Tag Archives: its more fun in the philippines

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

Travel Guidelines in the Philippines

Mabuhay!

puerto-galera
Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental

If you love exotic beaches, landscapes that vary from the capital to the provinces, a cuisine with plenty of variety, and meeting very friendly locals who can speak English very well then maybe the Philippines is a place that is next on your list of destinations to visit. As the Philippines is a developing nation with plenty of resources and wonderful things happening in and around Manila the right precautions should be taken as with any place you plan to visit.

As I have spent about three months in the Philippines between all my visits combined I have seen many places near and far. From the Intramuros fortress in Manila to the rice terraces in Banaue, down to Chocolate Hills in Bohol, I am truly in love with all the sights in the Philippines. I believe that I have the authority to share my top tips of advice for the traveler interested in the Philippines because from first hand experience I know what expats are going to face when finding their way around the first time. And one piece of advice concerning my two favorite things you must try; buko (coconut) pie and lumpia(spring rolls). They are my favorite. Enjoy!
1. Travel with Local Currency
As you go on your journey around the Philippines it’s important to keep in mind that you really need local currency on you because outside of the big malls credit cards are not going to get you very far. Compared to other Asian destinations where paying with a credit card is everywhere like in South Korea where I recently traveled to, it’s better to know this now before you are in for a big surprise in the Philippines. When taking public transportation such as jeepneys, tricycles, and buses not only do you need pesos to pay but you need small change and even sometimes exact change to pay. You don’t want to be paying for a tricycle ride with a 1000 Peso bill. You especially don’t want to hand your jeepney driver 500 pesos when getting out to pay. Traveling with smaller bills is especially going to help you when you find yourself on Session Road at the Baguio Market paying for a bag of apples.
Unfortunately, there are so many thieves and pickpockets around so have small change on you preferably in an easy to reach purse or even in your front pocket. This happened to me when I was at the Baguio Market last month and the shop owner actually tipped me off saying how many pickpockets there are so better I have coins on me and small bills on me that I can easily reach to pay and go.
2. Watch your belongings
Like anywhere you travel to around the world you always want to keep your eye on your things. With the growth of terrorism more recently you especially don’t want to keep multiple bags unattended for a period of time. This itself could set you up for some trouble. You always want to use your common sense whenever you travel but make sure that your electronics and cash are literally in plain view so that you know where they are. Don’t leave behind your phone next to your meal and get up and go to the bathroom. Don’t walk around busy areas including malls and public markets with your phone or a large stash of cash in your back pocket. These are all basic safety measures to ensure that you are taking ownership and care to your possessions.
3. Taking Precaution when exchanging money
I was tipped off by my boyfriend and his sister in Robinsons Manila Mall that I could get the best exchange rate for my USD to PESO conversion. However, I received some tips that I want to pass on to the next traveler who may need this. Really, I mean really, keep an eye out when exchanging money in the malls and outside. You many not be aware of who is watching you to see where you go next after you just exchanged $500 and now you have 23,250 pHp on you. Be critically aware of your surroundings for real. Sometimes people get followed without any idea that they are being followed. Also when walking around Manila try not have a lot of cash on you because it’s really not safe. If you are planning on going for a walk to get some coffee or a meal in the mall or nearby, realistically you don’t even need 2,500 PhP on you. It’s better to have small denominations on you such as 20,50,100,500 so that the cashier can make change for you to make the payment paying smoother. Going to Starbucks? Just pay with your card.
4. The reason for carrying PhP cash on you as backup
I had been paying with pesos the whole time I was in Manila until I literally ran out and decided to use my credit card this one time to pay for my Vietnamese meal in the mall. I was having lunch at Pho Ha at Robinsons Otis in Paco, Manila when suddenly the electricity went off for about ten seconds. Taking my time slurping on my pho noodles and enjoying each bite I had no idea that the credit card machines went down and only cash was being accepted at this time. With only 40 php in my wallet I was about the get myself tied up in a mess.
I asked for the bill and took my credit card out. “Oh, I’m sorry ma’m we are only accepting cash at this time because the credit card machines are currently not working because of the electricity outage”. I didn’t even have the equivalent of $1 to pay for my meal. “Better you wait a while for them to work again,” my waiter explained. With no USD in my wallet to exchange upstairs I waited the first hour watching time pass. Finally I explained to the staff that I understand the situation and that I have no pesos to pay for my meal but I can’t wait all day for the machines to magically begin working again. “Ma’m we talked with our supervisor and it’s ok if you come back later or tomorrow to pay”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This has never happened to me before and I couldn’t believe that the entire staff was letting me “walk off” without paying while trusting me enough to come back. “My name is Alana. I am currently staying at Peninsula Gardens. You can find me there if you don’t see me by tomorrow afternoon”. Was I really just telling the restaurant my current address?
Owing the restaurant 700 php I felt a heavy weight on my shoulders to hurry the hell up and exchange my dollars at Robinsons Manila A.S.A.P. When I returned the next day with my receipt in hand and the exact amount to pay I swear, the staff looked so proud and relieved to see me with big smiles. I felt like I had proved to them and to myself that I am a trusting dignified human being and that I would never take off from a restaurant without paying them back. Words of advice, it’s always best to have local currency on you for the unexpected.

For more information on the Philippines check out my vlogs on Youtube where I cover the places I visited along with travel advice, and much more!

 

batad
Batad Rice Terrace; UNESCO World Heritage Site