On the 8th of May we went to the Philippines. There’s no question that the Philippines is a little more challenging to visit than some other Southeast Asian countries we’ve been to. For starters, it’s separated from the Southeast Asian mainland by several hundred kilometers of ocean. Then there’s the somewhat chaotic scene that greets you at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (where most people enter the country).
But for us who made the effort to get there, the Philippines is a very pleasant surprise. The people of the Philippines are as warm and friendly as you’ll meet anywhere, and the island and mountain vistas are truly superb – some of the best in Southeast Asia. And with over 7000 islands in the archipelago, it’s easy to get that off the-beaten-track feeling, something that’s getting harder to do in most other parts of Southeast Asia.
We found the Philippines much more expensive than most other Asian countries, but still quite affordable by Western standards. We avoided Good Friday and Easter Monday coming here, as this is when legions of overseas Filipino workers return to spend the holidays with their families: accommodation and transport tend to fill up during this period.
Holy Week brings the Philippines to a standstill every year, as Roman Catholic Filipinos (the majority in the country) take advantage of the four-day weekend that begins on Holy Thursday. Being the only Christian nation in the Far East, the belief of such religious observance was inherently Christian in origin brought to the Philippines by the Spanish Conquistadors when they first planted the Cross, symbol of Christianity, on the islands thus signaling the advent of the conversion of the natives to the faith of the Conquerors. They have incredible colourful displays of penitence on Good Friday, in San Pedro Cutud men have themselves nailed to a cross after reenacting the Via Crucis, a Kapampangan rendition of the passion play.
With over 7000 islands and a stunning tropical location, it’s hardly surprising that the Philippines also boasts some of the world’s best beaches. Our choices ranged from touristy and developed spots like Boracay, to desert islands where you can, and we certainly did, live out our own ‘stranded in paradise fantasy’.
Due to its great diversity of natural terrain, the Philippines is a natural venue for all sorts of outdoor and adventure sports. Indeed, only Indonesia and Thailand from what we saw can compete with the Philippines for the title of ‘ adventure sports capital of southeast Asia’.
The Philippines is the only predominantly Christian country in Asia – almost 90% of the population claims to be Christian and over 80% are Roman Catholic. The population is upwards of 90 million and Cock-Fighting, Basketball and Billiards are the only sports they watch and participate.
The first thing that amazed us was an assemblage of 7,107 tropical isles scattered about like pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle, the Philippines stubbornly defies geographic generalisation.
It’s wildlife is quite spectacular with 10,000 species of trees, 900 types of orchid, 447 species of coral, 888 species of fish, 5 species of turtle and 114 species of birds. We expected the best corals and diving conditions than any other country we have been lucky to see when we got here, but we were very much disappointed. Not in a ‘spoiled’ disappointed way as we have been truly spoiled with all the diving and snorkeling we have done in some of the best diving locations on the planet. A lot of the coral has been damaged, nearly in every island we went to, and we went to a hell of a lot of paradise islands in the Philippines. In fact we have seen so many tropical islands recently we are looking forward to staying on land for as long as possible now.
We sailed to numerous diving locations in the Philippines and were a bit puzzled with how poor it was compared to Indonesia and Thailand. I did a bit of research and according to the World Bank only 1% of the reefs are in a pristine state, while more than 50% are unhealthy. Incredibly short-sighted techniques for making a few extra bucks include dynamite and cyanide fishing. I will come back to this as we spent a lot of time diving and snorkeling in the Philippines.
Our first stop was of course the capital of the Philippines, Manila. But only for a stopover to connect a flight onto the island of Palawan. The National Geographic Travellers Editors chose Palawan as among the best travel destinations in the world and has been included in the top 10 islands in the world you must visit. The National Geographic cited Palawan’s limestone karst cliffs, corals, mangroves, white beach, and extensive fringing reefs as among the province’s attractions. The monkey trail connects Sabang to Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, popularly known as the Underground River, which is also of course one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. We did not want to miss this must-see island.
We absolutely loved Palawan and it is fast becoming a haven for nature buffs and intrepid adventurers. Drifting on the Philippines western edge this long sliver of jungle is one of the country’s last ecological frontiers. The Amazonian interior is barely connected by a few snaking roads that made my fillings jingle, and the convoluted coast is comprised of one breathtaking bay after another. We stopped over in Puerto Princesa the capital of the island, but it is nothing more than an extended village beside a busy airport after 11 hours of flying and 3 flights to get here.
The first thing we saw which made us laugh is the three-wheeler taxis they have here known as tricyles:
Something else we soon began to enjoy was the food in the Philippines, especially their love for pork and the dish Adobo.
Adobo is usally made from pork but you can also use chicken, squid or vegetables stewed in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaf. From speaking to the locals the dish was derived, and then Filipinised from the Spanish adobado, a more complicated preparation soaked in garlic and oil.
It’s lovely, and to begin with we just couldn’t get enough of Pork as it’s obviously an animal which has been hard to find in the previous Muslim countries we have been in. A note I must also make is the excellent fish assortment and choice the Philippines have and are very good at preparing.
Buffets are very common in the Philippines and you pay to eat as much as you want. A great idea as I love buffets and I love tasting all the local dishes. The only problem is when to say no!
Traditional corn beef, rice and egg is a lovely traditional breakfast here. The corn beef tastes nothing like back home, nor does it come from a tin. Lovely tender bits of meat in a tasty tomato sauce marinated with onions, garlic and other Asian spices. I loved it, Cheryl hated it.
The following day we caught a tiny minibus and we were hyptonised by the breathtaking scenery along the coast up to the infamous Sabang, with its sublime beach and famous Subterranean River and laid-back port Barton. Tiny Sabang has a heavenly expansive beach and is famed for the navigable Subterranean River National Park (Underground River). One of the UNESCO seven natural wonders of the world attracts loads of tourists from all over the planet which winds through a spectacular cave before emptying into the sea.
After walking the length of the beach which took about an hour we found the most incredible beach hut with its own private view of the beach.
We had our own private view onto the beach and we loved it here, absolute bliss.
There we bumped into Tom, a friend who we would bump into again on our travels. Most people who come here do so to get to the Underground River if you are lucky enough to get a ticket. Unfortunately, tickets had been fully booked for the entire month and no other tickets would be issued until the 1st of June. Instead we just admired the beauty of the area and this fabulous beach.
We did a lot of relaxing and tasting some of the fantastic local Filipino beers here, including Red Horse:
I highly recommend this beach if you are on this island it is a wonderful place for dinner at sunset, it’s easy to see why this is one of the most beautiful islands on earth:
Next we set off north to El Nido via the glorious scenery along the coast of this wonderful island. El Nido is the gateway to Palawan’s greatest natural treasure: the Bacuit Archipelago. El Nido itself commands a stunning location, sandwiched between towering limestone karst cliffs and Bacuit Bay, with the fantastic contours of Cadlao Island looming right offshore.
Unfortunately, El Nido is literally caught between a rock and a hard place (excuse the pun), for the town itself is quite unprepossessing, with a collection of substandard accommodation and an overcrowded, hastily developed foreshore. Thus, if you want to visit the Bacuit Archipelago, you must choose between roughing it in El Nido, or shelling out big bucks for the accommodation in the archipelago itself.
We couldn’t believe our luck when we found yet another stunning beach hut, right on the beach. We woke up to this view for 5 days:
We absolutely loved our beach hut, and made the most of it.
El Nido has over 50 beaches to discover, hundreds of enchanting lagoons with tranquil turquoise-green water, caves that can take you to hidden beaches, and a very diverse array of wildlife. The limestone cliffs of El Nido were naturally carved out of extensive and thick layers of coralline deposits. They formed 250 million years ago in the shallow sea covering the area that North Vietnam and South China now occupy. These layers slowly rose from the sea as a result of the collision of India and mainland China about 60 million years ago.
El Nido’s front yard of Bacuit Bay is what tropical paradise is all about. It is littered with gorgeous islands – those sharp, jagged peaks shooting like torpedoes to the skies.
El Nido dare we say it, is better than Vietnam’s Halong Bay and Thailand’s Krabi. We have been to both of these world class locations.
Fortunately, island-hopping in Bacuit Bay isn’t a difficult proposition, it’s quite easy to hire a boat and live your own island hopping fantasy.
Unfortunately the island hopping had to wait a day as the heavens absolutely opened the next morning. This was the first time we saw how people here need to live under torrential rain. This rain was nothing like we had seen before, so heavy and caused the streets to be flooded in minutes.
It’s coming up to Typhoon season, and some were happier than others to finally see some rain after 6/7 months as we watched this Filipino kid dance and swim in the school playground
The next day was much better and was the start of continuous and increasing heat in which we found difficult to adapt to. We headed straight to our boat and took in some glorious scenery which was like paradise. The jaw-dropping Big Lagoon is undoubtedly the most iconic of all that El Nido is usually remembered for. I had to pinch myself to realize where I was!
What makes the islands also a draw for many visitors are the plentiful secluded white sand beaches. The question was how many islands did we want to see, as we could see them all around us:
We fell in heaven with all the beautiful islands and beaches including, 7 Commando Beach:
Secret Lagoon & Small Lagoon in Miniloc island, Simisu island for snorkeling and lastly, to Ipil Beach.
The views were breathtaking to say the very least with such clear sea.
Sadly, not everything is as good as it should be in this paradise. We snorkeled at the Big Lagoon and soon realised there’s something amiss. While it’s gorgeous above water, the view down below is abruptly different. There were hardly any corals left, most of them have died, withered and bleached for various reasons: cyanide fishing, dynamite fishing, strong typhoons, El Niño or something new I only learned that day, a sea tormentor called the Crown of Thorns.
Snorkeling off Simisu island was no different either. This was where most tour boats were anchored for the snorkeling part of the tour. It was disappointing to see dead corals or what was left of them. With less corals, there were also less fish to see.
On another side of Miniloc island, we snorkeled into Small Lagoon by swimming through a narrow opening on the limestone karst. Our guide led us into this small subterranean cave, lit naturally from a crack above while we floated aimlessly in the deep water. I found it creepy, imagining weird creatures that might suddenly grab me from under!
We went to one secluded cove in Miniloc island where lunch was prepared by the guide and the boat captain. Mostly made from the fish he had caught while we were snorkeling. Nothing fanciful but still gratifying. Check out the fish-heads:
After lunch, everyone but us went into sun-bathing mode (We’re now naturally tanned after 6 months of intense heat already, so I think the other travelers knew why we hid under the palm tree ;-).
All I wanted to do at that point was just relax and enjoy the view.
We loved it here.
My thoughts went back to the sorry state of marine life in this beautiful bay. I asked the guide what was being done. There’s an ongoing drive, he says, to combat the Crown of Thorns infestation. As for the other causes, he wasn’t even sure. El Niño and typhoons are something else but cyanide and dynamite fishing? I do hope they do more than just address this issue of a coral-eating starfish. A lot of work needs to be done.
El Nido is paradise worth saving.
That night we bumped into our friend Tom, always good to see a familiar face and good to get the British colony up to three. We have hardly seen any British travellers in South East Asia, mostly French, Dutch and off course Russians. Says a lot about our economy!
The three of us agreed to go to go on another boat trip the next day which includes a trip to the Hidden Beach, Secret Beach, Matinloc Island, Matinloc Shrine, Tapuitan Island and Helicopter Island. We had our picnic buffet lunch at Tapuitan Island.
It didn’t really matter where we were because every inch of this paradise is beautiful. For the next 7 hours or so we truly did see paradise again, just more beautiful parts of it.
We discovered the amazing rock formations and hidden beaches that have given inspiration to Alex Garland’s novel “The Beach” which was written while the author was in El Nido and has been made into a major motion picture starring Leonardo Di Caprio. This was truly a hidden beach!
As the boat sailed to a rock cliff that stretch into the sky the captain pointed to a small gap that appeared now and again between the crashing waves that hit it. Through that small hole we would swim under and find “The Beach”. This is what we had to swim through to find one of the most beautiful secret beaches on earth: (The hole is hidden in this photo with a wave crashing through as it was high tide)
We all dived in and coped well with the current and crashing waves. As we neared this small gap we all took a breath of fresh air and swam under this wall. What we saw when we came up was truly a gorgeous spot. Now you would need to be absolutely crazy to take a Canon SLR camera with you, so I am afraid no photos. But trust me it was more beautiful than Koh Phi Phi and you can Google to your hearts content about its secrecy and how beautiful it is.
It was so peaceful and beautiful. How on earth anyone discovered this is beyond me. It made me really think when the captain told me how thankful he was that the Filipino Government did not allow the film “The Beach” to be filmed in here or anywhere in the Philippines because of their strong stance on drugs. He said this would be as busy and congested as Koh Phi Phi right now. I nodded in agreement as I had been there.
Although Koh Phi Phi is absolutely stunning and arguably one of the most beautiful locations on this planet, it makes you wonder how long it will remain like this with all the tourists.
From the towering marble cliffs and enchanting lagoons to its white sandy beaches and lush jungle, El Nido is one of the top tourist destinations in Palawan, which is often referred to as the Philippines’ Last Frontier. It’s of no wonder National Geographic Traveler’s magazine, has chosen El Nido as one of the best travel destinations in the world.
Another incredible looking island Helicopter Island.
The name of the island comes from it’s shape from afar, it looks like a helicopter. Up close it’s actually a nice beach to just sit back and relax. But only to relax enough to know that monkeys also live on this island who nearly ran away with my bag, cheeky so and so’s!
We had a fantastic barbeque at Star Beach. The name of the beach came from the fact that there are a lot of starfish around its waters.
Dilumaca Island was next.- This island has a beautiful white sand beach stretching to some 300 meters that is ideal for picnic lunches during island-hopping trips. Aside from the Hidden Beach, the island is also famous for the Kulasa Beach, a 100-meter beach strip of fine white sand located at one of its coves.
The sea floor surrounding the beach slopes gradually and the water deepens only after about 10 meters. This location is one of the best snorkeling spots in Bacuit Bay.
Matinloc Shrine – Hidden among the lush forested island is the Matinloc Shrine (also known as Shrine of Our Lady of Matinloc and Shrine of the Blessed Virgin) a sacred monument built in 1982 to honor the blessed virgin mary.
Legend has it that a woman dreamed of an island shaped like a heart and it had a temple to worship on it. From above this island is shaped like a heart so when she found it an exact replica of the temple she dreamed about was built on it.
A German man and his local wife built a beautiful grand house here 18 years ago. Unfortunately, the couple split up 3 years ago and left the house to wither away. The house still in relatively good condition though and we were free to walk around it and imagine what it was like to live here.
We were invited to climb the limestone cliff standing mightily on the beach and we we were blown away. The top of the cliff offered a magnificent view of some parts of Matinloc Island and other nearby islands and beaches. From there, we saw the waves rolling, slapping the white shores as other boats sailed by.
It was a pleasant feeling. We were the only people in the area and we felt like we owned the place!
El Nido was amazing and I can easily see how people come here to spend a few weeks. We unfortunately had to move on as we wanted to explore so much more of the Philippines as possible. On Tuesday 15th of May we took the long but gorgeous bus journey down to Puerto Princeca, catching an onward flight to the Visayas.
Cebu is the hub around which the Visayas revolves. It is the most densely populated island in the Philippines and we would first go to Cebu City. The City of Cebu is the capital city of Cebu and is the “second city” in the Philippines with the second most significant metropolitan centre. It is known as the oldest settlement established by the Spaniards in the country.
As far as we were concerned, Cebu City is Manila minus the mayhem. Its traffic is chaotic, but not insane. Its size and layout can actually be understood, rather than merely endured. And – sigh – hardly any of the taxi drivers here are employed by Satan.
The Philippines is extremely religious with most being Christians adopting the Catholic faith. There are Catholic churches everywhere, pictures of Jesus Christ and crosses adapted into all jewelry, advertisement posters, shop malls and TV adverts.
We decided to see a few religious sights the first Basilica Minore Del Santo Nino. The Minor Basilica of the Santo Niño or Basilica Minore del Santo Niño is a 16th century church in Cebu City in the Philippines.
It was built purportedly on the spot where the image of the Santo Niño, a sculpture depicting the Holy Child Jesus found by Spanish explorers in 1565 preserved in a burned wooden box which was left behind during the 1521 Magellan expedition.
The history of the Augustinian Order in the Philippines is intimately connected with the history of the country. The Augustinians were the first missionaries ever to reach the Philippine shore.
We then went to Magellan’s Cross a Christian cross planted by Portuguese, and Spanish explorers as ordered by Ferdinand Magellan upon arriving in Cebu in the Philippines in 1521.
A sign below the cross described the original cross as being encased inside the wooden cross that is found in the center of the chapel.
This is to protect the original cross from people who chipped away parts of the cross for souvenir purposes or in the belief that the cross possesses miraculous powers.
In the afternoon we went to look at the well built Fort of San Pedro. Fort San Pedro is the oldest fort in the Philippines.
Built by the Spaniards to repel sieges by hostile natives and Muslim pirates, the fort was deemed finished in 1738, some 200 years after it started construction.
The fort is triangular in shape, with two sides facing the sea and the third side fronting the land. The two sides facing the sea were defended with artillery and the front with a strong palisade made of wood.
A few well secured prisons also in the fort which I put to good use 🙂
Throughout our travels in the Philippines everyone was talking about Malapascua Island, an island situated in the Visayan Sea, located across a shallow strait from the northernmost tip of Cebu Island. This of course where the infamous ‘Bounty Beach’ is located. On the 18th of May we decided to go…
We arrived late but it looked so beautiful already.
We were not disappointed when we woke up in the morning and saw the island in all its glory.
Malapascua was “discovered” fairly recently, only in the early 90s. The island was first known for its wide white sand beach, known as Bounty Beach; it has also become known for its beautiful coral gardens and excellent local dive spots, as well as further-out sites including Gato Island, Monad Shoal, and Kemod Shoal. Monad Shoal is an underwater plateau where thresher sharks and manta rays can be sighted on a regular basis. It also holds some amazing Japanese shipwrecksa from WWII which we were desperate to explore.
There are no cars or paved roads on the island, only a network of walking tracks which reminded us a bit of the Gilli Islands in Indonesia. These tracks wind past such humble attractions as the waterside town cemetery, with its sun-bleached graves, the lighthouse on the island’s northwest, and the 12m-high lookout up near Los Bamboos, which some brave souls treat as a cliff jump.
Divers are spoilt with three wreck dives, the marine sanctuary of Gato Island – a famous sea-snake breeding ground – and almost daily appearances of the otherwise rarely sighted thresher shark off Monad Shoal.
The people of the towns are friendly and welcoming, andwe soon made friends with Herman, a local restaurant worker/cock-fighter and future Filipino international badminton player.
It would seem that Malapascua offers everything that the discerning beach bum could wish for. We absolutely loved ‘Bounty Beach’. Absolutely gorgeous beach with fantastic coconut trees.
We were so luck with our hotel room view, as you can see from our balcony view
One downside to the island is the lack of air-conditioning and again we just couldn’t cope in the intense heat which hits 42c at noon then only goes down to 35c at night.
We spent so much time just reading our books and raising our eyes to remind us of the beauty in front of us. One of the reasons we found it so difficult to get off this island, because we didn’t want to! But of course with the beauty surrounding us on shore things looked a lot different under the water.
We went diving around the island and experienced an incredible time around a Japanese WWII wreck.The marine environment faces the usual challenges of this region – first and foremost, dynamite fishing. Despite protestations from local government that they are on top of the problem, divers report that on many dives they can still hear the sound of blasting. To combat the problem, local dive centres successfully lobbied the government to implement full-time patrols of the marine sanctuary.
The preservation of the island environment is another matter. Ironically, where the dive centres have continually accused local government of not doing enough to halt destruction of the corals, when it comes to preserving the beaches, it’s the government’s turn to put the heat on local business.
We sometimes imagined we were shipwrecked on this island in a good way, with the little tourists here.
We were aware that the Philippines was going to be one of the most expensive countries we would go to (surprising to us), but we were pretty shocked at some of the prices on this island. Even with tough negation on some things we found ourselves paying European prices on accommodation and food.
When we were on the island there was a local fiesta which was going to bring the island to a stand-still. We wanted to explore this and Herman kindly agreed to show us around, including the absolute number one sport in the Philippines -cock-fighting. The second major sport being Basketball then Billiards. Cock-fighting however would be a bloody interesting introduction to their pastime and their national sport.
Herman drove all three of us on his rather proud bike:
We had a lovely time exploring parts of the island that no one else would have got to.
Seeing into the way Filippinos live was also interesting as he showed us around his hut/house which was very bare. We could hardly find space to sit it because of all the bananas he had.
As we walked around he introduced us to some of his prize cockerels and he explained how much pride and joy he had for them. At first it was quite funny to watch as he lifted them up and almost cuddled them.
His cock “Black-Hawk” would fight later today for the first time in it’s life, and he told me how confident he was that it would win. These words stuck in my head right up until the fight, which I will get onto in a bit.This is Black-Hawk.
Cock-fighting is everywhere in the Philippines and I am surprised it took us this long to see what all the fuss was about. The rules are very simple, if a cock wins, the owner earns money, just as the persons who visits the fights and put their money on the winning cock. During the fight the fighting cocks wear sharp razor blades fixed on their legs, a bit like gladiators. The duel will only end by the death or (bloody) flight of one of the cocks. To rub salt into the wounds of the losing owner, the winning owner gets to keep the cock that lost and eat it, sometimes mostly straight after the fight.
We were first of all introduced to all the cocks and the owners as they showed off their cocks.
It was also quite ironic how Herman explained they take great pride in their cocks as they shampooed and dried them to pristine beauty. The cocks would be separated into different weights and paired off.
We would then be seated in the ring and everyone would bet on the winning cock with odds from 2-1 too 5-1.
Black hawk would not enter until fight 5 so we had plenty of practice and as newbies quickly lost a lot of money, mostly because Cheryl wanted to pick the pretty cocks. Come fight 5 Black Hawk entered and Herman seemed relatively confident and of course from his previous statement I stuck a fair whack down on it. It soon came clear why he was called Black Hawk Down. We did manage to break even by the end of the day, I guess we couldn’t complain since it was our first outing.
We found the experience interesting as we learned a lot about local culture, but I don’t think we would attend again as it is not pleasant. However, if you do visit the Philippines it would be highly likely you would see or hear about cock fighting as it is on all the time, day and night. It’s also the no1 national sport and they have a dedicated 24hr sports channel showing non-stop cockfighting. Not the greatest sight when you wake up first thing and switch the TV on in the morning before breakfast!
The areas of the island we seen with Herman was lovely and his mother and family wanted to meet us. Filippinos are so friendly and kind.
Then it was back to ‘Bounty Beach’ to relax and savour how lucky we are.
It’s no wonder the beach is named after the famous bounty advert, Bounty Beach:
After spending 5 days on this gorgeous island we headed south to find a lovely coastal beach called Moalboal.
Diving, drinking and dining (in that order) top the list of activities in the dive colony of Moalboal , however as we have spending more time under the sea than above we just couldn’t face any more diving. So we just relaxed:
We had a lovely time at White-Beach where we caught a tricycle which is how we roll.
When we did get to the beach we certainly were not disappointed. Very pretty.
A lovely white beach with food and drink huts for the tourist, but we hardly seen any tourists, just the locals having a good time.
I have been told the coral is better here but we didn’t go diving here so I shall only comment on how beautiful the scenery and my fiance is 🙂 She’s perfect 🙂
The sand was very white.
Soon after on Wednesday 23rd of May we drove and sailed to another island called Negros where we would spend 5 days. We stayed in Dumaguete City, a nice place. Everyone raves about the Rizal Blvd promenade, and it’s true there’s something genuinely charming about this harbourfront ‘quarter mile’: the faux-antique gas lamps; the grassy median strip. But there are other things to like about Dumaguete: it’s big but it feels small, and it’s less congested, less polluted and – being a university town – far more hip and urbane than your average provincial capital.
That said, there’s not actually a lot to do here and, after a couple meals and a night or two on the town, most move on but we just couldn’t face another beach or another island. Seriously!
We have seen all the best beaches and islands you can possibly throw at us in South East Asia and then some. We’ve been there and done it and it’s a lot of hard work travelling and sailing from island to island. As it was coming to the end of our 6 month travels in Asia we just wanted to stay in a nice hotel, air-conditioning and close to all amenities for the last few days.
Dumaguete City was a great experience and showed us what the Filipino way of life was like not living on small islands of paradise. It is a wonderful place and more importantly a wonderful country.
The Philippines still offers remarkable experiences: buried gold; unexplored caves; diving holes; sunken Spanish galleons; dense jungles with rare plants and animals; primeval people; active volcanoes; and uninhabited paradise islands.
Although travelling in the Philippine archipelago can tax your flexibility and wallet at times, you would have to go a long way to find people as friendly and helpful as the Filipinos. This place, as the locals like to remind you, is ‘where Asia wears a smile’.
Compared with other countries of South East Asia, the Philippines doesn’t take up much room in the major travel catalogues. Because of this, there’s no doubt that it loses out economically, but this country has recently been through enough natural and political upheavals for this to be a blessing in disguise. The Philippines simply isn’t ready to withstand the stresses that mass tourism and its consequences would bring.
For the traveller, it is the variety the Philippines offers that is so interesting. The bustling capital of Manila contrasts with lonely islands fringed with superb beaches. There are towns where you will find a thriving nightlife, but you can also visit mountain tribes who still live according to their own laws and traditions. There are huge rice terraces built eons ago with the most primitive of tools; wide sugarcane fields with subterranean rivers and lakes; or shadowy palm forest groves and dense jungle. If you can learn to be as laid back as the Filipinos amid all this natural beauty, you’ll fit in just fine.
Next stop Bangkok for 4 days then Australia for 4 months…
Thanks for reading.
Norman and Cheryl xxx