The Philippines has got to be one of the most exciting and underrated destinations in the world. It is gifted with gorgeous beaches, mountains, caves, volcanoes, waterfalls and all sorts of natural wonders. Yet, even with all these fascinating landscapes, the real heartbeat of this country lies within its people. As the Filipinos repeatedly told me, their secret for happiness does not lie within possessions or monetary desires, but contentment with what they already have – friends, families, and whatever positive things come in their way. Their kindness, love and hospitality were truly a prevalent experience throughout my stay.
I was lucky enough to spend one month in the Philippines – discovering the better parts of Palawan, Luzon and Cebu. While one month may seem a long time in one country, 30 days is not nearly enough to truly discover all of Philippines – keep in mind that there are over 7,000 islands here!
Life in the Philippines
It is difficult to holistically discuss the life in the Philippines : When you travel from one region to another, or even from one town to another, you get to discover contrasting lifestyles, perspectives and even language differences. While most Filipinos can by no terms be considered rich in monetary terms, they are certainly happy and rich in other ways. The Filipino culture (in most parts) is very much community-orientated, as opposed to the more modern individualistic mindset. As a result you’ll often see people beaming their wonderful smiles and convey their felicity to everyone else around them.
As Fromm aptly described when he wrote ‘To Have or to be’, modern society’s pervasive problem is the need to possess, own and take control of everything they come across. Perhaps Filipinos can be one of the best examples of the kind of society that Fromm desired the world to have.
“I don’t have a lot, but I now have a wife who I married after being with her for 8 years, and I have healthy a family. What more do I need? I am in a course learning to become an IT teacher, happy to be learning new things everyday. I don’t need a car, or a fancy house. This is all I need. My wife to be happy and hopefully raise kids of my own in the near future. We live a simple life, but we live a good life.” – Angelo, we met during a 14 hour boat trip from Coron to Manila.
Whether this simple way of life is a choice, or something that is forced on them because of their financial position is arguably a different matter. However, I do feel that even if people were richer, the idea of sharing and caring for one another would still define the Filipino culture. Whatever the case, encountering this sort of culture has been a refreshing experience for me.
Filipinos tend to be very hard-working, religious and rather conservative. However, while conservative in their views, I did not feel as if they tried to impose their believes on anyone. They are also very creative and inventive: I particularly loved how they transformed motorcycles to become 5/7 seaters machines. The modifications on their boats to make them more balanced is also particularly clever!
Not everything here is a bed of roses, however. One major concern I have for locals here is their love for alcohol. People can be seen drinking at any point during the day. Alcohol is very cheap, especially local gin and rum…which is good for travellers looking to save money, but perhaps not the best idea for a fully functional society. Having said this, I loved that a museum in Vigan described the local love for alcohol as a means of “social lubricant” – a way to solve disputes and issues within societies.
The main source of entertainment for Filipinos is undoubtedly their beloved karaoke (and they especially love soapy and “deep” songs!). One thing that can be guaranteed in your stay here is that if you even remotely mingle a bit with the locals, you get to hear singers of all talents. Other sources of entertainment often include pageants, dancing , and basketball.
Discovering the country – One Month Travel Itinerary
The numerous islands in the Philippines are not only a showcase of different lifestyles, but also contrasting landscapes. Philippines is lucky enough to have rich biodiversity both on land and underwater.
Target at least a week in Palawan. There are an amazing amount of incredible beaches, and equally, a lot of beautiful islands. My favourite place in Palawan remains Coron – not only does it host a few of the most beautiful islands, but it is also home of the loveliest people I’ve met in Philippines. My route: Puerto Princesa, Port Barton, El Nido (Nacpan Beach), Coron
If you are anything like me and get bored pretty fast in beach destinations, Luzon is a perfect getaway. This island offers volcanoes, mountains, caves, rice terraces and vibrant cities (and, well, beaches as well). My Route: Manila, Taal Volcano, Banaue, Batad, Sagada, Baguio, Agoo, Vigan, Clark
Banaue Rice Terraces
Waterfall in Batad
Mountain View in Baguio
The Spanish influenced town of Vigan
Cramped neighborhood in Baguio
Out of all the islands that I have travelled, Cebu would probably rank as my least favourite. Having said this, I might have spent more time underwater than on the land itself. I finished my open water diving course here, so I didn’t have much time to wander around. The waterfalls in Kawasan were the highlight of the trip (outside of the sea), but they were not overly impressive either.