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Last updated : Nov 2009
Philippines, Oh Beautiful Philippines!
Rating :

Feb 14 '02

Pros: Cheap. Easy lifestyle. Friendly people. 7107 islands. Beautiful beaches, great scuba diving locations. A must for anyone who likes the sun, the beach, the sea and the easy life.
Cons: Recent problems. Kidnappings. Manila pollution. Instability. Coup rumors every five minutes.

When I went to the travel agency in Amsterdam, they had absolutely no information about the Philippines. They had brochures on every other country in Asia but the Philippines.

In 1994 I landed at Ninoy Aquino International Airport from Schipol, Amsterdam. The trip with KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) was long but pleasant. When I arrived, the Philippine Peso was at 25 against the dollar and Fidel. V. Ramos was President. The reason for my travels to the Philippines was a business opportunity thrown my way by some partners in Europe. I had never been here before. I came here in 1994 and I'm still here in 2002.

What a beautiful place!

I remember getting out of the plane and as I took my first step on the retractable stairs, I remember being struck by a heat wave. I almost couldn't breathe. It was January 7th and I had just left a freezing Amsterdam. It was not even summer here yet and the heat was already stronger than the hottest French summers I was accustomed too.

The Philippines has 2 seasons: wet (rainy season) and dry (summer). The rainy season starts around June and last for approximately 6 months. The reason this season is called "rainy" is because it rains, and rains, and rains and......hum.......rains? That's right! Sometimes it rains for weeks non-stop which causes great problems for the poor that live in Shanty towns. The country has no drainage system, which is the main reason for floods in that particular season. Rains will usually be accompanied by the occasional typhoons (cyclones). These typhoons can reach speeds of 130 mph. Once, on the 25 floor of my appartment, during a Signal 5 typhoon (the strongest type), my bedroom windows were actually sucked out by a vacuum. It was unreal. These windows were heavy, but not heavy enough to drop to the ground, as gravity would dictate. As I perched myself on my windowsill, looking at the ground, the windows were nowhere to be seen. They had been carried out on a horizontal plane by the winds.

The last season is the summer. It can get hot in summer, with high levels of humidity. But you get used to it. You need to drink a lot of water in the Philippines or you'll dehydrate very quickly.
Summer season is simply wonderful. The Philippines is comprised of 7107 islands. Most of them are tough to get to but with a little determination and patience you can get there. If you enjoy scuba diving, water-skiing, snorkeling, swimming, sailing and golfing you can go to one of the most known islands called Boracay and enjoy all of these activities. From Manila you take a small plane to Caticlan. The ride will take you less than 1 hour and as you are about to land, you will see nothing but clear blue waters, swaying palm trees and empty white beaches. From there, you take a small banka (small boat) all the way to Boracay Island. Once you are there, you will feel like you are in paradise. Accomodation is cheap and they are many restaurants specializing in different types of food. It's one of those places you have to see for yourself, http://www.boracayonline.com/

Another beautiful place to go to is southeast from Manila, in Legaspi, Bikol. The picture above is situated in Legaspi. The volcano is called Mayon volcano and is repected and feared by all the locals. Mayon has a reputation for erupting every 10 years and causing a great deal of destruction to the surrounding rice fields. By the way the figure that you see in the foreground is the bell tower of the church called Cagsawa. The church itself is covered by rocks and lava. So, if you were to dig deep below the surface of the bell tower you would discover the remains of the church. Mayon Volcano reaches 2,460 meters and is the central feature of the Albay Province, of which Legaspi City is the capital, about 300-km southeast of Manila. It must be one of the most beautiful volcanic cones anywhere in the world and is visible for miles around in the otherwise flat landscape of the region. My wife comes from this province and when I go there, I can feel the energy of the volcano. Wherever you are, all you have to do is turn your head to the left or the right and you will find the Majestic Mayon there, keeping an eye on you. It's quite awesome! So awesome, in fact, that in June 2000, Shawnaleh and myself invited our friends from Europe, the States and the Philippines to Legaspi and got married. While we were facing the ocean and taking our vows, the Mayon was behind us, looking at us.

Unfortunately, the Philippines has had a bad rap over the last couple of years with the ousting of Joseph Estrada which everyone calls Erap (friend) and the increase in kidnappings from different rebellious groups. The Peso is now at 51 against the dollar and the President is Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who was Joseph Estradas vice president. She took Estradas seat after the peoples revolt in January 2001 (EDSA 2). Now with the increase of American military arriving in the country, it is clear to say that the Philippines is not the top tourist spot in Asia.

If you live here, things are different. You adapt yourself to the country and you know that things aren't that bad after all. You just have to be careful not to go to the remote south where the real trouble is. I would recommend anyone to travel to the Philippines for vacation and see for himself or herself. It's a vast and beautiful country. The people are the friendliest people. And with the devaluation of the Peso, holiday packages are cheap.

Just make sure that you don't cut your hair too short. With the Americans here now, no doubt most locals will be calling you "Joe" as they called me back in 1994 when the Americans had left from their last stay here.

Recommended: Yes
Best Suited For: Couples
Best Time to Travel Here: Anytime