Whenever travelers want to explore and backpack Southeast Asia, they’re most probably referring to Thailand-Cambodia-Vietnam-Laos route. This is the most traveled path in the region.
One of the main reasons is accessibility, from Thailand you can easily visit the neighboring countries by bus, maximizing the “Asian” experience.
And since Philippines is located on the other side of the plate, some travelers omit it in their itinerary.
Well, those who dared to explore the less traveled path, have expressed enormous joy for the whole experience.
In a perspective of a local, Filipino like me, here are the reasons why you should travel and explore the Philippines.
1 | PEOPLE’S WARMTH AND SMILE
One important thing you should know about the Philippines is more than just a nation of breathtaking beaches and sceneries, what will definitely steal your heart is the people’s hospitality. It is the total experience that you could only find here.
Kulas, the most-loved foreigner in the country, just fell in love with the Philippines and the Filipinos. Alexandra, the Slovak sexy fun traveler, confessed that she has made a lot of friends in the Philippines in her trips here. And still, she is amazed at how Filipinos can be very accommodating and always wearing a smile.While American blogger, Nathan, even decided to stay in the Philippines for a year and admittedly, he just love his Filipino friends.
But the most heartfelt appreciation of Filipinos was written by an American missionary, Alex Balinski, in his post, Why I love Filipinos. Please check it out (after reading this post). This never fails to bring smile when you read it.
Travelers usually fall in love with the place – temples, beaches and all.But what makes the experience extra special is when a visitor’s life is touched by someone’s warmth.
It feels good to hear these things. But as a Filipino, and if I’m going to be honest about this, we are not really that “aware” that we are like this. Seriously.
Sometimes if something is so innate and natural to you, you don’t really give so much attention to it. You just do it, and you would only realize that when somebody tells it to your face.
And then the initial reaction would be an amazement followed by a question, “really?”
I hope I could give you a better explanation for this. All I knew is we genuinely love visitors, like cooking for them and making sure that they feel comfortable. And this does not only applies to our relatives and friends, this kindness even extends to foreign visitors, and most of the time they even get the more special treatment. 🙂
I remember when I was a kid, a foreign tourist asked me for some directions. And I was just in awe. LOL! (I don’t know why) With the little English I had, I talked to him with a smile and whole-heartedly help him. He thanked me and said that I was a good boy.
And by the time I was with my friends, I bragged to them my experience, about how I was able to help the American. Most kids here automatically think that a white man is an American. LOL!
Again, I am not really that sure why we are like this. But I think this experience of mine as a kid would give you some idea. Maybe our hospitality can be explained in details by our History or Anthropology (huh?) maybe. hahaha!
All I know is this perception of the world for the Filipinos as friendly, warm and happy is definitely true and genuine.
2 | FOOD!
It was just a few months ago when a Polish travel blogger said in her blog that she would rather go hungry than eat Filipino food. She then later changed her post from hating “Filipino food to Filipino street food” in an attempt to calm down the staggering backlash online.
Looking at it objectively, it was her opinion and she is entitled for that. It’s her blog and she can say whatever she wants to say with regards to her experience.
But there’s just one thing that the blogger forgot about, and that is research.
Research is important if you want to know the best about a country. If you want to know more about their traditons and culture, an effort to even try google is very much appreciated.
The negative reactions she received from Filipinos online is because we just love our food that we do not want it to be judged prematurely without even giving a fair fight. Besides, she doesn’t even know adobo, kare-kare, lumpia, halo-halo, lechon for her to make that judgement.
So if you are planning to visit the Philippines, we would love you to come along and try our best dishes.
We know that Filipino cuisine is not that popular in the world (yet). It’s rare to see a Filipino restaurant in other countries but we would love you to try these delectable dishes that are truly Filipino. Here are some.
Adobo – The most popular dish in the Philippines. This can be either pork, chicken or mixture cooked in soy sauce, vinegar and garlic. This is a must-try!
Sinigang – A delicious Filipino soup made with pork, vegetables and using tamarind as a souring agent. Another favorite Filipino dish!
Kare-kare – A Philippine stew, made from pork hocks, calves feet, stewed oxtail, beef with peanut sauce and paired with shrimp paste.
Sisig– This is a popular appetizer around bars and restaurants. This is a dish originated from Pampanga (culinary capital of the country), made from chopped pig face, ears and pork liver served in a sizzling plate with egg.
Halo-halo – A Filipino dessert that is slowly becoming popular in the world. This is a mixture of shaved ice and milk with various sweet beans, fruits topped with ube ice cream and leche flan.
Lechon – Anthony Bourdain hailed Lechon from the Philippines as the best roasted pig ever!
Notice that we have lots of meat in our cuisine? Hmm… Do you think it’s hard to be a vegan in the Philippines. Well, I think there are still a lot of vegan restaurants in the country. You just have to ask and be creative in finding them. Apps nowadays are helpful.
READ: 5 Delicious Food in Cebu
3 | BETTER COMMUNICATION. ALMOST EVERYBODY SPEAKS ENGLISH
Photo Credit: Tadolo’s photostream via Compfight Creative Commons
I’ve recently shared in this blog my story and encounter with a female airport assistant at Bangkok International Airport. It was just a simple misunderstanding that was eventually resolved by staying calm and positive. This experience gave me an important life lesson about being open and understanding.
In the Philippines, more than 90% of the people speak English.
Although this can be at varying levels since our national language is Filipino (Tagalog) and we also have a number dialects used in the entire archipelago. But when we talk about at least basic English skills, you’ve got nothing to worry about.
English is part of our lives. This is the language used in business, schools and even media. This is like our second language. No wonder the Philippines is also home of quality call centers that serve the customer service and tech support of major global brands.
I want to emphasize that it doesn’t make a country lesser if they don’t speak English. I am also an advocate of loving your own language and culture to preserve your own unique identity as a nation.
But in the world of globalization, English has become an important way or tool for communication and business. And if a country is proficient in the language it is definitely an important add-on to the experience.
In the Philippines, anybody can help you if you need assistance with directions or anything, from a little kid on the street, the vendors, to the people you bumped into. Anyone!
Just imagine the comfort it would bring you, coupled with the warmth and hospitality which Filipinos are known for. Priceless.
And Oh by the way, I just have one important reminder. Do not be surprised when you talk to a Filipino, and he might tell or comment that he is experiencing “nose bleed.”
This is just nothing! And you might also laugh if you only knew the meaning of this.
We, Filipinos, love to joke around and make fun at one another. The concept of “nose bleed” is about whenever we talk to foreigners (in English) means that we’re going to be so challenged and in a tough situation. So tough that our nose is going to bleed. LOL!
This joke has even become more popular when used in a scene in a local comedy film here.
So in case you experience this, at least you know what it means. Just go with the joke and laugh with them. You’re going to be extra adorable to the Filipinos when you do that.
4 | STUNNING SCENERIES AND BEACHES
[ Book your flight and hotel in Manila, Philippines]
This doesn’t need too much explaining. Philippines is known for having the most beautiful landscapes, beaches and also the home of the most diverse flora and fauna.
Our very own, Boracay Island, has been named consistently as one of the top most beautiful beaches in the world. With its powdery white sand and clear waters, its no surprise why a lot of tourists flock here.
But Philippines is more than just Boracay. There a tons of stunning beaches and islands that you can enjoy. There’s El Nido and Coron of Palawan. You can also visit Calaguas in Bicol. This is comparable to Boracay but still not crowded.
And even just a few hours from Manila, the province of Batangas, also has some of the best beaches in the country.
Well, if you want more of the Philippines, there are a lot more to discover like Batanes, Cebu, Davao, Banaue Rice Terraces etc.
Photo Credit: Roger Alcantara via Compfight Creative Commons
5 | ARTS AND CULTURE
Photo Credit: Agustin Rafael Reyes via Compfight, Creative Commons
I just recently watched an interview of a Brazilian tourist on TV about the Philippines. He said that the first time he set his foot to the Philippines, he was surprised. It doesn’t look too Asian for him, unlike our neighboring countries Thailand and Cambodia.
With our language, people as well as the structures in Manila, he felt more like he was in a South American country.
His observation is somewhat valid. Being colonized by Spain for more than 300 years, and with the influence of Americans, the Philippines has become a mixture of different cultures and for that some even consider us as “hybrid.”
But the truth is we do have our own identity, and our culture is rich. And as a traveller, to be able to understand and appreciate Philippines, it really takes time.
We don’t have temples and all. But by setting enough time to explore the country by talking to people, you’ll begin to appreciate our Arts and Culture. If you’re in Manila, try exploring Intramuros and ride the Kalesa. This is the historic core of Manila.
The UNESCO Heritage site, Vigan in Ilocos Sur is also a must-see.
While if you want to experience how the indigenous people’s way of life, visit Benguet and the Igorots. They are an ethnic group in the mountains of Luzon known for their colorful and rich traditions.
6 | AMAZING TRANSPORTATION LIKE JEEPNEYS AND HABAL-HABAL.
A great way to have a glimpse on the lives of the Filipino masses and how they interact is by trying our mode of transportation.
And what other way to enjoy it than trying our very own, Jeepney.
Jeepney is the primary mode of transportation of Filipinos. The exciting part is, it comes in different colors and designs. Jeepneys started as vehicles left by the Americans during the World War II. And being creative of the Filipinos, they opened the back then added some benches to make it longer to accommodate more people. Then whoala. The rest is history.
Today, jeepney is the symbol of the Philippine culture. So whether you’re in Manila or in Cebu, Davao or other parts of the country, don’t forget to hop on one of the jeepneys!
Another exciting mode of transportation is Habal-habal.
This is simply a motorcycle, but instead of two people riding it, Habal-habal can carry up to 10 people with luggage! This is a more popular way of traveling in Southern Philippines (Mindanao) especially in the remote areas where roads are rough and narrow.
There are some debates about the safety of Habal-habal, but this is still widely practiced.
If you happen to travel in Mindanao, try this one. It’s going to be exciting!
Photo Credit: Adventurista Corner
7 | SING THE VIDEOKE WITH THE LOCALS
Filipinos love music. We love to sing and dance if there are occasions or celebrations.
So when you visit the Phiippines, most likely you would encounter people singing the “videoke” on the streets or inside their homes. I have to tell you this, there is a big probability that you would be invited to sing with them, and if this happens, join them!
Trust me, it’s going to be fun!
You don’t have to worry about the songs, because we sing all kinds of songs from the “My Way” by Frank Sinatra to “From Russia with Love” of Matt Monroe. LOL!
The repertoire of our videokes are also updated with the latest songs so if you want to sing something new and fresh like the ones from Rihanna or Bruno Mars. It’s not going to be a problem.
I bet you’ll also enjoy some Filipino songs. But I must warn you, most of us are crazy for cheesy power ballads. LOL!
I think for a first-timer, singing “Pusong Bato” (Heart of Stone) is a good choice. This is very easy to sing along with and you would hear this song echoing in the streets of Manila making it easy to memorize. This is an old-time favorite by a lot of us.
Our love for music is most probably the reason why there are a lot of really good singers in my country. The musicality of the Filipinos is just crazy!
And this talent is slowly becoming popular in the world. True enough there is a reason why Ellen Degeneres once said that some of the most talented singers in the world are from the Philippines.
Well for that, thanks to videoke.
Photo Credit: Venues.ph
By the time American Traveler, Nathan ,went back to the US after living in the Philippines for a year (and he is now back), he has an important message to the Filipinos.
He said that Filipinos tend to be shy whenever he gives an honest compliment to them. This is maybe the reason why we aren’t reaching our full potential as a culture and as a nation.
Maybe he is right. Maybe it is about time for us to claim our strengths and be proud of our identity and accomplishments, and it is not about being braggart about it. Sometimes it really takes an outsider for us to realize this.
It’s time for the Philippines, and we are more than delighted to see you visit us here.
So what are you waiting for. Do not settle to the usual Southeast Asia backpack route, book your flight and hotel in the Philippines now and I’m writing this invitation to you with a smile. 🙂
Have you been to the Philippines or just planning for a trip? I would be delighted to hear your thoughts.
Do you have a friend who can relate to this post?Feel free to share.
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