Why I miss the Philippines

 

Alona Beach
Alona Beach, Bohol

I often get this question time and time again.

“So tell me. What is your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to?”

There is usually a long hesitation of silence after this question on my end followed by a lengthy “ummmmm”. Bali, Taiwan, Korea, and Greece all come to mind  immediately when I think of some of the best things I have experienced abroad such as yoga, kimchi, and drinking frappes in a cozy cafe in Oia but then my mind changes and my memories take over me and before I know I am blurting out “The Philippines!”

My first adventure out to the Philippines was back in 2013 on a curious solo adventure to see the Chocolate hills down in Bohol. It was a backpack, a Lonely Planet, and a few airbnb’s booked with no agenda in mind. It was an adventure within itself taking the ferry from Cebu to Tagbilaran and answering to all the curious locals as to why on earth I was alone in the Philippines in the first place and where my husband was.  In the end I loved what I saw and I was anxious to see more in the future.

Located in southeast Asia consisting over 7,107 islands the Philippines has something for everyone’s taste. Whether you love hiking, swimming in waterfalls, sprawling on a beach, people watching in Manila, or getting deep into the culture this is a place where genuine experiences and curiosity always slip out of nowhere.

White Beach Bohol
Alona Beach-Bohol
Chocolate Hills
Chocolate Hills
Tappiya Falls
Tappiya Falls
Coron
Coron, Palawan

 

Fast forward to 2017

The Philippines. I know, I know what you are thinking. “But Alana, I thought you told me that you hate the heat there, the pollution of Manila, the poverty you saw everyday, the lack of green spaces all throughout the city, lack of living space and the lifestyle of “malling” to get out of the heat. I know, exactly. I agree with you. I agree with you completely. I did say all of those things. But in my experience of knowing for myself what the Philippines has to offer I still sometimes miss traveling there.

But I’m not including Manila as my favorite travel destination.  It’s the Philippines in all of it’s entirety that I’m talking about. It’s the food. It’s the garlic fried rice that I would eat every single morning for breakfast. Its the fried lumpia! I’m salivating just thinking about eating lumpia right now soaked in vinegar sauce. For all of you who don’t know what lumpia is think about an egg roll. It’s kind of like that but with fresh ingredients inside and you can order it fresh with a doughyness or have it fried (my preference).

Filipino cuisine
Filipino cuisine

You go to a mega mall and the options of foods you can eat still astound me. I compare that to my local mall here in Connecticut and I shake my head as I list off the limited options I have: Subway, Chinese, McDonald’s, and what else? Back in these mega malls especially in metro Manila and Baguio City you have endless options of all different kinds of Asian foods, western, pizzas, and ramen! It’s the warm mountains of rice on my plate along with yummy veggies, shrimp, and an egg topped over my rice that heals any pain I might have. And best of all it’s so cheap! I can literally eat out everyday and not worry about my budget.

It’s the landscapes. Places like Banaue way up north (12 hours north of Manila) where I soaked in the wandering rice terraces with my boyfriend watching locals live their daily lives in pure simplicity while drinking a cold coconut that made me want to just quit life and take a chance at being a professional vlogger in the Philippines. No seriously, I deeply contemplated that option a few times this year.

Batad Rice Terrace
Batad Rice Terrace

Filipinos are very curious about foreign travelers in their turf. Well maybe not sacred places like Sagada where the over traffic of tourists has taken over this quiet town famous for the hanging coffins, caves, and homeade yoghurt, but still. Filipinos are easy going people who are very prideful of their culture, land, and family life.

Leslie's in Tagaytay
Leslie’s in Tagaytay

It’s the smiles and kind regard that I’m not use to each time I visit the Philippines. When you walk into any grocery store, shopping mall, hair salon, restaurant a stammering of workers cannot wait to assist you in the Philippines. “Hi ma’m. Can I help you find something?” “Not really,” (I reply back) (But in my mind I think “But I’d love to chat!”). The last time I was in the Philippines I had a long “heart to heart” with one of the workers in the SM department store as he was very curious about my being in Manila and what brings me here. The long and short of it was that we exchanged a nice conversation and I hope I didn’t p*ss off any of his co-workers by his long chat with me.

Back home I’m usually not greeted by sales people on the floor of a store. Them assisting me is like them doing me a huge favor.  Seriously. That’s the attitude at least I feel when I return home from my travels.Nobody actually comes up to me to ask if I need help. Last week when I was trying to find a box to mail back to Air Canada (broken luggage) I was in Toys R’us and I had to hunt down sometime to assist me. Finally when I spotted a lady with a name tag walking past me I had to turn around and start following her and walk with her around the store to ask my question. Really!  When I sit down and think about it, it’s kind of refreshing to know the care and genuine assertiveness I get whenever I’m out and about in the big cities in the Philippines. That’s something you won’t find in the States. If so, I would love to know where you live and what kind of service you get.

After four visits to the Philippines I know that I still have more than 7,000 islands to visit. That’s the truth of it. In my lifetime or in anyones lifetime for that matter would they ever run out of places to discover, people to meet, and new foods to try. That’s why I’m excited to go back one day when the time is right. I know haven’t even seen 2% of this exquisite country yet.

Puerto Galera
Puerto Galera, Mindoro

For more about life in the Philippines check out one of my favorite blogs written by Amber who has created a very creative life in the metro Manila area with her family here. For more about creative living, delicious recipes, and lifestyles check out my favorite Filipino celebrities Stephanie Zubriri here.

Baguio Cathedral
Baguio Cathedral