Posted by: Anna | May 11, 2011

Philippines Wrap Up

Pearly white beaches surrounded by clear blue sparkling ocean, a rooster in every yard, wildly decorated jeepneys (jeeps converted to open air taxis) – these are the images that will stay with me from the Philippines. Some of the friendliest people we’ve met on our whole trip made even routine activities, like a bus ride, interesting and enjoyable. A leisurely pace helped even impatient me to slow down a little. American influence left a legacy of English, NBA basketball, and even Kenny Roger’s Chicken. There is a lot to appreciate about the Philippines (okay, Kenny Rogers’ Chicken doesn’t really make the list for me, but it was funny to see), and I will remember it fondly.

These are everywhere, with every imaginable design. It's a canvas and a car at the same time.

Our trip to the Philippines was brief – about two weeks. We usually spend much more time than that in a country, and this brief visit reinforced the reason we usually don’t move this quickly. I felt the effect of the speed when I sat down to write this post; two weeks, especially spent primarily on beaches, does not give me a feel for the country. My sense of the Philippines is very superficial. This is the second place that I regret leaving too soon (the other is Namibia); usually we are both ready to move on. Leaving the Philippines, I have a long list of more famous dive sites to see, more World War II history to learn, more scenic areas to visit….just more that we didn’t have time to do. I will be back, someday, hopefully not too long from now.

We spent essentially no time in the larger cities and focused on two small towns in the Visayas. The first, Moalboal, was described to us as great diving, okay beach. Moalboal is a tiny backpacker haven. When we got to the bus station in Cebu (large city in the Visayas), the bus station workers immediately started asking if we wanted to go to Moalboal. That’s when we knew it was where all the white people go! While Moalboal was fun, it wasn’t
really a very representative Filipino experience. We did get to ride a couple of “tricycles” to and from the bus station (I use the word station loosely here, as the Moalboal station is just pulling over on the side of the road next to a bunch of tricycles waiting to take you
wherever you are actually going).

We never made it to the beach, so I can’t comment on that. The diving was just okay – perhaps we didn’t have the best luck. When we arrived at our hostel, the girls (they are grown women with children, but they look so young, and have a youthful energy, so girls) at the hostel we booked greeted us very warmly and informed us that we were their 1000th customers! In our honor, they were preparing “a little dinner” for us and the other guests at the hostel. I’ve never been anyone’s “th” customer before, so that was pretty cool. Dinner turned out to be quite a spread, and very good. It was a very generous and kind gesture on the part of the Moalboal Backpacker Lodge.

Thanks Moalboal Backpacker Lodge! It was delicious.

Our second stop was in Malapascua Island, a remote and tiny island in the North of the Visayas. Malapascua is the prettiest place we have been, possibly, and certainly had the most stunning sunsets every night. It is truly isolated. There are no cars on the whole island, and technically there is only power from 6 PM until midnight, but most places have generators. The internet went out for half the time we were there. My days (Tommy was sick part of the time and our friend Emily who is traveling with us got a terrible sunburn the first day, so they spent more time sheltering in our hotel room – thankfully it was really nice) went something like this:

1. Wake up and eat breakfast at the hotel with a view of the beach.
2. Change into swimsuits and walk down the beach to lounge chairs and umbrellas. A waitress brings us drinks from the bar across the path from the beach.
3. Eat lunch in our lounge chairs.
4. Get too hot, and decide to head back.
5. Relax in the shade of our hotel room (stunning view of the ocean from our balcony) with our fans (no AC).
6. Head down to the bar attached to our hotel, sipping 2-for-1 cocktails (our favorite was the pineapple shake with rum, or rhum as they spell it) for a stunning sunset.
7. Eat dinner at Angelina’s. We ate almost every meal at Angelina’s – an expensive (for the Philippines) Italian restaurant, owned by an Italian named Angelina. It was truly fantastic, and really Italian. Our love of this place reveals one of the downsides of the Philippines is the food – mediocre and unexciting, especially for Asia.
8. Bed. Repeat.

One of many stunning photographs. It was even more amazing in person.

To be honest, this is not really my thing. I know a lot of people read that and think – perfect vacation! I get a little bored. If Tommy had felt better, we would have done more diving, but he didn’t. However, I appreciated the beauty of Malapascua, and I cannot regret going.

The Philippines is very poor, even by Asian standards. Many, many Filipinos work overseas. At the airport, there is even a special line for OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers). Something like 25% of the world’s merchant marines are Filipino. The poverty is not as cramped as India, but we still saw many of the same signs of poverty we saw over and over in India – extremely cramped living quarters, cooking on open flames (no stove, definitely no oven), life lived very much in the streets, and so on. The Philippines seemed to have far fewer homeless people than India. Even so, the Philippines gave me less of the feeling of the desperation for money, manifested in the near constant offers to buy things and services, that I felt in India. More often, Filipinos would offer something for sale, but if you said no, they would smile and move on. Part of this may be the very Asian sense of honor – of avoiding confrontations of any kind…I don’t know. Two and a half weeks does not make me a cultural expert!

A few random observations: Humor is a constant thread in the Philippines – our flights included a game, where the passengers had to search for items in their bags or on their person to win Cebu Pacific Air branded merchandise. Waitresses, hotel workers, and drivers would want to know our names – then I would always be addressed (and remembered when I would go back somewhere) as “Ma’am Anna”, which always made me smile. Cockfighting is huge; Mexico and the Philippines must be the cockfighting capitals of their respective hemispheres. From the buses, we would see many roosters in little rooster abodes, made from wood, spare tires, and other miscellaneous bits and pieces.

Sun, sand, and pizza;
The Mexico of Asia;
I want to return.


Old men, young women;
White men exploiting locals;
Sex tourism – Gross!


More Philippines pictures.



  1. Funny how Tommy and your portrayals of your visit are so different.

  2. Fantastic sunset photo!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: