Christmas is almost upon us once again, and with that also comes the throng of excited balikbayans coming home to visit for the holidays. Although some go straight home to their wife and kids, others often stay with relatives in Metro Manila for a few days before heading to the province to be with their immediate family.

With that being said, it’s always practical – and a lot more fun! – having a balikbayans stay over instead of them checking into an expensive hotel for the holidays. Here are a few tips to make your hard-working loved ones feel a bit more special by giving them the luxury hotel treatment in the comfort of your own beautiful home:


1. Set out a small gift bag.

The luxury hotels that leave the biggest impressions are usually ones that have a little gift waiting for you when you enter your room. From the moment your guests arrive, make them feel comfortable and surprise them with a “welcome pack” of toiletry essentials they may need, bottles of drinking water (they may be too shy to leave their room to walk to the fridge at night), and even a few personalized postcards for them to take home or send while they are staying with you.

Human Nature is a local, all natural brand with gentle products like Balancing Facial Wash (Php 79.75/ 50ml) and Balancing Facial Toner (Php 99.75/ 100ml) that come in travel-sized bottles. A Jolly Aloe Holiday (Php 184) or Bayani Bath Bundle (Php 329) gift box also adds a nice Christmas-y touch, and is something that they take with them when they leave.


2. Warm, fluffy towels.

After a long day of walking around the city, one would want to take a long hot shower to wash off the grime of the day. When one walks  into your hotel’s big, clean bathroom complete with fresh, folded towels, you immediately feel like you can relax. It only takes a minute to drape newly warmed bath towels over the tub (stick them in the dryer for five minutes) or folded at the foot of the bed before your guests come back. Cotton white or ivory bath towels are usually preferred. I personally love a deep, navy blue bath towel of the Turkish or Egyptian cotton variety, as they give off a very luxurious, spa-like touch.

Taste Central‘s 6-piece Cotton Towel Set (Php 2,065) is made with 100% Egyptian cotton and the set includes two bath towels, two hand towels, and two washcloths.


3. Make the bathroom feel like a spa.

Luxury hotels often provide spa items to help up the relaxation levels. Take the concept into your own home and set up a basket on hand for guests to use. Wash cloths, facial cleanser, shampoo, bubble bath, body scrubs, candles, and bath salts are just a few ways you can give your guests the royal treatment. Take it up a notch and set out a plush robe and slippers or an iPod dock with a few relaxing playlist options. Sharing your Spotify playlist is also another nice personal touch.

The local brand, Atin, sells Automatic Air Fragrance Dispensers (Php 950/ dispenser, Php Php 500/ canister) that maintains and refreshes the air in a room. Guests can set the desired minutes of spray intervals, depending on how strong they want the lingering scent to be. Help them set the mood for their Philippine vacation with interesting fragrances like Boracay, Intramuros, and Palawan.


4. Provide reading materials.

You can almost guarantee moments of downtime here or there when you are traveling, and having some reading entertainment at hand always makes for a welcome break. If you know what your guest’s like, place a few magazines out by the bedside table with a scented candle in case they want a mental break. Soy candles are always a good kind to have around the house, as they last 50% longer than their paraffin, which is a byproduct of crude oil.

Alice Blue Candle is a local hand-poured soy candle-making company with kiosks in Glorietta 3, Podium and Trinoma. They have seasonal Christmas scents like Cranberry Spice, Red Currant, and Winter Village  (Php 415/ 6oz) to get your guests excited for the all the upcoming holiday festivities.


5. End the day with a nightcap.

Coming back to the hotel after a long day of walking and exploring, you look forward to the fluffy pillows, cable, and a nightcap before dozing off to sleep. There’s no better combination that chocolates and wine to wind down with! Offer this extra detail to guests in your own home for an additional element of surprise and enjoyment, and you can snack on them together as you catch up.

Pop into any Rustan’s Supermarket and grab a box of Maxfield Peppermint Truffles (Php 285) and a few bottles of Roche Roses’ Cotes de Provence (Php 599) or get fancy with Les Cames de Rieussec Saturnes (Php 2,299). I personally cannot resist Lindt’s Lindor truffles, and I have the Holiday Gold Traditions Gift Cube (Php 397) and a bottle of Gossips Moscato Sweet Lips (Php 399) on standby just in case a late night tête-à-tête is in order. For the men, maybe a bottle of Don Papa Premium Rum (Php 1,150), perhaps?


6. Pristine white bedding.

When staying at any luxury hotel, pristine, poofy white bedding is a must! After an exhausting day of  walking around, just the sight of a king-sized bed laid out with deliciously soft white sheets, fluffy pillows, thick blankets and a cottony white duvet makes you want to sink into its warm embrace.

If you’re in a pinch, Lazada‘s 4-piece Fine Deluxe Hotel 300 TC Snow White Set (Php 3,299) includes a flat sheet, fitted sheet and two pillowcases. You can buy the matching duvet at SM Home, and add a Space Age Fleece Blanket with Silk Cream Touch (Php 650) in between the flat sheet and the duvet if your guests want to keep themselves toasty whilst under the covers. I own a set of these myself and so far my night’s have been quite comfortable.!


At the end of it all, the most important thing about having a balikbayan around for the holidays is spending time with them and taking them out to places they’d appreciate. Brave the crowd at Greenbelt and listen to the scheduled choir sing their Filipino Christmas carols, make your way to Ayala Triangle and pick a spot to watch the light show, take them out to their favorite Filipino restaurant and eat up a storm, or take them to a pretty church for simbang gabi. Our balikbayans work their asses off away from their families and Filipino creature comforts – it can be a lonely life. So treat them well, for you never know the next time you’ll see them again.