5 Things to Do in the Philippines Over Christmas

When we conjure up images of Christmas it is usually snow and log fires. For those looking to celebrate the season without fishing out their winter clothes, the Philippines is an ideal place to visit. In this post we look at 5 things to do during the Christmas season in the Philippines. (When I say season, Christmas here is from September until January)

1. Visit a Beach

The most attractive thing to do over Christmas in the Philippines is to travel to one of the country’s beautiful beaches. While traveling anytime of the year is special, moving around the Philippines over the Christmas period is even more unique as instead of throwing snowballs you will be lying in the sand. There are many great beaches to choose from across the country. Wander Wisdom made a list of the top 10 beaches in the Philippines depending on whether you want somewhere tranquil or livelier like Boracay, which is the party island of the country.

2. Go to Church

The Philippines has a strong Catholic heritage and during Christmas there are many celebrations. Two Monkeys Travel Group state that one of the oldest Christmas traditions in the Philippines is Simbang Gabi, which takes place during the buildup to Christmas. This mass usually begins at 4 am and Filipinos come to the church to worship and help fulfill someone’s wish to come true. For visitors, this is a chance to see the spiritual side of the Christmas season in the Philippines.

3. Shopping

With Christmas comes shopping and with shopping comes the Christmas sales. The popularity of shopping at Christmas is so big in the Philippines that When in Manila devised a list of 7 shopping tips. On the list they recommend either going very early or late to the malls to avoid queues and to take your time shopping, as there will be many deals you won’t want to miss out on.

4. Watch Sport

Manila is a great city to spend Christmas in. For sports fans that might be worried that they are missing out on their favorite games, Manila has several sports bars to see the action. Skinny Mike’s in Taguig (The Fort) is catered more towards the American sport scene and regularly shows the NFL, NHL, and MLB. For soccer fans wanting to get their Premiership fix the Belle & Dragon in Makati is the place to be. Soccer is seeing a surge in popularity in the Philippines and the Premier League is very popular among locals. One aspect of this rise in interest is that the two most famous managers in the world, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, manage rival teams in Manchester, according to Premier League analysis site Betfair. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to find either Skinny Mike’s or the Belle & Dragon full with fans wearing sports jerseys from both City and United.

5. Eat

Christmas is always a time to indulge and nowhere is this truer than in the Philippines. The Kitchn states that Christmas in the Philippines is always a feast with Christmas ham and lechon (a whole roasted pig) usually at the center of the table. One interesting fact from the Kitchn is that Filipinos like their food on the sweeter side and that the hams are usually encrusted in either brown sugar or a syrup glaze, so be prepared for some sugary goodness on Christmas Day.

How to Get Internet Access for your Phone while Visiting the Philippines

The Internet has become an indispensable part of anyone’s lifestyle anywhere in the world.  As a traveler, you are most concerned about being able to use your mobile phone to access the Internet to check your email, use your favorite mobile messenger app, research travel destinations, access Google Maps or just about any purpose.

First of all, I would like to mention that internet access in the Philippines pretty much sucks so don’t expect too much. Now that’s out of the way, let’s continue.

Prepaid SIM

The most common thing to do is to purchase a prepaid SIM card from the airport arrival area or any local store that sells mobile cards. There are two mobile companies servicing the Philippines: Smart and Globe. In my experience, Smart has better coverage in rural areas, especially in the islands.

globe-traveler-sim
Free Globe Traveler SIM // Image from globe.com.ph
Smart Prepaid SIM
Smart Prepaid SIM // Image from smart.com.ph

 

You also need to purchase cellphone loads which come in different denominations ranging from PhP1 to PhP1000.  This will enable you to make calls, send text messages, and access the Internet using mobile data, all at local rates. Once you use up the load amount, you can replenish it with another card or buy a load from a “sari-sari store” (neighborhood convenience store) near you.

But while this is a good way to stay connected while traveling, the SIM card is not without its disadvantages. Its efficiency will also depend on the area’s connectivity.  There are areas with little or no Internet signal available.  Some areas have stronger signals only on selective basis depending on the service provider.  Each cellphone load, depending on the amount, has limited data and you have to consume it within a certain time period, like within three to thirty days. If you’re a typical heavy Internet user or caller, you could deplete your phone’s load in no time. And most of all, it will cost you a lot to use your local SIM to call overseas from the Philippines.

Pocket Wifi Rental

Another way is to rent a Pocket Wifi from the airport. This pocket Wifi allows you to access the Internet anywhere. However, making any local calls will cost you as much as overseas calls, unless you use FaceTime or Viber.  And rental rates are expensive at about $7 to $15 per day. And you have a big responsibility of returning the pocket Wifi in good condition. The one I know who offers this service in the country is myPAL Roam of Philippine Airlines.

My PAL Roam
Launching of My PAL Roam

Flexiroam X

Now, there’s a better and cheaper alternative for travelers — the Flexiroam X.  This is a thin microchip which is attached to the top of your own existing SIM card and enables roaming services for overseas travelers in over 200 countries.  The microchip connects to local networks during your stay in the Philippines, or any other country that Flexiroam serves.

Flexiroam X
Flexiroam X // image from flexiroamx.com

For a small 1 year membership fee of $9, you’ll get a starter pack which contains the microchip can enjoy up to 100 MB of voice and data roaming service for one year. You can also purchase additional 1GB data pack $29.99.for And in case you want to renew after one year, your unused data can be carried over to the following year.  You need not worry about when you might use up the data, as you have a full year of access.

Subscribe to Flexiroam X Membership
Subscribe to Flexiroam X

The best thing is you can earn FREE DATA of up to 100GB by referring your friends or by interacting with the app.

Register Now! Just Follow the Instruction below. Don’t forget to use my referral code MARKCONRAD.

You can install the microchip even before leaving your home country, so you don’t have to waste time buying a SIM  or getting a pocket Wifi rental when you reach the Philippines.

The Flexiroam X starter kit will be sent to you by mail within a few days, and you can immediately install the microchip by sticking the small microchip onto your existing SIM card.  Next, you configure APN and activate data roaming. Then start enjoying roaming services anywhere for only a fraction of the price!