The Philippines is not known as the Pearl of the Orient for nothing. There are more than 7,000 islands that make up the country and the beaches, landscape and general hospitality are much-sought for by people all over the world.
As mentioned, the hospitality and friendliness from the Filipino people goes unrivalled throughout the world. The Philippine natives make it their priority to make you feel welcome and comfortable; look forward, also, to being invited to eat on multiple occasions (and no, you’re not allowed to say no!) and having a karaoke microphone thrust into your hand.
The Filipinos love a sing-song and can sing the night away, applauding both themselves and you (even if you have the voice of a frog that’s been sick with flu the last week). But it’s all about having a good time and the general, warm atmosphere that visitors experience when surrounded by Filipino hosts is one they are very often sad to leave. Though Tagalog is the native language of the Philippines, many Filipinos speak English and there is very little to no problems with communication.
Beaches are common around the islands. One particularly special place is Pagudpud Town in Ilocos Norte, situated in the north of the Philippines. These sandy pure white beaches are quite breathtaking to behold, along with crooked palm trees. Go at the right time and you’ll find these beaches quite empty, making it a heaven for the singularly shy individual or the couples who want a bit of privacy.
For those looking for something a bit more cosmopolitan, Manila – the capital – is the obvious choice. Manila is also home to Rizal Park which is dedicated to the national hero of the Philippines, Jose Rizal. Rizal’s heroism in the 1800’s included defying the cruel Spanish Empire, which had colonised the Philippines and treated the Filipinos like slaves.
An educated, gentle and compassionate man, his book exposing the cruel treatment of Filipinos by the Spaniards, Noli Me Tangere (meaning ‘Touch Me Not’ and alluding to the words of Jesus Christ when Mary Magdalene recognised him after his resurrection) threw him into serious trouble with the Spanish authorities and he was executed in 1896. His legacy lives on and history buffs find Rizal Park particularly fascinating, as there is a statue exhibition depicting the execution.
Beautiful beaches, friendly locals, relatively cheap food and accommodation – what more could a person ask for? But of course, every place has its dark side and it would be unfair not to list them here. Avoid travelling to the South of the Philippines, particularly Mindanao, which is riddled with Islamic terrorists, otherwise you may risk being kidnapped and beheaded.
Keep an eye out for thieves and swindlers who’ll take one look at you and see pound signs flashing before their eyes; if you stick out like a sore thumb as the majority of Westerners do, try and have an escort with you at all times. Be wary also of areas where drugs and drunks are rife; initially, all of the country may seem friendly and welcoming, but there are dodgy people in all countries and it doesn’t hurt to be alert about this.
Other than that, the Philippines is a truly magnificent country which does its utmost to welcome all foreigners, no matter how near or far they’ve come. Oh yeah, and keep an eye out for Buko Pie (baby coconut pie) – delicious!