Oh Beautiful Philippines!
Feb 14 '02
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.
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
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.
Suited For: Couples
Best Time to Travel Here: Anytime