We are so happy to have been able to spend three weeks on the Philippines. Well, this easy going, happy country was definitely a surprise highlight of our trip around the world! The place we visited on Palawan and Luzon not only had stunning scenery, but also truely cool people. As with other countries we have stayed in for a few weeks (check out China, Myanmar and Vietnam), we would like to summarize a few thoughts and observations below that popped up during our (too) short time there:
Filipinos are outgoing, love to sing and often laugh while working
Just come and see for yourself! 🙂 There is a reason why Filipinos are sometimes called the Latinos of South East Asia. They love to sing in all kind of different situations and seem to be very happy no matter what they do. Never before did we see so many people goofing around and having so much fun while they are at work.
This tendency to be outgoing is also reflected on cars and houses that seem althogether more colourful than elsewhere.
Life is uncomplicated here
Traveling through this country we got the impression that people have a very pragmatic and easygoing approach to life. Nobody seems particularly stressed out and most people are very relaxed! We got the feeling that there is a general attitude to life that everything can be fixed, every problem can be solved. Being a Western tourist who worries about missing a plane or losing their camera, this attitude is very healthy to observe!
The Philippines are a very underrated tourist destination
We obviously cannot speak for others but at least for us the Philippines were not really on the map of must see countries – maybe with the exception of Palawan. However, this country has so much to offer and is quite easy to travel. One advantage is that everybody speaks English very well and people are always willing to help you out. It is also fairly easy to get around even though heavy traffic can be a real problem.
What was probably most surprising for us was the sheer variety of places to visit! There are seemingly endless beaches and snorkelling opportunities on Palawan and Cebu, just to name two more well-known places. However, this is really only the beginning. There are plenty of volcanoes to visit, beaches to surf on, rice terraces to hike around and colonial towns to enjoy. You can do all this whilst having a great time interacting with Filipinos and just having a blast! 🙂
Police and security are everywhere
When you arrive on the international airport in Manila you cannot fail to notice all the security guys in guns. They are not confined to airports though. Pretty much everywhere we went we saw police and security. We were not really sure how to feel about this. On one hand it is scary because you think a lot has to happen all the time that so many guns are needed. On the other hand it also gives some reassurances that there is someone here to protect you.
When we asked locals about the background for all this and their explanation was that all the security was installed by the current government to fight the use of drugs and prevent terrorism.
While some areas in the South of the Philippines have been seeing clashes between the local militant group MILF and the police in recent times, the rest of the islands are very quiet. The fact that the market of sleepy Banaue in the Cordillera mountains was protected by three police men with machine guns, got a huge eye roll from our driver.
Christianity is very present in everyday life
More than 90% of Filipinos are Christians, most of them Catholic. As a visitor this fact can hardly be missed since there are churches everywhere. Christianity was introduced by the Spanish as early as the 16th century and the Philippines are now one of two countries in Eastern Asian that are mostly Catholic. The other one is East Timor. Apart from seeing churches everywhere, we also saw various other religious signs all over the country including for example the 10 commandments, colourful Jeepney paintings, or biblical images on houses.
When we asked one of the locals in Northern Palawan whether he had visited the South of the island, he said: “No. It is dangerous there. They are Muslims.” Our homestay owner then told us that this useless propaganda view unfortunately pops up sometimes, of course people in the south are just as nice as anywhere.