I went there for three months with little knowledge of the place and came back wishing I could have stayed. The hospitality I received everywhere I went was unbelievable. From being invited to drink on the streets with people, to being put up for the night and getting fed to bursting by total strangers. The weather is hot all year round and there is an endless amount to do. From the metropolitan cities, to the deserted beaches, from the food to the drinking culture I never stopped being amazed. The Philippines may seem slightly off the beaten track for some, so here are my top ten reasons why you should go
1 Meet the people
One of the best things to do in the Philippines is meeting the locals. Most Filipinos speak some English and are always desperate to practice. This makes the country surprisingly accessible and makes getting to know the locals really easy. Their great sense of humour makes interaction easy. For example, in the Filipino take on the typical Englishmen, Irishman, Scotsman joke, Filipinos are the butt of the joke. I found that the best way to get talking to Filipinos is to join them for a drink, Filipinos are very open and it won’t be long before someone invites you over.
2 Try the local food
Filipino food is fresh, tangy and tart. If you like seafood you can find a huge variety of freshly caught produce served in both street stalls and lush restaurants. Most Sundays you can find people spit roasting pigs in the street and if you’re feeling brave, try the tongue, it’s incredible! There are also local delicacies such as barbecued chicken intestine and Balot. Balot are ducks eggs boiled at 14 or 16 days old, and are only sold in the evenings once the sun has set. The locals love this dish but you may want to get a few drinks down before trying some...
3 Drink with/like the locals
Drinking is a huge part of the culture and socialising. You won’t go far before you find a group of Filipinos sat around a table drinking tuba (too-ba) who may well invite you to sit with them. Tuba is a palm wine you buy for about 50p a gallon and has a bitter taste so is usually chased with a swig of Coca-cola. It’s passed around in a circle with each person having a drink one at a time. Or buy a bottle of pretty decent local rum for about 80p a bottle.
4 Ride in a Jeepney
The US army left behind surplus jeeps which the locals altered by extending the back and putting on a roof, essentially turning them into small buses. Jeepnies have become iconic and are a strong part of Filipino identity. Outside of the cities you can ride on the top of them and watch the country pass by, not for the faint hearted however.
5 Watch street boxing in Cebu
The Visayas region is home to Manny Paqcuiao. Arguably one of the world’s best boxers in recent times he is a national hero in the Philippines. In Cebu city, boxing is so popular that on Sundays streets are closed off to make way for temporary boxing rings. Barbecues are set up and people sell ice cold beers as amateur boxers try to make names for themselves.
6. Scuba Diving
The Philippines is one of the best places in the world for scuba diving and is an important part of their fast-emerging tourist industry. The area between the Philippines and Indonesia is one of the most diverse habitats for tropical fish in the world. In Sabang bay in Puerto Galera you can swim with turtles, dragon fish, octopi, the list goes on. If you get out early enough you can have the bay practically to yourself while everyone else sleeps off the night before.
7 The nature
There are too many beautiful places in the Philippines to list them all. The epic Baguio rice fields are sometimes mentioned as the eighth wonder of the world. The mountains in Bohol that turn brown in the rainy season and resemble Hershey’s chocolate kisses. There are huge varieties of unique animals, reptiles and birds to discover. At one bar in Leyte I had my beer sat next to two jars, one with a baby cobra, the other a baby python, not to be mistaken for your pint.
8 Go surfing
The Philippines might not be the first place you would think of for surfing, but actually has excellent spots and is good if you’re looking to learn as the beaches aren’t too busy. If you’re feeling adventurous then take a jeepney ride from Manila through sheer cliff faces and past virgin jungle and you’ll reach San Juan, a perfect spot for those who want a relaxed surf and a few beers with the locals. If you want to explore this area further then take a guided tour to the forest and meet local loin-clothed, tattooed tribesmen.
9 Go shopping
The Philippines has a variety of malls catering to high-end shopping. Ayala Malls are some of the biggest in the Philippines and can be found in all the major cities. Alternatively there are thousands of markets where you can find fashion that mirrors the UK high-street for a fraction of the price. Basketball and board sports have a big influence so it’s a great place to pick up both sportswear and streetwear. Around Quiapo church in Manila the markets sell everything from brand name clothes to DVDs to herbal concoctions for any ailment you can imagine. Just don’t take the first price they give you, with a bit of haggling you can normally take down the asking price by about fifty per cent.
10 Rent a bar boat
A brilliant way to spend a day is to rent a bar boat. I did this in Santa Rita in Samar and it cost about £10 for the boat for 6 people and a days’ worth of booze. They push you out into crystal blue water attached to a rope anchored to the land where you can sit and play cards, dive off of the side and snorkel. If you run out of drink or fancy something to eat, the staff will swim or paddle over to you with whatever you need.
If you fancy a trip go over to the Malaysia Airlines Facebook page where you can win two tickets. Vote to enter! Malaysia airlines have Airbus A380 Double Daily Flights which have great connections to South East Asia . You can expect to enjoy 5 Star Service, the Best Cabin Crew and an amazing baggage allowance. Passengers will now enjoy 30kg for economy class, 40kg for business class and 50kg for first class.