Christmas in Manila

CHRISTMAS shopping in Manila has recently become a “thing” for me in the past three years. When dovetailed with a business trip, it is actually a practical option.

If on a limited time frame, concentrating one’s efforts in the Makati area is the most efficient strategy. One can walk the shops as stores are tightly-packed in one place, stocks are fresh and choices run the gamut from low to high end. With all the outlets of Glorietta 1 to 5 at one’s disposal, one will never go home empty-handed.

To get more mileage out of your next business/Christmas shopping trip, here are 10 things to remember.

  1. Weigh in

    First things first. Buy additional baggage allowance. What’s the use if you save a bundle on what you buy, but then more than make up for it in overweight fees? Both Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific will allow you to pre-purchase up to 40 kilograms, which is more than sufficient. This will allow the two nearly-empty nested pieces of luggage you checked-in on your Cebu-Manila leg, to fly home packed to the brim, penalty free.

  2. Book nearby accommodations

    Make sure that where you hit the sack is near ground zero. A simple online search of accommodations “within walking distance to Glorietta” will yield numerous hotel and Airbnb results. Sites like will even tell you exactly how many kilometers away a property is. You will truly appreciate the convenience of being able to drop off an armful of packages or take power naps while you’re on your shopathon. Ideal location would be the Holiday Inn and Suites as it’s attached to the mall, however, rates can get a bit pricey this time of year. Places I’ve had first-hand experience with include Prince Plaza II Condotel, not the newest, but room cuts are large, rates reasonable and Greenbelt 5 is a two-minute walk away; as well as Crown Regency Hotel Makati, though rooms a bit tight, property is new, while a walk to Glorietta is around 10 minutes. A Pan de Manila is just across the street.

  3. Shop like a nerd

    Let’s face it, nerds get the job done—obsessively, methodically, effectively. And with such an important task like Christmas shopping, it’s the best time to be one.

    Make a list. Thank God for smartphones and Google Play. Say goodbye to paper and pen, and a big hello to ordered columns and cells that have a place for EVERYTHING. Written lists get unintelligible once you start crossing things out and adding things in, making you more likely to forget someone or something in the process. With spreadsheet-type lists, you can expand and collapse leviathan data into manageable, bite-sized chunks. Current all-time favorite app is WPS Office with its awesome multi-filter option and ability to crossover seamlessly from desktop to smartphone. Perform multi-filter acrobatics as you sort recipients by categories like family, godchild, officemate, staff; then compulsively micromanage some more: Are corresponding gifts within budget? Bought? Wrapping paper or paper bag? Wrapped? Delivered? You can also set up a running tab of expenses and keep a record of items you have given throughout the years. Back up on Dropbox or Google Drive and embrace the invincible super shopping nerd that you are.

    Bring bigger bags to consolidate shopping bags. Reduce the number of your bags so they are easier to keep track of. Ideal for the job would be a carry on trolley so shoulders are load free. However, if you would rather blend in and look like a local, giant eco-bags do the trick just as well.

    Ask for additional packaging. Store staff has no problem with providing additional paper bags, tags or ribbons if you need them. Packaging at most stores is good to give, saving you time and money from having to re-wrap at home.

  4. Uber it

    Uber is my new best friend. Safe, reliable, rates reasonable, cars new, drivers personable, there is nothing more you can ask for. Don’t make the mistake, however, of cancelling requests five times in a row else you will be locked out of the app until the next day. In my case, I had declined some sedans in favor of a larger vehicle that could accommodate all our luggage to the airport. I was close to being Uberless for a day, my driver warned. While roomy Toyota Innovas and Mitsubishi Adventures are available on the lower cost Uber X category, my driver recommends the Black Car category, where one can have a pick between SUVs and full size luxury cars.

  5. Watch a show

    A good opportunity to watch shows that only get stage time in Manila. Log on to and browse through the voluminous listing of concerts, ballets, plays, filmfests. Tickets can be bought online or at the TicketWorld outlet at Robinson’s Place Cebu.

    Playing in town was ‘80s dance-pop God Rick Astley. Now more popularly-known as the cheesy Rickrolling cyberspace phenomenon, but oooh baby, at nearly 50, this guy still has the voice and the moves that will make any 40-year-old with Bai Disco memories blush!

    If you think listening to him is fun, watching him royally exceeds expectations. Witty, spontaneous, generous with selfies and quick at musical improv, he had audience members like former Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Olympic medalist Bea Lucero-Lhuillier, Concert King Martin Nievera and artist Carlo Orosa up on their feet, singing and dancing their hearts out. At one point, Rick took a break and offered the mike to Carlo, who happily dragged Martin onstage. Carlo sang My Heart Keeps Missing You as Rick and Martin enthusiastically Roger Rabitt-ed behind him. What a night.

  6. Visit a museum

    The Ayala Museum in Makati is a gem. Ongoing exhibit on the ground floor until Jan. 24, 2016 is BenCab Portraits. It is part of a yearlong celebration of the artist’s 50 creative years. Museum rates are a steal with basic admission of P150 allowing access to the first to third floors, while full admission of P225 includes access to the fourth floor where pre-colonial gold and special artifacts are installed.

    The gift shop, though small, offers one-of-a kind items suitable for hard-to-buy-for friends.

  7. Eat

    When in Manila, eat! New discoveries include Azuthai near San Lorenzo Village offering home-style Thai cuisine; and WildFlour Cafe+Bakery on Rada st., where you will be torn between all the beautiful oven-baked pastries and breads on display.

    Never-to-miss is a meal at Dampa on Macapagal blvd., where you choose fresh seafood and tell them how to cook it, STK-style.

    A great place to have dessert and people watch is the lobby of The Peninsula Manila. The prices are a bit eyebrow-raising, but the ambience is something to experience, if but once. Posh and old-world, the lobby is grand and the most beautiful this time of year. The towering 48-foot Christmas Tree will blow your mind.

  8. See the lights and sights

    As early as the first week of December, the city is bedecked. Here, it is actually a thing to check out the entrances of exclusive subdivisions to see what concept they’ve chosen for decor. Interior designer friends say that Forbes, San Lorenzo and Urdaneta aren’t up to snuff this year, with one of them using only yards of ribbon tied with Christmas balls at the end. Chalk it up to cost cutting measures, but really, isang katutak na satin ribbon isn’t all that cheap either.

    But other parts do not disappoint. The PLDT corporate office on Makati ave. is lined with a row of elegantly twinkling white parols. At the Ayala Triangle, trees are dripping with lights that change color to music. The light show starts at 6 p.m. and runs every 30 minutes until 10 p.m.

  9. Bring a powerbank

    All that GPS while Uber-ing, filtering your shopping list, and snapping photos while sightseeing can drain your battery extremely quickly. Make sure you bring a powerbank so your smartphone will last the whole day.

  10. Buy a parol

    Those big, beautiful Pampanga capiz parols are a bit hard to come by and can cost a pretty penny here at home. But along South Superhighway by Cash and Carry, you can have your pick of the lot. The blinking lights will leave you dizzy as you choose from stall upon stall, as far as the eye can see. The beauty about sufficient supply is that you can really haggle over what you want. From P2500 to P1800, I’m sure you could see my smile even in the dark of night.

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