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Philippines: flashback
Clark (Philippines), January 16th 2009

The Philippines; we really didn’t know what to expect from our journey to the Philippines. We have met several people last one and a half year that did visit the Philippines, and the stories the told were diverse. Some of the people were very enthusiastic about this archipelago, while other travellers had a quite different opinion. After our visit of six weeks to the Philippines, our impression is very positive. We found it is a great country to travel to.

For some reasons, the image of the Philippines isn’t often that good. Many people think it is a dangerous country for travellers. It probably has to do with the fact that Islamic separatist groups are fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern part of the Philippines (on the island of Mindanao). But if you skirt around this part of the country, there is nothing to fear about. Another reason could be the fact that if the Philippines get the headlines in the news, they are often negative or dramatic. Every year the country fells victim to several disasters with ferries and/or violent typhoons. The Philippines is also notorious for the fact that it is a very popular destination for sex tourists, including a major group of paedophiles. But if you are careful about the season you pick for your travels to the Philippines, you won’t encounter a typhoon and the seas are quiet enough to make the chance on a ferry disaster almost nil. Also the areas often visited by sex tourists are probably not on the list of places a serious tourist wants to see. At the most you will see them on your flight to or from the Philippines.

Rural life on the island of Sibuyan

The Philippines have a lot more to offer. We are especially positively surprised by the hospitality and friendliness of the Filipino people. It is a huge difference if you compare them with the much more reticent Indonesians and Thai. The Filipino’s aren’t uncommunicative at all. Travellers are often approached by Filipino people who are interested to have a chat with you. And the great thing about talking with Filipino’s is that they all speak English. Not only the higher educated people, but also the women on the markets and the old broom sales men in the streets. This makes it possible to have more in depth chat with them, giving you the opportunity to learn about the country in a more detailed way. Another characteristic of the Filipino’s is their positive mood and their polite manners. The smiling faces you see are real. Serious research brought to light that the Filipino’s are the happiest people on our planet. They are characterized by the fact that they are happy with the limited things that they have and that they have a boundless sense of humour and the gift to laugh about them selves. And of course, they take it easy. Taking a nap and spending a significant part of the day maintaining their social contacts, is a big part of Filipino life.

Most people who travel to the Philippines are mainly interested in the beach life. The Philippines consists of more than 7000 island, so there is a lot of beach. Many of the beaches are like a paradise. You probably know them from the pictures; perfect white beaches, coconut palms, hammocks and an azure blue sea. The country is also spectacular under the surface of the sea. Many divers see the Philippines as one of the best countries in the world for diving. We did four dives in the Philippines, and indeed, we are impressed. The country doesn’t have a lot of world famous highlights, as many other countries do. However, the Filipino’s are especially proud of their Chocolate Hills on the island of Bohol. They think and hope that this grassy field of humps, stretching as far as the horizon, will be part of the natural world wonders list soon. We are not sure yet if they are serious about this, or that it is a striking example of Filipino humour. Our impression about the hills is that they aren’t that special.

A child playing on the beach of Siquijor
The core of the beauty of the Philippines in our opinion is the rural life. The cities are huge, dirty and crowded, but the rural areas are refreshing. Of course, also the beaches are worth a visit, especially when you love beach life, but we especially enjoyed the rural part of the country. It is great to travel to some of the smaller islands and to immerse in the local life. Travelling by bus, Bangka (small wooden boats that travel between the islands) and of course jeepneys (crossing between a jeep and bus, very characteristic for the Philippines) is a great way to see and enjoy rural life. Spend also some time wandering through the local villages and join them in their games they play on the streets. It is as special for them as for you.

We are touched by the Philippines. Before we went to this country we thought that six weeks would be enough to get a good impression about the country. But it is not. In these six weeks we were only able to visit the Romblon Islands, Mindoro, Panay, Negros, Siquijor and Bohol. But there is a lot more to see in the Philippines. That’s why we plan to go back to this country soon. But next time we will be more careful regarding the season to go. We were there in December and January, and in this time it was still raining a lot on some island. It is difficult to determine which periods are best for which islands, because the rainy season varies per island, and sometimes even per area on a specific island. But we definitely go back soon, and we hope that the impression that the other parts of the Philippines will give us, are as good as the impressions we have right now.

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