FILIPINOS take pride in having the world’s longest observance of the Christmas season, generally stretching from the beginning of the so-called “ber months” (September, October…) and peaking with the Simbang Gabi, the stretch of dawn masses that start on Dec. 16 and culminate on Christmas Eve.
Adding to the color of the season is the first Christmas by Manila Bay Celebration on Dec. 15-17, a project of the Department of Tourism (DoT), the Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP), the National Auto Club, and the International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST).
Inspired by the Tournament of Roses of Pasadena, California and the Rio de Janeiro Carnival in Brazil which draw thousands of visitors, Christmas by Manila Bay Celebration opens on Dec. 15 with the Christmas Market at the Fort Santiago, Intramuros which will also showcase a refurbished historical shrine.
The bazaar will be showcasing native delicacies, novelty items and crafts, useful daily items, and Christmas goodies.
The country’s top bamboo ensemble, Banda Kawayan Pilipinas, will serenade the crowd with beloved Filipino carols, while acoustic duo Peter and Vangie will keep shoppers company at night.
An evening mass at the Manila Cathedral Basilica will kick off the traditional nine-day Simbang Gabi.
A highlight of the festival on Dec. 17 is the turnover of the gifts by the Tourism and Social Welfare departments for the children of Marawi City, Yolanda victims, Hospicio de San Jose, and children of soldiers who died in Marawi. The gifts will be airlifted to Marawi and Leyte by Philippine Airlines.
This will be followed by a Christmas Parade by the Bay at 4:30 p.m. which will stretch from the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex to the Quirino Grandstand.
The parade will feature 30 vintage and classic cars from Vintage Cars Philippines, with celebrity race driver Marlon Stockinger riding the AAP float.
Also participating are contingents from the Municipality of Angono, Rizal with their famed “Higantes” giant papier maches puppets, the Municipality of Pulilan, Bulacan which is noted for its kneeling carabaos, and the Province of Negros Occidental which will bring its winning Masskara Festival dancers to the parade.
Adding to the colors and sounds of the season are the Philippine Dragon and Lion Dance Sports Association, the dancing Robots, as well as various marching bands from government agencies, local governments, and private groups.
The event draws to a close with a concert at Fort Santiago in Intramuros.