By Vianca Gamboa and Paola Navarette
The number of people visiting the Philippines is at its peak every holiday — almost 150,000 of them, according to Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, are overseas Filipino workers (OFW’s) who make it a point to come home for Christmas. OFWs brave the crowded airports as clans, barkadas, and office colleagues gather together to celebrate.
The holiday season is fast-approaching, so apart from playing Jose Mari Chan’s “Christmas in Our Hearts” on repeat, we also welcome our favorite balikbayan fam back to our islands. Forget the nearest pub, or your old favorite food joint — take your cue from this list of new attractions to visit for a memorable reunion.
1. Take nothing but pictures (and some nuts lying around) at Lakbay Museo
Location: S Maison at Conrad
Rate: P799 for walk-in and P699 for online booking
The Millennial’s first interactive museum in Pasay ignites your five senses and lets you on a cultural trip to Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao with festival dances right on the spot, real food to nibble on while you explore, moving displays like a jeepney, real pasalubong finds from different regions, and Instagrammable backdrops like miniature villages and sari-sari stores. The museum is open from Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with last call at 9pm lakbaymuseo.ph
2. Relive Binondo memories at Chinatown Museum
Location: Lucky Chinatown Mall Binondo, Manila
Located at the fourth level of Lucky Chinatown Mall Building A in Binondo, Manila is the country’s first cultural museum dedicated to Binondo — Chinatown Museum. A venue for people to interact, the museum showcases the evolution of Binondo and its people in 18 galleries. Through multimedia displays, one can trace the historical events that shaped the cultural, social, and economic threads of Binondo to further understand and appreciate its heritage. chinatownmuseum.org
3. Take a Visita Intramuros tour and explore the walled city—in style
Location: Intramuros, Manila
Rate: P2,250 per person
Balikbayans may further experience the rich history of the Walled City of Intramuros in Manila through this new tour program that offers a cool tranvia ride. Visita Intramuros, launched by Manila Hotel in partnership with the Intramuros Administration, is designed to enable hotel guests to experience the rich heritage of both the hotel and Intramuros. Facebook: Intramuros Administration
4. Go on a Bukas Quiapo Tour and see this area in a different light.
Location: Quiapo, Manila
Rate: Starts at P1,500
The next time your balikbayan friend hums “I’m Going Back to Manila,” take them on a Quiapo tour. Quiapo is a treasure trove of cultures, famous restaurants like Ma Mon Luk, important spots like the San Sebastian Church and the Golden Mosque, and remnants of the good ol’ downtown days. Don’t bother putting your bags in front because you’ll be riding a hop-on, hop-off van for a hassle-free trip.
Facebook: Bukas Quiapo Tours
5. Kill nothing but time at Mount Bulaylay
Location: Nueva Ecija
Discover Department of Tourism’s newly hailed destinations, such as the Mount Bulaylay where you can do more than just take a day hike. Unlike any other mountain trail, this gem is much more accessible from the city. You can also try its 500-meter zipline that offers a scenic view of the trail from the sky — that is if you’re brave enough to open your eyes!
6. Discover the new ecotourism zone, Candon.
Location: Ilocos Sur
This was also recognized as one of the Philippines’ new tourism destinations because of its tobacco production and the number of preserved heritage sites you can find in the area, like the Candon Church that was built in the 17th century. After soaking up the history, dip your toes in the white-yellow sand of Darapidap beach and stay there until the sun comes down.
7. Go loco at Pororo Park
Location: M. L. Quezon Highway, Brgy. Maribago, Lapu-lapu City, Cebu
Rate: Two-hour access and full day access to the park cost P1,500 and P3,750 respectively
Have children with you? This new indoor theme park inside five-star hotel Jpark Island Resort and Waterpark is a treat for kids and kids-at-heart. A first in the country, the Pororo Park is designed to entertain and educate children aged one to nine years old. Kids can enjoy various entertainment attractions such as the Pororo Express train ride, Pororo House, Shark Ball Pool, and Poby’s Play Gym.
8. Get lost in the Forever Tulip Garden trail
Location: Lamitan, Basilan
This breathtaking garden made out of 30,000 plastic bottles shaped into tulips might be your next favorite destination. Forever Tulip Garden, located at Sitio Panansangan, Barangay Ubit, has been dubbed as one of Lamitan’s tourist spots, as visitors have been flocking way before it was finished. Facebook: City Government of Lamitan
9. See objects of the past at Palacio de Memoria
Location: 95 Bayview Drive, Los Tamaraos Village, Barangay Tambo, Parañaque City
Take a trip down memory lane in Palacio de Memoria, a meticulously restored pre-war mansion on Roxas Boulevard. It is one of the few surviving houses on the boulevard that have not been damaged during the Battle of Manila. The mansion, which was unveiled in March by its current owners, the Lhuillier family, houses unrivalled collection of antiques. casadememoria.com
10. Go glamping at Bluewater Sumilon
Location: Oslob, Cebu
Rate: Starts at P12,000 for two
Ditch the usual hotel getaway and introduce your balikbayan friends to the eco-friendly wonders of glamping. This idea of respite brings you outdoors, but without the hassle of dealing with mosquito bites and a freezing temperature during nighttime. Bluewater Sumilon
offers one of the best glamping experiences as it limits guests who stay in its glamorous tents per day for the most peaceful stay. bluewatersumilon.com.ph