Holiday Highlights – Celebrating the Passing of 2020

Happy 2021 my lovely readers! How has it been for you thus far? Me, two weeks in and I’m in a rut. I’m usually very motivated the first part of the year yet somehow I’m feeling meh right now. It’s like I’m just continuing what I’ve been doing last year, the same old routine and it’s making me unhappy. COVID is still here so there’s little I can do in the matter, but it makes me feel sad nonetheless. Anyway, I didn’t mean to start this in such a negative tone so enough drama and let’s get on with how I spent the holiday season.

Christmas happenings with the neighbors

After years of renting in places where I didn’t talk with my fellow tenants, I managed to get to know my neighbors in the condo community where I currently reside. We have our own group chat where we talk about community concerns/updates, as well as do buy and sell stuff. 

Some buildings in the neighborhood had set up Christmas lights and decorations in the atrium and on their building’s facade. We thought we should do the same and so we agreed to chip in some bucks to buy the materials. The result was amazing, our building looked bright and festive, lighting up the street where it stood. It even became a some sort of an attraction that I spotted people from other buildings taking photos.

On the 18th of December we had a Christmas potluck. I brought the Filipino-style spaghetti that my brother cooked, which earned positive feedback from my neighbors. I had fun socializing with everyone, a few of them I already knew, while some I met for the first time. Many people were not able to make it, which I assume has something to do with COVID or some other holiday-related plans.

Noche buena for Christmas Eve

One of my favorite childhood memories was when my mother would rouse my sisters and I at 12 midnight to eat noche buena. We usually had white loaf bread (we call them “Tasty”), fried hotdogs, and hot chocolate drinks a.k.a. Milo. To this day it gives me that warm fuzzy feeling whenever I remember it. With this in mind, I decided to prepare noche buena at home last Christmas eve.

I asked my brother to cook aglio olio pasta then I set up the platter with some cheese, grapes, dried fruits, nuts, baguette slices, and candies. We also had other Filipino noche buena staples, such as fruit cake, fruit salad, and leche flan. Lastly, as a nod to my childhood, fried hotdogs.

Staycation at Shangri-la at The Fort

In the last few years, I had been out of the country when holiday comes around. Traveling in this time of the year is ideal for me as December is when I can go on a longer break from work combining official holidays and my annual leaves. Obviously, traveling is out of the question now so I diverted my travel funds to do a staycation in a 5-star hotel. I had two choices, Conrad Manila and Shangri-la The Fort, ultimately choosing the latter as Taguig is closer to where I live (Pasig) than Pasay.


I had my friend, Cai join me so I got company. We stayed there for two nights, checking in on the 26th and leaving on the 28th of December. This has been my first time staying at a Shangri-la hotel and I’m glad to report that I wasn’t disappointed.

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We found out that our other friend, Silver, was also staying there with her husband when we met them accidentally during breakfast. They are now based in the States but from time to time they come home to the Philippines. If you’re not familiar with Silver, I mentioned her a few times in this blog especially in my Quirino travel blog posts.

I will talk about this staycation in full in another blog post so consider this as a prelude.

Dining with friends

Saturday night and dressed to the nines, Cai and I went to The Fort Strip to eat dinner at Caffe Puccini. The Fort Strip was surprisingly alive with several restaurants and bars opened and filled with people. Do they not care about COVID anymore? I remember thinking as we walked past them.

Caffe Puccini is a casual dining, Italian restaurant. The food was good, the ambiance is nice, and it wasn’t crowded unlike the bars outside.

The next day we called for a reservation at La Picara, a Spanish restaurant. It’s pretty famous that it is almost always booked. In fact, when we were able to reserve a table, we were told that we only had three hours to stay. Naturally, it raised my expectations on the food. I mean, if this is this demanding then the food must be amazing. The verdict? Well it’s not bad, but let’s just say that I cannot justify the hype. 

New Year’s Eve at Avida Towers

If there is one word I’d describe my New Year’s eve, it’s anticlimactic. I was alone in the condo unit of my friend, Silver, got no food, I could faintly hear but couldn’t see the fireworks. Silver was apparently sick, she and her husband stayed in their unit the entire night. So I stayed in the room, wondering whether I should go somewhere. Eventually, I decided to just sit it out, what’s the point of going somewhere at NYE when I’m alone anyway. 

Silver and her husband have two condo units at Avida Towers. After checking out from Shangri-la, the couple moved to their one-bedroom unit in this building, while the other unit, Silver offered to me for a few days. The unit is fully furnished, I could imagine it’d be perfect for Airbnb. I was there for three nights including the NYE. In those few days, Silver and I would meet up to eat or go to the malls and spend hours talking about any topics we could think of. Sometimes, her husband would join us, speaking in his slow-paced but fluent Tagalog (he’s British). 

When I’m alone I would usually go to the McDonalds across the street or to a 7-Eleven to get some food. I went home the day of January 2nd, leaving the key to the guard, and texting my thanks to Silver who was then having lunch with her own family. I was feeling rather empty, I’m not sure why. Still it was good to be alone even for just a few days because I have sort of lost my privacy when my brother started living in my house. Not that I mind his company, but I guess I missed having a sense of privacy.

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After-holiday dinner with the fam

4th of January, my sisters, Vanie and Luz, announced in our group chat that they’re in Manila and asked for a meetup. After my work, Barry and I headed to SM Megamall to meet them. Our eldest sister, Amie didn’t join but she had a representative, her daughter, Gwen. I wasn’t able to prepare gifts for my family so I made up for it by treating them to dinner at Salvatore Cuomo at The Podium Mall.

In between pizza and pasta, we played catch-up as the last time we got together it was on Christmas eve of 2019. I asked them about the latest with their lives, but I found that they had nothing much to tell. Vanie is still doing her online job, Luz is still a CSR but now she works from home and stays with our mother in Cavite for Internet connection. My niece, Gwen, on the other hand is now 16 years old. I told her that she and her older sister, Nicole (19) are not allowed to get married yet and make me a granny at 38. Also, that they shouldn’t settle down ahead of me, lol. 

And that’s how I spent Christmas and NYE of 2020. Generally, I felt like 2020 is such a waste and I could only hope for a better year head of us. For now, all I can do is to take one day at a time, appreciate what I have, and set goals that are attainable given the current situation we are all in.

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  1. Glad to know that you have met your neighbors. We met a few of ours but they are kinda aloof – I guess culture here is really different. I love your hair color btw! And looking forward to your Shangri-La The Fort post. I haven’t been there at all and I’m curious.

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