The months of September through December are referred to as the “ber” months in the Philippines, and its arrival heralds the start of Christmas. “Any Filipino will tell you that the moment the ‘ber’ months hit, Christmas is in the air and there’s a definite shift in the vibe of the city. People are more positive, and take the fabled Filipino hospitality to new heights. That’s why Christmas here is so unique,” says Dustin Ancheta, founder of CQPH, which creates programmes that help travellers discover the Filipino soul.
In the Philippines, Christmas officially starts on December 16, with a nine-day series of Masses called Simbang Gabi, with some starting as early as 3am. Christmas Eve or Noche Buena marks the ninth day, and most Filipinos celebrate with a thanksgiving meal at midnight. All the festivities finally draw to a close on the Epiphany on January 6 — once Mass is celebrated, the kids know the holidays are over and it is, sadly, time to go back to school.
Like the rest of the world, food is a big part of the festivities. From rich desserts to the Filipino version of roast turkey, here are eight Christmas foods that you’ll only find in the Philippines.