Interest in the Philippines has blown up on social media in the past few years with incredible videos being posted on different social media platforms. These videos show the unbelievable transparent water and incredible beaches which has resulted in the Philippines being the number 1 place to visit on everybody’s bucket list. This post is a summary as to why I loved the Philippines so much and why it is my favourite place in the world.
Like any place I had planned to visit, I had done some research on the areas I wanted to see. The only thing I knew about the capital of the Philippines, Manila, was that it wasn’t too safe and that my family had only seen the drug crime and the high murder rate on the news.
As a young traveller these things do sit in the back of your mind and you are naturally more careful when coming out of the airport and getting into a taxi due to the fear of being mugged as soon as you step foot in the country. Luckily for most, this doesn’t happen!
Manila, The Philippines
Manila surprised me, it was a lot cleaner than most big Asians cities I had visited and people weren’t getting shot in the street, which is what the news would have lead me to believe.
Once I settled into the travelling vibes I remembered, Im from London. People who are not from there believe that London is one of the most dangerous and scary places to be!
The news would like you to have the London Riots burnt into your brain to scare you, just like they have tried to scare people about Manila, but its all rubbish and from my first day in the Philippines, I knew not to expect anything but to embrace everywhere with a fresh outlook.
By having this positive attitude I didn’t have any negative thoughts visiting different places within the Philippines and I believe if you really want to embrace this country, it is vital you approach it with an open mind.
The Philippines is made up of over 7000 islands which makes seeing everything kinda hard. As this trip was my second time visiting the Philippines I knew I wanted to see and do more but equally retain a huge percentage of spontaneity throughout my travels.
I knew realistically I would have to plan a few days in advance which was fine as I was now travelling with my boyfriend and with him, I felt safer than I have ever done before. The travelling time between places is what people underestimate the most.
I knew this from my past experience here and so we had the upper hand in planning as we always left a whole day to travel, even if it was supposed to be only a few hours on a coach. It’s the Philippines after all, your bus could break down or not even turn up and no one would really batter an eyelid.
I have found there are two massive positive advantages in getting your self around from Island to island, one is the over whelming feeling of finally being an adult. To me, nothing screams maturity more than being able to navigate in a foreign country with hardly anyone being able to speak English.
It’s an incredible feeling when something you’ve planned by your self actually turns out to be OK and you haven’t got lost and called your parents crying (Or am I the only one that does that?) The second advantage is the bigger picture, the struggle in getting from an airport into a taxi, trying to tell the driver where to go, getting on a coach, waking up in a different city and jumping onto a tricycle and arriving at your hotel.
You appreciate everything ten times more than you would have if it had been as easy as a car waiting for you at the airport and taking you with no hassle to your destination. Travelling isn’t about luxury, its about that feeling of relief that all your hard work was worth it, the feeling of being able to do something by yourself which is outside of your comfort zone and that it has paid off.
The Filipino people are some of the kindest and most caring people I have ever met. They will go out of their way for strangers and even if you look slightly lost, someone will try and help you. The Filipino caring nature goes miles beyond any other country I have known.
I do think living in London has this effect on me where I assume that if you are having an issue in public, not one person will stop to help you, but in the Philippines if the person that sees you in trouble cant help you, they will call their uncle, cousin or friend until someone can help you.
My boyfriend and I hired a moped in an area not familiar with tourists. We managed to pop a tyre and be miles away from home. A local stopped in his tracks and tried to help but when he couldn’t he signalled he would be back ( he didn’t speak any english). He returned with what looked like a teenager who took our moped and pushed it 2 km up a hill in the boiling heat to his friends front garden who had a spare tyre and would replace it for us for £5. We were blown away with this gesture as many other people also stopped to see if we were OK.
We met a Filipino family in Siquijor who lived in Kabankalan who invited us to their house to stay for a few days. I jumped at this chance as this was the kind of spontaneity I wanted to experience and I am so glad I did.
This family opened their home, restaurant and friends to us. They took us to amazing waterfalls with no tourists around, fed us from their restaurant, housed us for two days and drove us 2 hours to our next destination.
They even offered to leave us their car and brother to use if we needed to get into town which was beyond anything we could have asked for. This kind of hospitality to strangers with no benefit on their behalf other than the experience and practise of their English was outstanding. Its this kind of attitude that the Filipino people have, which is so refreshing to find especially when you areas far away from home. To feel safe and comfortable goes an extremely long way.
ISLAND OF OF CEBU
The Philippines is a big place and with each island, comes new things to do. I started in Manila and travelled to Cebu first of all. This island to me is the adventure island, it had me climbing up waterfalls, trekking through jungles and swimming with some of the most amazing marine life I have ever come across. I encourage anyone reading this to explore every bit of the island of Cebu as you can!
The East Coast is beautiful with the famous Whale Sharks in the South. The South West has the most amazing waterfalls in the world with the bluest water I have ever seen. Moving further North west you can find the Sardine run.
I know what you’re thinking, sardine run? I thought the exact same thing when my sister first told me about this experience. It’s not until you are in the water witnessing first hand the MILLIONS and MILLIONS of sardines swimming past you, moving together in sync that you begin to really appreciate just what you are witnessing. It looks like something out of a Disney movie, or BBC’s Blue Planet but I cant decide.
Witnessing a wild Manta Ray a few years ago on holiday was the initial spark in my mind which urged me to travel the world in order to see more Marine animals. I am obsessed with animals and they are the highlight to every trip.
Cebu is no exception to this highlight, swimming to the left of the Sardine run I managed to come across 5-10 turtles a day. They would be grazing or just swimming peacefully around me which was so incredible I find my self struggling to put into words how surreal this experience was.
The Filipino people are aware of how amazing their country is and the amazing fact I found out while I was here is that it is ILLEGAL to touch turtles. This information fills me with joy as I have witnessed how destructive tourism amongst native animals in Thailand can be. They are used solely for money which breaks my heart. The Filipinos are doing it right!
With this tourism boom the Philippines has experienced unfortunately more than it can handle in some areas. While I was here the island of Boracay was closed for 6 months in order to ‘heal’ as pollution was destroying one of the Philippines most popular beaches.
As I have been applying my fresh out look attitude to the Philippines I cant help but only see this as a good thing. The country knows how precious it is so it’s doing something about it before its too late, to me thats amazing. Not only has exposure brought tourists to other places, but its bought knowledge to the locals.
When visiting Palawan I came across numerous bars and restaurant adamant about not using plastic and they often refused the use of straws unless they were made from bamboo. I cant help but think that for an Asian country that in some areas doesn’t have 24 hour electricity they are more Eco friendly than their supposedly more advanced Western neighbours.
When visiting El Nido for the second time I was in awe how much it had changed in a year with how many hotels had been erected. Tourism has hit El Nido the hardest as it is considered one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines with its jaw dropping limestone cliffs and crystal clear waters.
Personally I can see how social media influence has changed this area of the Philippines purely because I have been here before and have seen the difference in how many people they are putting on boat tours, how much things are costing and how far in advance the hotels are fully booked for.
With that said you don’t feel the weight of tourism on your shoulders here. My boyfriend had never been to the Philippines and he still felt the essence of the untouched feeling I first had when I visited El Nido. We moved onto Coron which still felt untouched even though I had seen this place all over my timeline, the tranquility of the area still overwhelms me with how amazing this place is.
THE FUTURE OF THE PHILIPPINES
If anyone asks me which country they should visit for their next adventure, without a doubt I would suggest the Philippines. Not only does this country have so much to visually offer, it also offers a valuable lesson in how to be a better person. Wether that may be making you think about your carbon footprint or simply teaching you to be nicer to strangers, you can learn a lot by visiting this country.
I truly feel the Philippines offers backpackers the ultimate experience, it ticks all of the typical boxes a backpacker has and more. The untouched essence to the Philippines will not last forever but there is still so much of this country that can be explored, I am sure this country will be as appealing for many years to come.
MY TOP HIGHLIGHT – The island of Coron!