He Said/She Said: The Philippines

He Said/She Said: The Philippines

The Philippines were not on our original itinerary for 2011, but we decided to island hop in the Visayas for three weeks and it was one of the best decisions of our trip.  The Philippines features incredible scenery, relaxed beaches and welcoming people.  Our only regret was that we didn’t have more time to spend in the Philippines.


I feel like I’m well traveled.  I’ve seen my share of places, sights and feel pretty comfortable with my knowledge of the world.  There is a picture in my mind of almost every country, a tidbit of knowledge and a “want to do” almost everywhere.  For reasons unknown, the Philippines have eluded me, I knew very little about it.  The only things I knew were, “was part of our winnings from the Spanish American War” and “where migrant workers come from” (I am including “pirates” as migrant workers as their employment is, by definition, migratory).  There was no picture in my mind or desire to go to the Philippines.

This saddens me, as much as I have traveled, as much as I have been surprised by unplanned trips, in this case I didn’t say, “the Philippines, awesome, I know nothing about them, we should definitely go.”  I don’t know why, I think it was due to costs (island travel is generally expensive) and the idea that a typical visit to the Philippines included a kidnapping.  Seriously, I have heard some bad things about the Philippines including my only “Locked Up Abroad” show.  As soon as we reached Manila though I realized what a mistake it would have been to skip the Philippines.

The first thing I noticed here were smiles.  After months in East Asia I had gotten used to half-smiles meaning happy, here people in the streets show toothy, ear-to-ear smiles, say hello on the streets, and seem eager to help.  It is island culture at it’s best, there is constant music, a rhythm in the background, and everyone has a little dance in their step.  Why does it seem this way?  Oh, because they live in paradise.  Not some made up, Pleasantville paradise, no, real paradise.

Landing in Palawan, our destination after a night in Manila, my stomach sank.  I knew I hadn’t planned enough time here.  This was the first place, upon arrival, that I knew I would come back to.  Luckily, while waiting for our bags LOCAVORista said this was a place we needed to vacation in the future.  I have seen a lot of beautiful places, but rarely one so calm, happy and gorgeous.

The Philippines do have their downside, there is real, visible, poverty here.  Outside of Manila it feels as poor as Honduras, which is to say really poor.  I am sure that kidnappings do and will happen in certain islands, as they will in other former Spanish colonies (i.e. Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela).  That said, there are many great things and this is a place that tourism, if done right, can be beneficial.  There is certainly no reason that it’s neighbor, Indonesia, with more than it’s share of issues should draw 3x the number of tourists.  The Philippines is a country that you need to see with your own eyes, but let me warn you: going home will be hard.


A common conversation topic for travelers even before you exchange names is where have you been and where are you going.  Every time we said we were going to the Philippines, people immediately said ‘you have to go to El Nido’.  After only three days there I know I will interrupt travelers itineraries and say the same thing.  But, it’s not just El Nido, the Philippines in general are stunning.  I almost don’t want to share the secrets of the beautiful Philippine islands and the wonderful people that live there so that I can have them to myself.

There is nothing to dislike about the Philippines, beautiful people, incredible views, pristine beaches, laid back attitude and friendly locals.  It may still be a developing country, but there is rustic, but nice accommodation and great food.  The lack of tourists is wonderful as we had whole islands to ourselves and the small towns were inviting.

The best parts about the Philippines were all the things it doesn’t have.  There are no base bumping dance bars on the beach, pumping music until two in the morning.  We fell asleep to the sounds of the ocean each night, that’s how quiet it was.  There are no outrageously priced restaurants and ridiculous tourist prices.  While there are bars and restaurants that cater to foreigners they are not astronomical and they are still laid back rather than pounding out the latest U.S. hits.  There are no scamming tuk-tuk drivers or hoards of touts trying to sell you tours.  The tricycle drivers are fair and take you where you want to go without extra stops.

We will be back to the Philippines as it surprised us with it’s beauty, smiling people and wonderful island life.  Walking down the street it’s as if everyone is saying “don’t worry, be happy.”  I’m not usually a beach person, but the Visayas changed my mind.  I could see myself staying here for part of the year as long as all of you don’t come in hords and ruin it.

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» Bka :
Oct 26, 2011

Here we thought Shianoukville in Cambodia was the coolest beach ever and you have since written it would/may not be in your top 10……. That may be the problem with your travels, nirvana may never be reached as it is in the next port……..such problems!?!?……are you growing feathers yet from your chicken consumption……see you soon……love dad

LOCAVORista Reply:

Dad, eating lots of chicken and it is delicious. I think it will definitely be hard to pick favorites at the end of the trip, but the Philippines sure have wowwed us!

» Megan :
Oct 26, 2011

I am a huge fan of your blog and was glad to see you were visiting the Philippines. I am currently living and teaching in the Philippines. I’m in Cagayan de Oro on the island of Mindanao. I have only been here a few days, I’ll be staying for two months, but I’m already falling in love with this place. I’ve been blogging about my stay here so it might be fun for you to check out a fellow Minnesotan’s view of this lovely island!

LOCAVORista Reply:

Megan, thanks for the comment and I’m glad to hear that you enjoy our blog. We are going on our third week in the Philippines and really enjoying it. We’re currently in Northern Luzon at the rice terraces of Banaue, if you have time after teaching it is gorgeous! Thanks for sharing your blog, sounds like you are getting settled in Cagayan after a bit of culture shock. Manila is a huge city, it was fun and interesting to hear your perspectives. Keep in touch and enjoy your experience!

» Megan :
Oct 26, 2011

Also, here is the link to my blog:

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.


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