With close to 8000 islands, a paradisiacal beach is never far away in the Philippines. It’s location along the so called ‘Ring of Fire’ has resulted in a host of active volcanoes and the constant threat of earthquakes. On the flip side, all those ash-spewing volcanoes have made the archipelago very fertile and green, supporting an ever-expanding population. Obviously these emerald isles attracted the attention of would be conquistadores, and before long the Spanish had settled in and remained the dominant power until the United States pushed them aside 300 years later and started their own little colonial empire. It wasn’t too last though, and after the Second World War, the Philippines finally regained their long sought after independence.
As a result of all this colonial activity the Philippines is cultural melting pot. From the language, a mix of native, Spanish and English, to the food, to the mood of the people, they are all suffused with the heritage of the past. Thanks to Spanish religious zeal, Roman Catholicism is a force to be reckoned with, with the majority of the inhabitants exhibiting a level of religious fervour rarely seen anywhere else in the world. An Islamic minority based mainly in the south is the cause of occasional friction, which has given rise to several armed uprisings.
Whatever your fancy you will find it in the Philippines, from the white sandy beaches of Boracay, to the white sandy beaches of Calaguas, to the beaches of Palawan, to the beaches of Bacuit Archipelago, there is plenty of beach to choose from. Then there are the Banaue Rice Terraces, the colourful jeepneys, the heady nightlife of Manila, religious festivals, the dense jungles, and of course world-class diving, with a plethora of World War Two era wrecks to explore and a dizzying amount of big (and small) fish to see.
The food is equally diverse, a fusion of Spanish and local styles has resulted in some unique dishes, from the much loved adobo, to the much maligned (by tourists) balut - if you don’t mind eating 18 day old duck embryo give it a try.
For the perfect island getaway there is no place like the Philippines.
Highlights from Philippines
- Dive with whale sharks in Donsol
- Stroll around Intramuros in Manila and visit San Agustin Church before heading out into its eclectic nightlife
- Stand in awe of Mayon volcano with its perfectly symmetrical cone shape
- Frolic around the beaches of Boracay
- Dive the shipwrecks in Coron Bay, Palawan, or at Puerto Galera
- Walk the paddy fields of the World Heritage listed Banaue Rice Terraces
- Spot tarsiers at Bohol Nature Reserve, walk around the Chocolate Hills or go diving, on Bohol
- Go surfing in Siargao
- Dive Malapascua Island and spot hammerheads, thresher sharks, and manta rays
- Catch one of the many festivals from the Ati-Atihan festival in Kalibo in January, to the re-enactment of Christ’s Passion including self-crucifixion practices on Good Friday held in Pampanga
Hints and Tips for Philippines
- Most nationalities are issued a free 30 day visa upon arrival, which can be extended.
- With so many islands, ferries are a lazy way to see the archipelago, if you are in a hurry flights will bring you there quicker.
- Rainy season with the occasional typhoon is from June to September.
- Beware that the southern island of Mindanao as well as the Sulu Archipelago have ongoing insurgencies, especially the Sulu Archipelago should be avoided as the extremist group of Abu Sayyaf is active there.
- Manila, as a big city, has its fair share of scams and worse, so keep your wits about you.