have carved a place for Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Filipino culture. Its streets are now adorned with colorful light decors but its the stores and establishments that are quite the draw, especially with a slew of promos for the shopaholics. 

Be one of 10 winners of P10,000 worth of gift certificates from popular sports brands. A shopper gets a coupon for the raffle draw to be announced on January 4, 3 p.m., through Bonifacio High Street’s official Facebook page. 

People who prefer to stay at home can still join the fun through Bonifacio High Street’s Live Holiday Shopping, which will be aired on the Facebook pages of BHS. Get a chance to receive a Christmas feast from BHS food merchants by posting photos of them in BHS talking about the reasons why they choose to celebrate their milestones and why they keep on coming back to Bonifacio High Street.

For the first week of December, BHS goers will get a chance to spot Santa live as he rides an e-scooter in his very own PMD lane, falls in line for coffee, eats al fresco, or gives away gifts at the BHS amphitheater.

Picture-worthy installation and more at Capitol Commons

Residents of Pasig are lucky to live near an estate that has an “Instagrammable” installation along its pedestrian-friendly park. 

Following the yearly tradition of picture-worthy installations, this year’s “Lights at the Park” features customized frames with geometrical patterns inspired by two Filipino themes: the parol — the classic Filipino Christmas lanterns — and the idea of kapit-bisig — the spirit of Filipino solidarity where people come together. The installations consist of a light and shadow play of people holding hands, and the Filipino Christmas lantern design. 

Zenas Events and Floral Stylist, the supplier behind the installation, describes the design to exude ethnic patterns from the Ilocos woven fabric—the Inabel—and from the Mindanao and the T-Boli tribe. The stars, inspired by the Christmas parols which are commonly attributed to Pampanga, also highlight hope for a brighter future for the country.  

The Lights at the Park installation will continue to shine until January 17, from 6 to 11 p.m.

Holidays in Palawan

The Department of Tourism supports Coron, Palawan’s decision to ease its travel restrictions starting December 1, allowing local tourists from ages 15 to 65 years old to enter the island under a test-before-travel policy.

“We’re grateful for the decision of the local government officials and tourism stakeholders of Coron to finally welcome local visitors from all over the country. This will further help the tourism community of Palawan thrive during this time and bring back lost jobs to tourism workers,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.

Known for the iconic Twin Lagoon, Coron has emerged as a popular site in Palawan due to its World War II wreck diving spots, beautiful rock formations, and unbelievably clear waters, such as those found in Kayangan Lake. Tourists can take a break at the Maniquit Hot Springs or watch the sunset from the top of Mt. Tapyas.

The DOT will also continue to extend support to the provincial government by ensuring that necessary health and safety protocols are strictly enforced in tourist sites, hotels and other tourism-related establishments that seek to accommodate tourists from Luzon.

As of today, the DOT has issued Certificates of Authority to Operate to a total of 10 hotels and resorts in Coron. DOT’s Regional Office will regularly check these establishments for compliance with health and safety standards.

Meanwhile, the DOT also reminded tourists planning to visit the island to respect and follow the province’s protocols for travelers.

“As we gradually reopen destinations, we continue to prioritize the health and safety of our visitors and tourism workers to prevent the spread COVID-19 in the country. We remind our LGUs to enforce and monitor the minimum health and safety standards such as the wearing of face masks and shields, regular hand sanitizing and observance of physical distancing.” added Sec. Puyat.

Tourists must first acquire a negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) result within 72 hours before entering Coron. They must also have a pre-arranged booking at DOT-certified to operate accommodation establishments and tour operators, as tour packages and travel itineraries need to be booked in advance, and must also register and fill-out the online health declaration form, which can be accessed at www.corontourism.ph.

Once the registration is approved, visitors will be given a unique QR code, which will serve as a pass upon entry and while in Coron. Upon check-in, they need to present the negative RT-PCR test, roundtrip ticket and confirmed booking itinerary.

All tourists will undergo health assessment at the triage area of Busuanga Airport. If found to be symptomatic, antigen testing will be required with a fee of P3,500 to be paid by the tourist, and if tested positive, will be brought to the isolation room of the booked hotel.

Since tours are pre-booked, all tourists are subject to regulated movement with all movement in and out of the hotel or resort arranged by the management for contact tracing purposes. Coron will be implementing a 50% operations capacity to business establishments until 10 p.m.

For those looking for a Holiday getaway in El Nido, Seda Lio is a sprawling beachfront resort located in the vast Lio Tourism Estate just five minutes from Lio Airport. Apart from its own leisure facilities, it is just a few steps to the beach and offers non-motorized water sports. Resort operations follow community quarantine guidelines and local government regulations.

Hong Kong Disneyland unveils renovated Castle of Magical Dreams

Everybody loves Disney, and even more so Pinoys who must have put it in their bucket list of must-visit places before one dies. 

As the nearest Disneyland at only two hours of flight, Hong Kong Disneyland has been a favorite of many Filipinos. And it is celebrating its 15th anniversary milestone with the unveiling of Castle of Magical Dreams and “A Disney Christmas.”

When passing through the magical gates of Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, guests were immediately drawn to the beautiful 15th anniversary decoration and the melody of the official 15th anniversary song, “Love the Memory.” The energetic beat filled the entire Castle Forecourt, which served as the stage for a special celebration moment hosted by Stephanie Young, managing director of Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, who announced the official launch of the 15th anniversary celebration and the unveiling of the Castle of Magical Dreams.

Inspired by those that dare to dream and believe, the Castle of Magical Dreams, the re-imagined centerpiece of the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, shines as a beacon of courage, hope and possibility. 

Taking inspiration from 13 stories of Disney princesses and queens, the architectural design embraces their unique characteristics through the interpretation of color, icons, symbols, patterns and cultural features.

Brand-new experiences await guests in the castle. From meeting their favorite princesses and queens at “The Royal Reception Hall,” with its regally appointed interiors that feature intricately carved details, tapestries, and small bronze statues depicting the beloved heroines who inspired the castle’s design, to visiting “Enchanted Treasures,” the first-ever Castle of Magical Dreams Chow Tai Fook Jewelry store.

Guests can explore the story behind this new castle by visiting the “Building a Dream: The Magic Behind a Disney Castle” exhibition that features multimedia exhibits on how the castle was transformed by Walt Disney Imagineering in partnership with Walt Disney Animation Studios. It also includes an area dedicated to the castle’s live entertainment, which will give guests a glimpse of the brand-new daytime and night-time castle shows coming in the future.

Also available is the first-of-its-kind “Glimpse into the Magic” tour, which offers guests a new perspective of appreciating the shimmering castle. Guided by an audio narration from actress Karena Lam, guests will visit eight different checkpoints using their own mobile phones and earphones, where they will learn all about ins and outs of the castle’s design, and how it has been infused with recognizable icons and symbols distinctly associated with the princesses’ and queens’ stories, their personalities and the worlds from where they come.

Of course there are the must-see shows, including one headlined by beloved Mickey Mouse titled “Mickey and Friends 15th Anniversary Celebration,” where Mickey and several of his friends in their colorful, new 15th anniversary outfits, along with the Disney Princesses, will board the Main Street Express to welcome guests. 

Guests visiting the park will receive a 15th anniversary themed ticket and a 15th anniversary themed button (while supplies last). 

Select restaurants will feature themed dining experiences with special 15th anniversary offerings, themed décor and souvenirs. Highlights include 15th anniversary-themed Chip and Dale sip sip and Duffy and ShellieMay sip sip, a Mickey and Minnie popcorn bucket and festive balloons, a Castle of Magical Dreams ice-cream bar, and Mickey bubble egg puff. Guests can also enjoy a 15th anniversary seasonal flavour soft serve at Midtown Delights and 15th anniversary award-winning dishes at hotel dining venues.

Those who book to stay in the Deluxe Room type or above can look forward to receiving limited-edition amenity boxes for the ultimate pampering experience. There will even be themed giveaways that include magnet cards and post cards for guests who join paid DIY classes of making leather card holders and eco-bags, along with daily 15th anniversary and Christmas-themed arts and crafts activities.

Guests can enjoy a limited time Black Friday hotel flash sale with flexibility from now to December 4. Guests can save as low as 45% off on the Standard Rooms and Sea View Rooms for staying two-nights or above at Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel or Disney Explorers Lodge, travel window from January 3 to September 29, 2021. Bookings can be made on HKDL’s official website, Booking.com, Expedia and Hotels.com. Reservations can be amended or cancelled at least seven days prior to the check-in date.#

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