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Why You Should Visit The Philippines. The Philippines is still the secret gem of the South East Asian traveller route. And that’s fine by me (hey, the less tourists battling for beach space the better). But with its 16 regions, all with their own particular culture, landscape, personality and beliefs, I don’t think this will last for long. Over the past couple of years, the internet has practically had an aneurism over the amount of articles highlighting the picture postcard beaches, world-class diving and chic and cheap shopping in the Philippines. But the country has some lesser-known tricks up it’s sleeve. Here are eight of them.
Why You Should Visit The Philippines ASAP
1. Feast on the Best Mangoes in the World…
Growing up in sunny tropical Queensland, I fancy myself as a bit of a mango connoisseur. Like many other kids, my Summer’s were spent engaging in heated discussions with my mates arguing who had the best way to eat a Mango. Was it the cut-into-all-fours, slice each piece into crosses and invert method? Or was it the full-throttle skin-peel-back way that took a little extra effort but always reaped the most tasty rewards? I was firmly for the latter. I’m very protective of my Aussie-bred mangoes (Kensington Pride all the way), even though they are pretty expensive at times. But I’m going to put it out there: Filipino Mangoes give the ‘ol KP’s a run for their money! Firstly, Philippine Mangoes are present all year round, not just during the summer months. Secondly, they are about as cheap as tic-tacs are in Australia – mangoholics rejoice! – sitting at about 50c AUD. The Philippines is a mango lovers-paradise, they’re in practically everything: shakes, juices, desserts and consumed for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. They are delicious and I never thought I’d say it but I am seriously mango’d out after my trip! But in a good way.
2. Get from A to B in a Philippine ‘Jeepney’…
The Philippine ‘Jeepneys’ are like kitschy, colourful versions of big old people-moving Jeeps. And that’s because they kind of are. Just after World War II, a whole heap of U.S military vehicles were left to sit in the villages and rot; but the Filipinos had other ideas. The size of the vehicles meant they were great for transporting people short distances around town. And so the ‘Jeepney’ was born. Props for to the Filipinos for up-cycling! The word originated from the Portmanteau dialect, a combination of “Jeep” and “Jitney” – or share taxi. These days they are a verified form of transportation, kind of like mini-buses but without the comfort (and air-con!). But what the “Jeepneys” lack in comfort they more than make up for with their cool artsy aesthetic. The experience of riding a “Jeepney” and knocking sweaty knees with the locals is something you’ll never forget.
3. The Food In Manila is Actually Great…
So we’ve all been privy to the unflattering chatter that Filipino food is, how shall I say, not quite as appealing as the flagrant foods of it’s neighbours Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. Before I even embarked on my trip a lot of people (Filipinos included) warned me absolutely every dish would be saturated in fat/oil and/or sugar! While in some parts of the Philippines this rumour certainly holds true, Manila has slowly but surely built up a great repertoire of hip, gourmet eateries serving up modern Filipino delights. (Stay tuned for tomorrow’s article highlighting the places to eat and drink in Manila!)…
4. Why You Should Visit the Philippines – Everybody Speaks English…
Like, literally. Over 90% of Filipinos speak English. It’s taught in schools, it’s the official language used by the government and most signs and guides are in our native tongue. This definitely makes for easy, stress-free travelling if that’s your kind of bag. The other interesting thing is the Philippines is one of the only countries in Asia that is very stoutly Roman Catholic, so forget the temples and buddha statues, Churches and the Virgin Mary rule in the Philippines!
5. Filipino Hospitality is Second to None…
I’ve traveled Asia pretty extensively, and I would argue that the vast continent has some of the friendliest people in the world. But citizens of the Philippines go one step beyond friendly (but not in a stalker-ish way). Filipinos aren’t just welcoming, they have a genuine curiosity about other cultures. They are super sociable, and because most of them speak English it’s quite easy to converse with them without relying on hand-signals and mimes. While I was there I had feasts thrown in my honour, I was invited into people’s homes for dinner and spent one particularly alcohol-fuelled night philosophising and solving the problem’s of the world with other Filipinos at a hotel bar. But that’s another story..
6. Your Safety Isn’t Cause for Concern…
Over the past decade there’s been news reports of terrorism, petty-crime and kidnappings in Philippines. And while it’s true that, like many other countries around the world, the Philippines have some ongoing trouble with security, there are only a handful of places tourists should steer clear of, namely the Sulu Archipelago, the island of Mindanao, and the southern Sulu Sea area. I’m a blonde caucasian traveler who has absolutely no trouble roaming the streets of Manila, Cebu, Davao, Boracay and Puerto Princesa on my own. While it’s important to be aware of threats, it’s misleading to label an entire country as dangerous because of it’s trouble spots. I mean look at Indonesia and the hoards of kaftan-wearing holiday-makers jetting to Bali to catch some rays and relax.
“It’s always difficult to use the word “safe” about travel because the word implies you will be protected from – or not exposed to – any danger or risk.,” says Jean Folger of Investopedia. “This is never the case, no matter where you travel. It’s better to think of “safe” in relative terms. There is an active travel warning for the Philippines, but only for some regions. Most other parts of the nation are generally considered as safe as other places in Southeast Asia.”
7. The Philippines is Eco-Friendly…
Many islands in the Philippines are leading the charge in South-East Asian conservation efforts, the Palawan Province in particular. As an official UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, every effort is made to create a seamless balance between the communities and their natural surroundings. From sustainable development to clean-streets, El Nido and Puerto Princesa amongst other inhabited islands of the Palawan Province are ahead of the curve in eco-chic travel. The Sheridan Hotel in Palawan has its very own organic farm, where anything from wild rice and ostrich’s are nurtured on-site.
8. You’re Almost Guaranteed to Find a Deserted Beach…
With over 7000 islands, it’s not difficult to hire a boat from a marina, grab your group and island hop for the day, setting up a picnic on one of the many deserted islands (let alone beaches) that dot the Palawan Province. The water gives new meaning to the colour ‘sea green’, and the coves, caves and cliffs are beyond spectacular. Case in point:
And that, my dear friends, is why you should visit the Philippines AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!
Getting To and Around The Philippines
Cebu Pacific Airlines flies direct from Sydney to Manila five times a week. The no-frills carrier offers the cheapest flights from Sydney to Manila on the market. Once in the Philippines, Cebu flies just about anywhere domestically. For more information, visit their website: https://www.cebupacificair.com/au-en
For more information on island-hopping and discovering the Philippines, head to the Australian Tourism Philippines website.
Stefanie Acworth was a guest of Cebu Pacific Airlines and the Philippines Tourism Board in August 2015. All opinions are her own.
– Mango Image via Mango World Magazine
– Small Lagoon, El Nido Image via Glazaro on Flickr.