December 27, 2013

10 Reasons Why The Philippines Should Be Your First Stop In Asia

published by Bren

this post may contain affiliate links

The Philippines was never very high on my travel bucket list. No one really talked about the place, and it seemed to have a reputation for being a rather dangerous place to travel through. Besides, all travellers knew that Thailand had all the best beaches, China had all the work opportunities and Vietnam had all the best food. Why bother going to the Philippines?

Then finally in March this year I got the chance to visit. What I discovered was a country inhabited by the friendliest people on Earth, littered with unimaginable beaches and an infectious family like culture that made you never want to leave. Some of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in Asia were hidden in faraway corners of the country, still unheard of by much of the backpacker crowd. What I still can’t figure out is how so many travellers in Asia pass on this country full of beautiful people, fresh tropical fruit, picturesque islands and untouched natural beauty. Safe, cheap, beautiful; I ended up staying for 6 months! It’s easily become my new favourite spot in Asicoa.

Need more proof? Here’s 10 reasons why you need to skip Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and head straight to the Philippines on your next trip to Asia.

1. The amazing people

friendly people philippines

It’s amazing how friendly the people are here. How the place got a reputation for being dangerous, I have no idea. There was one time where I ran out of cash in El Nido, and since the place had no ATM’s I wasn’t able to get cash to pay for the tour I had been on that day. I was so embarrassed but when I finally told the guy, he just laughed and said “Ahhh no problem, you can pay anytime! I just hope you enjoyed the tour!” A perfect example of the generous, welcoming spirit of the Filipino people.

They’re also so polite! I’ve never been called Sir so many times in my life. As soon as you walk into 7 Eleven – “Good afternoon Sir!”

Then I ask her to help me work the drink machine, “Yes Sir, no problem Sir!”

Then when I go to pay, “Thank you Sir, is there anything else you need Sir?”

Then when I leave, “Thank you Sir, come again Sir!”

Then as I walk through the door the security guard holds it open and says, “Thank you for coming Sir, have a good day Sir!”

This isn’t a one off, it happens like this every single time! I thought the Japanese were polite but this was a whole new level. They don’t try to sell me anything, they don’t try and give me a taxi ride, they don’t try to ask for money; they’re just polite for the sake of being polite, and that’s something that you don’t see around the world too often these days. Filipino’s certainly know how to make you feel welcome.


2. The incredible food

Food in the Philippines

What I love about Filipino food is that it’s so different.

I love eating new things and that’s hard to do in many other parts of Asia. I’d eaten a whole lot of Chinese food before I went to China, I’d had quite a few gallons of Tom Yum soup before I went to Thailand, I’d eaten my fair share of curry and roti before I went to India and I knew all about udon noodles before I went to Japan. Yet before this year I had never seen or even heard of kalderetta, adobo, sinigang, bulalo, turon, lumpia, I could go on forever.

Some of the food didn’t agree with me completely but there were some things, their soups especially, that were just so different and delicious. There really is a lot of stuff that will be like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. Damn, I’m craving a sinigang right now!


3. You don’t get scammed or hustled

Mall of Asia Philippines
No one bothers you when walking down the street

To me, one of the most unattractive things about Asia is the blatant scamming. If you’ve ever been to the markets in China or caught a tuk tuk in Thailand you’ll know what I’m talking about. Hustling is even worse – take a walk through Phuket one night and count how many times someone tries to sell you something.

100 times only? Guess it was a quiet night.

During my 6 months in the Philippines I got scammed once. Other than that, it was so refreshing not having to watch my back every second of the day. A couple of times I even tested the taxi drivers, telling them I had no idea how to get back to my apartment when I actually knew the way perfectly. Did they drive me around the block and run up the meter? Nope.

Maybe the country’s strong religious roots has something to do with it, but whatever it is you’ll definitely appreciate it.


4. It’s off the beaten track

Tourism desk in the Philippines

I still struggle to understand how so many attractions in the Philippines continue to fly under the radar.

How is it that Bali gets 3 million visitors a year and Boracay barely manages to get a million?

How is it that I literally had the entire resort on Cagbalete Island to myself?

The Philippines only had 4 million tourists in 2012, compared to 20+ million in Thailand. Anyway, whatever the reason is let’s just hope it stays that way. Part of the magic in exploring the spotless white sand beaches of the Philippines is that you quite often have them all to yourself.


5. Everyone speaks English!

I was surprised to find out the language of instruction in schools here is actually English!

Finding your way around a language barrier can be half the fun in travelling, but it’s also surprising how different your travel experience becomes when you can actually communicate with everyone.

The level of English here is very high, definitely better than any other country I’ve visited in Asia (except for Singapore). It really makes travelling through the country a lot easier, and it’ll allow you to interact with the locals who will be able to recommend things and places you would have never otherwise heard of.


6. The fantastic shopping

SM Manila Philippines

For me, shopping in Manila would be the best I’ve ever seen.

Bangkok was pretty good, Shanghai was also good, even Hong Kong is not bad.

Manila beats all of them.

Out of the 20 biggest shopping malls in the world, 5 of them are in Manila. That’s more than any other city. On top of that all the shop assistants speak great English, stuff is not overpriced (cough, Shanghai), the local brands are surprisingly good quality and the free WIFI actually works! No stupid codes, no getting a password from the information desk; just connect and go.

Their malls are not just big, boring boxes either. The maze of Greenbelt malls is modern, classy and full of character. Spend a whole day walking through here and you’ll probably only manage to see half of it.


7. Unbelievable beaches

Cagbalete Island Philippines

These days its pretty hard to find a picture perfect beach that isn’t overcrowded, overdeveloped or overhyped. Unless of course you’re in the Philippines, where there are just too many to name.

In a country made up of over 7,000 islands beautiful beaches are bound to be everywhere. And they are! Try Googling Amanpulo, Caramoan, White Beach Boracay, Coron, Camiguin, Anguib Beach, Cagbalete Island, Caramines Sur, Nacpan Beach, Bolobadiangan Island, Subic Beach, Buluan Island; there’s just too many to list.

Most of these I haven’t even seen yet, but I’ll definitely be back to do it soon. What’s even crazier is that I’m guessing you’ve never even heard of these places, meaning no one else is going to be there except you.


8. The pretty faces

Megan Young, Miss World 2013 Philippines
Miss World 2013. Photo credit: Paul Cortes Photography

While I was living in Manila, the Traveler’s Digest released an article ranking Quezon City as one of the “Top 10 cities with the world’s best looking men”.

The article caused a bit of a Facebook sharing frenzy amongst the locals, and the humble celebrations had barely ended when the Philippines won Miss World 2013 a few months later. In fact, it appears the Philippines has been cleaning up at beauty pageants for quite some time now.

I’m just going to chime in and go on record saying that the Philippines really is a country of very pretty people πŸ™‚


9. It’s cheap!

Glorietta market Philippines

Budget travellers will definitely have no problem making their way through here. Taxi rides around town cost $3, a decent meal costs $1.50 and a bucket of beers will barely run you $5. Catching the latest movie at the cinema will cost you $6 and you can rent yourself a studio apartment for around $15 a day! Not to mention the country’s budget airlines (Cebu Pacific, PAL Express) offer some of the cheapest fares in Asia.


10. It’s growing, fast

Fort Bonifacio Philippines
Fort Bonifacio in Manila

I remember the first time I visited Fort Bonifacio and felt like I was walking through an upgraded version of Singapore. Skyscrapers were going up in all directions, it was incredibly clean, all the international eateries were around, there were Deutsche Bank and HP and IBM offices towering above me, the roads were wide and uncrowded, there were fancy public parks and boutique shopping streets; there I was thinking “I thought the Philippines was 3rd world?” The place looked like New Zealand 20 years into the future! I cannot wait to see what this place looks like in a few years time.

I’ll say it one more time. Go to the Philippines NOW. Asia’s best kept secret may not stay a secret for too much longer.

Looking for more Philippines content? Make sure you check out my trip to El Nido, my month living on Boracay, and my Manila Accommodation guide. It’s more fun in the Philippines!

Heading to Asia. Be sure to add the Philippines to your "to-do" list. Amazing beaches, delicious food, off the beaten track, the friendliest people. What more could you want?

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  1. Thank you Bren for this awesome article! I can relate to every single point on your list. I try to visit my family in the Phils every year, but i also visit because i want to be in this beautiful, crazy and so different country again. And yes, sometimes i think a little bit more tourists would be good for the economy but, as selfish as it may sound, i want to the phils to be a secret getaway. 13 days left till im on my way to the pinoys again, btw =)

      1. When you go back to Philippines please try to go to Calaguas Island. For now, you start your research about the island and the tour packages on offer. πŸ™‚

          1. You’ve been to more places in the Philippines than I have, and I’m a local! πŸ™‚ Thank you for the wonderful article, so glad to find people like you who love my country!! πŸ™‚

          1. San Jose? I think that’s the jump off point to Apo Reef (different from Apo Island). I think it’s the the 2nd largest reef in Asia? Or the world next to the Great Barrier Reef. Anyways, been there, it was good!! Kilometers of great snorkeling or diving.

    1. And yes, I know what you mean, it would be great for the country if more tourists started visiting, but it’s just so nice having the place all to yourself!

      1. First of all thank you Bren. I am so embarrassed when you list down some, and I repeat some of the best beaches as I have not heard some of them.
        I spoke to some tourists as well and they are selfish as we are. They don’t want advertise the beauty of the country as it might end up like another Phuket or Bali.

        Next time try climbing mountains. You’ll see a different perspective. Also Batanes and Calayan Island.
        Have fun

        1. I must admit, I am guilty of only chasing beaches and forgetting about what else the country has to offer. I suppose I will need to climb a mountain next time. I hope The Philippines never becomes like Phuket, what a shame that would be!

  2. Hey Bren, what a very nice article about our country, will definitely bring tears to Filipinos(just wiping mine now.hehe). Maraming salamat πŸ™‚ We all love our country, and we love it even more when other nationalities appreciates Philippines and our culture..and because of this you just earned a new friend πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Hanan. Amazing things are happening in The Philippines at the moment. Right now the world has a love affair with places like Thailand, Hawaii, the Caribbean, but as more and more people start to visit the Philippines, I’m convinced it won’t be long before the whole world falls in love with your country!

      1. try SINULOG FESTIVAL in CEBU.It is celebrated every third Sunday of the month of Jan.Millions of local and foreign tourist are going there.and the white sand beach of KALANGGAMAN island in Leyte just 2 hrs.by fastcraft from Cebu.

    1. hey bren, hoping to see you in the Island of Mindoro. So many beautiful places to see in the island. thanks for the way how you appreciates your stay in our country!!!God bless

  3. Hi Bren, you summed up the best in our country pretty well. Thanks so much for this. Really a challenge to promote the beauty of our country past the image of danger and calamities this past year, that’s why i can’t thank you enough for this fresh perspective. May i share your article in my page? Good vibes for your next travel!

    1. Hi Russell, yes, please share! I agree, the magic of The Philippines so often gets overlooked in the media. It’s a shame, because if people took the time to visit, I’m sure they would love the place, as so many others do. Thanks for reading!

  4. Hi Bren,

    Thanks for writing about the Philippines. You’ll never really know what a place has to offer until you visited it and experience it yourself. Your article would surely inspire others to visit our country. Heartwarming to read such a piece about our beloved country.

  5. My goodness, this is amazing! I could not have written about my own country better than you did! Thank you, on behalf of my countrymen. I hope more and more backpackers come across your write up and I hope to get to meet more of you guys as I go around our country. :=))

    1. Already quite a few people have told me they’re heading to The Philippines after reading this, so hopefully the word is getting out. I see you’ve travelled quite a bit yourself!

      1. That’s just awesome! Yup, I try to leave work from time to time and discover the many wonders of the Philippines – most of them are still unknown to me! Hope to see you back here, oh and I recommend Coron πŸ™‚

        1. I was so close to going to Coron, then typhoon Haiyan hit and apparently stuff got damaged so I had to cancel. But it’s a good reason for me to come back πŸ™‚

          1. you have to visit Coron..its one of the best destinations here in Ph.. (i will not attempt to write about it fearing i will not do justice to its charm/beauty ..hehe..) i will wait for your superior review when you finally get to visit..thank you for the heartwarming article about my country..

  6. thank you, bren! next time you visit, i require you to meet up with me and my friends and do karaoke! πŸ˜€ it’s one helluva party you’re gonna get! πŸ™‚

      1. I think it has to do with us growing up with karaokes. It’s a staple with every celebration. We just loooove singing, it’s like embedded in our culture or something πŸ˜€

          1. Even before karaoke was invented Filipinos have always been rich with music and dances imbedded in our culture. Because of so many islands/ provinces each has their own distinct culture, music, dances, food and dialects but still one as a nation.

          2. I did notice the many different dialects from around the country, and how the Filipinos don’t always understand each other. Hah! Thanks for sharing.

      2. There’s a relatively new alternative to karaoke and it started to pick up; it’s something that those who like singing with live bands would appreciate. It’s called Rockeoke and it’s being offered in many bars in the metro. Not that it hasn’t been done before but I guess it’s nice to put a name on something we’ve been doing.

        Nice article! I hope to see you randomly in one of our streets. I’m an advocate of bringing my foreign friends to places that tourists do not usually go to (like downtown Manila etc). Most often that not, I find it more exciting every time I explore new places. This is coming from someone born and raised here. Anyway, I hope your next visit to the Phils becomes a lot more magical than the last. πŸ™‚

  7. Aweinspiring! What used to be a mere thought and awesome feeling of an unexplainable Filipino pride is now suddenly articulated thru you Bren. Mabuhay ka! Being happy people we simply bask in admiring our country thru smiles. Thank you for the rave reviews. Indeed Philippines is a grand nature itself and hopefully stays so forever.

    1. The flood of comments here really sums it up perfectly. Your people are so proud and so humble at the same time. I do hope more people visit and experience The Philippines for themselves. Thanks for commenting! πŸ™‚

  8. Hi Bren,

    Thank you very much for the love and appreciation to our country. I am so glad that you experienced all the good (incredible) things that a lot of people or should i say nationalities never see or realize, even our fellow Asians.

    I believe in all the great things you pointed out like about our Food, Malls, People, Fort Bonifacio and of course the countless Beaches because I also feel the same thing. I believe the Philippines got a lot to offer, so much more. But unluckily I haven’t been to some of the beautiful beaches here and it’s a shame! :/ But it’s fine as long as our country’s visitors get to experience all these wonders themselves and enjoyed them, I am already happy with it! πŸ˜‰

    1. I think you could spend a whole year travelling through The Philippines and still not see all the great beaches. I actually thought the hardest part was deciding which one to go to! Thanks for reading πŸ™‚

      1. You can start from north to south πŸ™‚ But really, it’s hard to decide where to go since there are soo many islands and islets to visit πŸ™‚ Good luck to the next journey!

  9. Kudos Mr. Bren! It’s great to know that you truly discover the Filipino value and the beautiful spots in our country. Thanks for sharing this! we indeed appreciate it. Salamat ng marami! πŸ˜‰

  10. Hi Bren,

    It’s so nice of you to write this beautiful blog about my beloved country, I really appreciate it. Looks like you’ve been into places here more than I do hehhe. I noticed some of the place you mentioned are located in Bicol region (where I came from, I now stay here in Quezon City). Anyway, next time you go back here, you might want to pay a visit on one of the island that is a part of my hometown, the Calaguas island (http://www.calaguasislands.com/). Furthermore, in case you want to explore more of bicol region and need help, you may want to try ‘Asog travel and tours’ to help .. I didn’t work there by the way, it’s just that there are already quite some nice review about them.

    1. Hi Rhose, I was reading a lot about Calaguas and Bicol while I was in Manila, I wanted to see them both but I just didn’t have time! My last weekend I had to choose between so many places, in the end I went to Cagbalete Island, which I’ll write about soon! Thanks a lot for the tips, I’ll be sure to remember πŸ™‚

      1. I agree with Rhose, you shouldn’t miss Calaguas Islands on your next visit here. I was there twice last year and I’m coming back to the Island this summer. Villa Cleofas in Cagbalete Island is also one of the nicest places I’ve been to. Thank you so much for the rave review. =)

  11. Hi Bren,
    Thank you so much for visiting my beloved country and sharing what a great experience you had.There’s a lot more to see so come back soon and we will take good care of you.Enjoy travelling!

  12. I found myself smiling when I read this. Good job man! Its so sad that many foreigners appreciate our country more than we do, and we overlooked our country. I wish could travel my own country like you did, then next the whole world! Come back again with your friends, let’s have a drink and a karaoke, haha! Thanks man.

    1. Hi Arvey, I think travelling is so important, as important as school and work and all the other things we spend so much time on. There are things travel can teach you that nothing else can. But I’m sure you already know this πŸ™‚ I really hope you’ll find some time in 2014 to get on the road, even if it’s just for a weekend! Thanks for visiting the blog, glad you enjoyed it πŸ™‚

      1. I’ll remember what you said and I will definitely find time to travel soon, one place at a time. πŸ™‚ I am more inspired to travel because of this, the world is beautiful! πŸ™‚

  13. Hi Bren, thank you for coming and living here (for 6 months!) and for the beautiful post about your stay. I am glad to know that you had a wonderful experience and that you only got scammed once. Maybe being Asian looking worked in your favor? Wishing you safe travels always.

    1. Yes, I think that had something to do with it. A lot of people used to talk to me in Tagalog, and were so shocked when I asked them to speak in English. However, my Asian face didn’t stop me getting hustled in Thailand (and I was constantly mistaken for a Thai while I was there) or China (and I’m Chinese!). So the scam level is definitely lower in The Philippines, without a doubt. No need to thank me, it was a pleasure staying there for so long! Safe travels to you as well.

  14. Hey Bren! Thanks for the wonderful compliments for my beloved country. Damn! Home-sickeness attacks me again. I am a filipino working here in abroad (or so called OFW) that’s why I miss Philippines a lot. Anyways, I suggest you must try trekking the Mount Pinatubo in Zambales. I’m 100% sure you will enjoy the tour πŸ™‚

  15. Thanks for this article Bren! I have never been more proud to be a Filipino after reading this. I have been telling all of my Australian friends on how much they need to visit the country and I think this pretty much sums up everything that I’ve told them. Thank you once again for making us remember how beautiful our country is!

  16. Hey Bren! Lovely, positive article. To give you some of the love back, I have to say that I LOVED New Zealand when I visited there in 2006. And when I was at a life crossroads four years ago, I seriously considered moving there. I even did the whole points thingy on the immigration site, but in the end, the Philippine is my home. I do have vague plans to return someday, but in the meantime, I always go dreamy remembering my two weeks in Auckland, Wellington, the Abel Tasman, and Marlborough! I took the Milford Sound crossing too and I have to say, it is indeed one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world. We were blessed with a rainbow as we crossed, and the afternoon at Picton was… so quietly beautiful. I still remember that the fish and chips we had for dinner was awesome πŸ™‚ You are one lucky man to live in (in my opinion) one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

    1. Hi Myra, thank you so much. I understand when people here comment and say they have forgotten how beautiful the Philippines is, because I’m guilty myself of taking NZ’s beauty for granted. It really is a charming place. I hope you’ll return one day, a lot has changed since 2006! In Auckland anyway.

  17. We were led here through one of the posts of a friend. Thank you so much for all the kind words you have given about us. It does help that people who had a great time here spread the word.
    About the scamming: I have got to say you are pretty lucky. Even locals here can get scammed. I guess it is all about judging if something just sounds too good to be true. BTW, what was that one thing you were scammed with?
    Hope you get to see more of our country when you return. You are returning, right πŸ˜€ ?

    – Lynne -Enroute.com

    1. I was scammed in a taxi from the airport to Makati, he did this weird thing with his meter and it said 500 pesos (usually around 180). I argued with him for about 10 seconds but was just too tired from my flight for any of that. Now I always make sure the right meter is on! Taxis around town seem to be much better though, never happened again. There may be some areas I did not visit where scamming is more common though, I can’t really say. Yes, I am returning!

  18. I had goosebumps and was teary eyed while reading your blog. Well written and with fairness and pride . I just came back from my one month visit in the Phippines and I must say its worth visiting always. Thank you for sharing your positive thoughts.

  19. Super happy to know someone like you who really loves the Philippines! I remember when I traveled solo in Vietnam and Thailand, most of the travelers I met there don’t know about the Philippines. Like when they hear of Asia, they only thought of going to the mainland Asia (Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia). This article just proves how great the Philippines is.

    And because of that, if you get the chance again to visit the Philippines, I am volunteering now as your travel buddy or at least help you plan your next trip to the Philippines. <3

  20. i am in awe on how u describe and appreciate the philippines. i wish to see more places like you. thank you for sharing this blog. πŸ™‚

  21. No mention of DAVAO City? why is that? πŸ™‚

    Try going to Pearl Farm or Samal Island…Isla Reta….Talikod?

    go south of the Philippines, there’s lots of uninhibited beaches there…

    explore the beaches in Mati…Sta. Maria…

    thanks by the way for this great article about the Philippines.

    1. I have never been to Davao! Although I have repeatedly heard it is amongst the most pleasant places in the country. It’s becoming more popular in the travel community, for sure. I must visit some day.

  22. hi bren! thank you for appreciating our country this much. this brought tears to my eyes and i know to my fellow countrymen also who love our country as much as i did once reading this.. this only shows how good you are as a person appreciating small details our country has to offer like addressing you “sir” , eating your “turon” etc.. and not paying much on the part of you being scammed once..thank you is not enougn actually, i would love to show you Calaguas Island once ur back and have the time. ive also been to many pristine beaches here in the phils and calaguas is really one the best places to visit! the place wud give you the serenity of nature every backpacker is looking for.. more power and continue wrting good stuff like this. πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Grace, thank you so much for the kind words. I think the comments here from all your fellow Filipinos is a great representation of your country’s spirit, that you feel compelled to write a heartfelt thank you to a stranger just for a positive post about your country on some tiny blog! I would love to visit Calaguas, I was planning a weekend trip there from Manila but I chose to go to Cagbalete instead, but when I return it will be on my list for sure. Salamat for reading and your comments πŸ™‚

  23. Hi Brent, thanks for sharing your travel experience in the Philippines. Hope you will be able to visit the northern part of the country next time- where Mt. Pulag is located, Banaue Rice Terraces, Sagada, some great beach resorts, historical cities and churches, just to name a few:))

  24. On your next visit, try our delicious sisig (goes well with beer!). If you are up for trekking, caving and other nature-trippy adventures, I suggest you head on to Sagada in the Mountain Province up north πŸ™‚ Thanks for the kind words!

    1. I tried the sisig, quite a few times, I wish I had taken a photo so I could include it here! I’m keen to visit the north, it keeps getting mentioned, must be an interesting place πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading!

  25. Dude try experiencing Sinulog in Cebu. It happens every 3rd Sunday of January. Off the Camotes Island after if you want to try the best beach in Cebu or you can go to Bantayan Island.

      1. Its a festival… πŸ™‚
        You may also want to visit bahuio city for their panagbenga festival (flower festival) usually last week of february πŸ™‚
        there are other festival throughout the country that you might like and want to visit πŸ™‚
        Thanks for this blog…

  26. Hi Sir Bren,

    Thank you so much for such a great article and for appreciating the philippines. It is so heartwarming when people talk fondly of our country. I am so glad that you enjoyed travelling and exploring the many islands but there are still a lot more beautiful places here and i think a lifetime is not enough to truly see how the philippines is. We as filipinos try our best to be as accomodating as possible so that the people who visit our country will have wonderful memories of the people and the country.
    I am so full of gratitude sir that you love our country as well. Thank you so much again sir Bren and may you travel farther and wider!

    1. Hi Mike, thank you for such well wishes. I’ve travelled to many countries, and have never experienced such a warm, welcoming spirit like I did in the Philippines. It’s what compelled me to write this post! Best wishes to you in 2014, I am certain that great things lie ahead for your country πŸ™‚

  27. Amazing article Bren! πŸ™‚ Thank you for writing about our country, it makes us happy that visitors enjoy the things we experience everyday! I’m also glad you managed to visit Cagbalete Island. πŸ™‚ Not many people know about the place since it’s kinda far, but it’s an amazing beach, especially if you just want to laze around and sleep.

    Hope to you come back to the Philippines for more adventures! πŸ™‚

  28. Oh, my lawrd!! Bless you, Bren, this article is a real breath of fresh air indeed! You must have gone through the back door and not the gates of hell, hehe. Cheers and Mabuhay!

    1. I have heard about the ‘gates of hell’ reference, however I’m guessing the gates were in the lens of his glasses rather than the streets of Manila. One day, I may even call Manila my home! Thanks for reading πŸ™‚

  29. Hi Bren! Just finished reading this blog post about my nativeland,the Philippines.I’m glad that you had a blast staying there. I’m currently based in America but I see to it that I go home every year to re discover its grandeur.If in the near future you opted to change your nationality and become a Filipino, we will definitely embrace you with open arms. Hehe. Thanks again! Expect for more Filipino followers because of this post.

    Jai (from NYC and a proud Pinoy)

  30. thank you so much for your kind words for our country and our people., Sometimes advisories and warnings make our country “bad” in the eyes of foreigners, but because of your experience, you’ve proven otherwise. Scammers? they are all around, Thank God, you were spared from them. But they do not reflect the TRUE FILIPINO as you have found out yourself. But it’s also wise to take precaution. Your article reminded me of another blog written by an American tourist who also fell in love with the Philippines and its people. here’s the link, you may be interested to know what he has written: http://www.idreamedofthis.com/ He also captured the amazing beauty of the country in photos. He also has a facebook account: https://www.facebook.com/idreamedofthis?ref=br_tf I hope you could visit our country again and experience more of the people’s hospitality, beautiful beaches and sceneries, exciting food and appreciate the beautiful smile that only filipinos offer….especially from our beautiful women. πŸ™‚ God bless you and your endeavors!

    1. Hi Sarah. I agree with a lot of the his comments, very insightful. And yes, I am also well aware of the country’s beautiful women! Haha. Thanks for reading πŸ™‚

  31. Wow!! That is wonderful to hear from a tourist. We are glad you enjoyed your stay in our sweet loving country. We Filipinos, are generally happy people and making the best of everything. It is our good nature to be friendly and compassionate as it all rooted for the love of family…I couldn’t agree more with your food choices, makes me wanna go home lolz. It’s more fun in the Philippines! Thank you for your kind words anyway πŸ™‚

  32. Geeeez! I’m turning green! ☺️ I’m glad you had fun. I miss the Philippines and I miss my hometown, Cebu. Thank you for this amazing article, now i’m beaming with pride. Weather here in Toronto is making me homesick. 28 days more until my long-awaited vacation. Yay!

  33. Thank you so very much for the nice words regarding the Philippines and the Filipinos. Visit Bohol,Cebu and Camiguin on your next visit … I’d be happy to show you around.

  34. While I truly, truly appreciate this post, I feel like your experience in the Philippines would have been very, VERY different had you been white or black.

    1. I don’t disagree with you, although many white people I know probably adore the country more than I do. In fact, I know quite a few that have bought houses and are living there!

  35. Try to Experience the Sinulog festival in Cebu! Grandest mardi Gra and street dancing of the Phils! That happens every 3rd Sunday of January. I suggest U should be there the week ahead to try to experience first the FOOD of Cebu esp the world’s best pork, Lechon! Hit the beaches up north like Camotes, Bantayan, Malapascua islands.. then head down to the South for Moalboal for diving, swim with the whale sharks in Oslob, Try Badian the Kawasan falls or further down to Sumilon island (a lot more I couldn’t list all). Then going back to Sinulog weekend be prepared to be on party mood for the country’s biggest festival! Ü

  36. Thank you may not be enough to acknowledge how grateful we are that featured our country. Mabuhay and Welcome back to the Philippines soon.

  37. Thanks for appreciating our place. Makes me feel good! For now, I will help myself first here in AKL. We will hit it next time! πŸ™‚

  38. Hey! Great blog by the way. If you up for an adventure make sure you visit the Enchanted River in Hinatuan Surigao del Sur. It is one amazing place. Its a Blue Lagoon. If you want to visit just tell me I live near the place, I love hosting people who love the Philippines. Hope you visit us!

      1. Hi Bren,

        One of the best surfing spot (for beginners) in the PH is in La Union, just a 3-4 hour bus travel from Manila. Baler which is up north is also a surfing destination. Travel time is 5-6 hours. Long shoreline in Baler, which is great. I hope you when you get back here you try surfing first, super fun experience love. Let me know if you wanna go, we’re more than happy to tour you around πŸ™‚

        Chic

  39. I just bought a beach front property in northern Aklan near Boracay. It’s not Boracay, it’s black sand, but … for the most part, I am the only one there.

  40. Hi Bren, thanks for the wonderful post about my homeland:-) all of it is true, by the way lol i no longer live there but always find myself being pulled back home every now and then… Loving it from afar πŸ™‚ Excited to go on my next trip back home and see more of the country! As others have mentioned, try visiting the north- banaue, sagada,baguio, ilocos (vigan, pagudpud) sta.ana cagayan, batanes. Or some historical places like intramuros amd corregidor if you feel like it. When in coron, visit nearby culion πŸ™‚ all the best in your future travels!

  41. Mabuhay! Thank you for sharing your experienced in our country to the whole world Sir Bren.In behalf of our kababayan we are so grateful and touched in expressing your love thru this article. If you want adventure , try to visit our place the gateway in northern mindanao, Cagayan de oro City (the City of Golden Friendship). Our White Water Rafting, Mapawa Canyoneering, Dahilayan Park in Bukidnon -the longest dual zipline in Asia, Kampo Juan the anacycle ride and the enchanted Camiguin Island Paradise ( ardent hot spring, sto nino cold spring, katibawasan falls, ruin church,sunken cemetery, Mantigue island and the White island). It is also exit going to Davao City, Butuan City , Surigao and Siargao Island. And try our tropical fuits- Marang, Lanzones and Mangosteen. If you need more information just drop by to our website, http://www.dreamfuntravel.com.ph. Thank you and God be with you always in your adventure!

  42. Hi Bren! Thank you for promoting our lovely country. πŸ™‚ Try to check Calaguas Island on your exit visit and Sagada too up north, I’m sure you wont be disappointed. Safe Travel! πŸ™‚

  43. I kind of like being that quintessential global “hole-in-the-wall” destination you alluded to. Sounds more mysterious and interesting. I too, like some locals here in the Philippines, appreciate the lack of commercialism in our tourism industry. It helps control and preserve the sites that would otherwise be spoiled due to too many tourists going there. I think the amount of tourism we have is a safe number. I also think we need to continue preserving the attractions we offer so the experience will always be authentic for travelers like you.

    Kudos to the blog entry and safe (and exciting) travels to you! πŸ™‚

    1. I know exactly what you mean. There’s a fine balance between too much and too little tourism. It’s hard to find. An explosion in tourism would do wonders for your economy but for me, I quite like the country just the way it is πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading.

  44. Hi Bren! Thanks for this wonderful article about our beloved Philippines!! Couldn’t be more prouder… do add to your list Siargao island for some surfing or just plain island hopping (jellyfish lake,lagoons, Sohoton cave etc), zip lining in Bukidnon and white water rafting in Cagayan de Oro, my birth place & of course don’t miss to try the city’s Kinilaw, a raw fish salad/appetizer… cheers on your next trip!! πŸ™‚

    1. Siargao was one of the places I wanted to visit the most! I really want to learn to surf πŸ™‚ Will have to do that sometime soon, before I get too old πŸ™‚

  45. Thanks a lot!
    I remember one American asking my daughter “Do you have Pancake House in the Philippines?” Now I ask you, what would you give as an answer?

      1. Not only do we have Pancake House, we also have IHOP (international house of pancakes) and Slappy Cakes! πŸ™‚ a lot to choose from!

  46. A big thank you Bren from all of us Filipinos! This isn’t just an inspiring post for foreign travelers but for us Filipinos as well. As a travel blogger myself, I’ve made it a goal to travel in the Philippines more than traveling in other countries each year. You see, Filipinos are proud of their country but we don’t prioritize traveling in it to see all the 7,107 islands. A lot of our kababayans are too infatuated with the idea of exploring first world countries. Take El Nido for example, such a beautiful beautiful place in the Philippines yet only a small percentage of the Filipino population has gone there. A sad reality. That’s why my partner and I go on budget trips to local destinations just like El Nido to let people know that it’s not that hard to go there and it’s not expensive at all! We hope we’ll meet you someday in one of our trips. Maraming salamat and God bless! πŸ™‚

    1. It’s not just Filipinos who overlook travelling their own country, I think we all do it, myself included. Perhaps a lesson for all of us. Thanks for reading!

  47. loved it so much.. I myself travel around Philippines and Asia and I couldn’t agree more with you… For your next visit you may try Baler, Aurora (surf destination), Climb Pundaquit overlooking anawangin cove in Zambales, Coron, Oslob Cebu, Cebu city for sinulog festival and for food Bacolod City!! πŸ™‚

  48. Next. Bacolod for Masskara Festival. I’m a Bacolodnon, but never fails to amaze me our Masskara Festival.. Then travel approx 2hrs north to Lakawon Island. Sand can be compared to that of Boracay, still under developed, but hey, it’s nature at its best!

  49. Your article put tears into my eyes it made me love my country even more.Thank you for sharing your thoughts.In times like this the Filipinos really needs a boost.

    1. I must say through the storms that ravage your country each year and the struggles with poverty in your country, the Filipinos are incredibly resilient. You should be proud. Thanks a lot for reading.

  50. Agree except No.2 and No.3. You gotta be delusional to think you won’t get scammed, hustled or worse still – victim of a violent crime.

    1. Not delusional, just my experience. I lived there for 6 months, and was scammed once, never harassed and not a victim of any crime. Is scamming possible? Sure. Just like it’s possible in every single country in the world. Much less so in The Philippines, from my experience.

  51. Wow! What a complement of an article for our country! Thank you Bren. There a lot more new sights to see from beaches to mountains or caves. Take your pick! Happy traveling! Ü

  52. Hey Bren, read about you from outoftownblog’s feature! Nice article you got here and nice to know you enjoyed your stay here. When traveling overseas, PH really is out of radar to foreigners as they find it hard to reach (unlike Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, etc) where you could just hop on a bus/train then you’re off to a different country. Heck, they just never knew about Cebu Pacific (your go to place for piso fares btw). Hope you’ll be back, there’s still more to see! πŸ™‚

  53. I rarely read blogs but I find yours a must-read Bren.This is indeed an esteem booster for a country that has been through so much in the past year.Back in 2011 me and my 2 sisters went to Boracay and had the time of our lives,and we vowed to make it our mission to travel all over the Philippines.But our busy lives caught up with us and we haven’t travelled together again and then I had to leave for Canada.Your article makes me miss home more.On the bright side,it gives me the motivation to work harder to save up for 2015,when hopefully I can go home and soak in the sun and sand!Thank you for this πŸ™‚ Try to visit Cebu (where I’m from) and Bohol on your next visit.Enjoy the Philippines Bren πŸ˜‰

    1. Yes, Boracay is an easy place to fall in love with. I can’t imagine how homesick you must get in the Canadian winter! Best of luck for your travel plans πŸ™‚

  54. thank you, sir, for your very kind & encouraging words!

    The Philippines is, indeed, a great country to explore. Even us, locals, are guilty of not seeing much of our own country & instead go visit the neighboring ones. I’ve been to faraway lands but never been to Mindanao, which is a shame really. But, I’ve decided to change that. I’m scheduled to visit Davao City soon. I’m sure that’ll be a heck of a trip.

    Anyway, thanks again for sharing your experience. You’ve become a local celebrity, people now wanna tour you around & happily so. I don’t blame them, that’s who we are. We feel that we, at least, owe you that. You’d be happy to know that I live near Boracay, so if you happen to need a tour…… πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Kris, thanks for your comments. The gratitude and praise I’m receiving from Filipinos here is so touching and unexpected, which I think says more to the world about your country than my actual post does. All the best to you in 2014.

    2. Hi Kris. I’m from Davao City. It’s nice to hear that you’re coming. I’m originally from Capiz but my mother and many relatives from my mother’s side are from Ibajay, Aklan where Ati-Atihan Festival is. I moved in Davao City in 1994 and love it since. Hope you’ll enjoy your stay in Davao. Blessings!

  55. You must be a backpacker Bren? Im just guessing, but that must be the reason why you got to see the REAL beauty of the Philippines…People who come to the Philippines usually come with the “tour band”, thats why they just get to see the “gates of hell” as some would say, LOL…I agree with the lot here, you should also try to do a North tour, you won’t believe the hidden treasures you will find up there from Mt Province, Ifugao, Kalinga and Benguet…then you can cap it with the beaches that you so love…the North has its fair share of hidden falls up the mountains, and hidden beaches down the side of Ilocos, La union and Pangasinan.

    1. The comments here have really inspired me to spend a few months in the north, I really can’t wait. Yes, I backpack mostly, and plan all my own trips. It’s more fun (and cheap) that way!

  56. Hi Bren:

    I have never read a travelogue so long and so beautiful such as yours, i read it in its entirety all the comments and your reply. I am ashamed that most Filipinos like me have not experienced what you had. Please do go back and include my province Pampanga in your next sojourn. “Dacal pung Salamat, LUID co pu” (thanks so much and long live! In Pampango of course)

    1. It’s taken a fair few hours to reply to all these comments but I’ve enjoyed every second, to write and know people are reading my stuff is an amazing feeling. Thanks for visiting πŸ™‚

  57. glad you enjoyed your stay and hope you can come back soon. next time you can include tropical rain forests in your itinerary – a few of the very accesible ones are in Subic Bay, Mt.Makiling in Laguna, and Mt. Apo near Davao City. Of course the whole of Palawan had a lot of this. a few other fantastic islands are Bohol, Camiguin and Siquijor (a few hours next to one another by fast ferry) where you can run the whole gamut of nature tripping including snorkeling and whale watching. Have fun and be safe on your travels.

  58. I’m overwhelmed (happy that you share you experience and let the world know how beautiful my country is, proud to live in a tropical paradise tho a bit guilty coz I haven’t been to most of those places & homesick). I’ve been to Phuket and Bali first before I had decided to go and see Boracay and Palawan and that’s when it occurred to me that Philippines is really underrated as I reckon Bocaray and Palawan are better than the 2 places I’ve mentioned, impression & price-wise. Thus, I made a list of places I would travel when I got to come home to my country. You might want to add this on your list too! Oslob, Cebu or Donsol, Sorsogon (Swimming with Blue Whale Shark); Caramoan Island (where the Survivor series were shot); Hundred Islands, Pangasinan. Try learning some Tagalog or Bisaya too for sure you would get plenty of volunteers! πŸ˜‰

    1. I’ve also been to Phuket and Bali, my gosh, they do not even compare to Boracay or Palawan at all! Completely different class. Hopefully not too many people figure this out, so Boracay stays just the way it is πŸ™‚

      1. Right on! I don’t even have any souvenir(except for pictures) coz their items are way too much and I automatically compare it to the prices back home. What my husband loved most about Philippines is the cheap sea foods (crabs, lobster, quality fish). He’s an Aussie btw and i reckon you got idea how dear seafood is I this country (Australia) πŸ™ Geez…craving now of hot crab w/ coconut milk

  59. Thank you so much for this blog, Bren. You make us proud to be Pilipinos and somehow you give us a gentle reminder that we should care for our riches. You deserve a key to our country. Kudos to you sir.

  60. Awesomeness! I couldn’t help but share your blog. Having traveled to some places here, it dawned on me that Filipinos are missing a lot in their own country. This blog says it all! Glad you enjoyed your stay as much as I have enjoyed my adventures. Hope to bump into you somewhere here. Our next stop… Mt. Pulag. You’ve better come down here real quick! ^_^

  61. Oh wow! Thank you so much Bren for the overwhelming praises of our country! I’d say, you should return. :O) Check out Batanes too! and if you are into scuba diving, Philippines keeps one of the best seascapes and diverse marine life in the world – Tubbataha. :o))

  62. Thanks Bren. I live in The Fort and glad you liked it. Your blog is the sweetest by the way. Hope to see you soon. Filipinos will love you for sure. πŸ™‚

    1. Ahh, I have heard of this place, one for the bucket list surely. There’s also a lake in Australia that has pink water! Must see that too. Thanks for sharing!

  63. thank you for your wonderful blog about our country and its people πŸ™‚ btw, are you into water sports? go to Baler, Aurora and ride the waves. try the white water rafting in Cagayan De Oro and enjoy wake boarding in Camarines Sur. πŸ™‚

  64. Bren, thank you for writing an article about my country. When you travel in our 7,107 islands of Philippines, you will notice that these islands are infested (lack of better word) with domestic tourists than foreign tourists. These go to show how we love and support for our country that well. Thanks also to our new appointed Tourism Director Jimenez, he managed to boost tourism and how our present government put a lot of effort into it to increase international tourists significantly. Foreign testimonies do help a lot in boosting our tourism more… this I thank you again… I will do my part by sharing your blog on my profile. God bless you! Hope to see you more often here in our country for many years to come πŸ™‚

    1. I must say I think the ‘more fun in the Philippines’ campaign is fantastic, I love their videos. I’m sure good things will be happening for Philippines tourism in the coming years. Thanks for reading!

  65. I’ve been to Singapore myself. Although the underground rail transit was very impressive, the sceneries didn’t impress me that much, ‘coz I know for a fact that we have more of those in my country, only underrated, as you said. Filipino overseas workers are also plenty in Singapore, as I went there for a visit, the Filipinos I barely knew and just met there were the warmest to greet us there and ones who helped us get around Singapore easily, that made our stay more enjoyable. I am not exaggerating. I was just stating a fact by experience.

    1. I agree, Singapore is a fantastic country – clean, safe and modern. I just didn’t find much energy there though. As you can see by the comments here, Filipinos around the world are very united. It’s quite inspiring.

  66. Hi Bren! Thank you so much for a wonderful article on the Philippines. All the points you’ve covered are things that all Filipinos inherently known. Thank you for sharing your experiences with the world. However, I would like to point out one thing… Filipino food is probably the most approachable and least intimidating food in all of Asian. Most of the foodstuffs and food preparations should be familiar to most Westerners as the majority of Philippine dishes are based on Spanish (read European) antecedents. There are no chili booby traps (except in Bicol); no sambal deadfalls; and no weird sea creature snacks. What you see is what you get… except for offal which, by the way, is gaining traction as world chefs adopt ‘head to hoof’ use of animal parts. Even the much maligned Philippine condiment ‘Bagoong’ [fermented fish paste] traces it origin to the ancient and highly prized Mediterranean specialty called ‘Garum’. Again, thank you for a wonderful and eye-opening blog on the Philippines. Mabuhay!!!

    1. Hi Murvyn, I agree, Filipino food is very simple and unpretentious, just the way I like it. I tried the bagoong, although I didn’t like it too much to be honest. I far prefer the calamansi/soy sauce πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading!

  67. Wow, your article just made my day! And it’s only 5 am! With my ticket for Wicked later tonight, I can only imagine what this day would offer me. Ha ha! But yeah, thanks for this! You hit it right on the spot. I myself have been travelling the country from the mountains up north (where European tourists abound), the beaches of the Visayas (Aussies are the best beach buddies), all the way to the vintas of the south (really appreciate the works of foreigners there through various NGOs), yet I can’t seem to run out of places to go to in here! Good thing also that I first got to visit Boracay and El Nido before Phuket and Bali, which made me appreciate my country more. Second time to spend my New Year in Boracay this year, and still the best new year celebration I’ve ever had!

    And yeah, selfish as it may sound, I do hope that it stay this way. Or at least, that a balance between economy and tourism will be in place. Having experienced the tourist tracks of our neighbors, it’s quite scary. Even Boracay is no longer the Boracay I first come to love more than 10 years ago. Good thing, choices do abound! And Coron and Caramoan and El Nido are at the top of my alternatives.

    Again, thank you so much for such a wonderful write-up! Mabuhay ka, Sir Bren!

    1. I do worry about what Boracay will become in 5 or 10 years. Hopefully the local government will know to exercise some sort of control. Even places like El Nido are slowly becoming more commercial. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment πŸ™‚

  68. Hi Bren, this is all so true. I missed home and became emotional while reading your article. Thank you for sharing all but the best of the Philippines. God bless you.

      1. Hi Bren when u thought u have been scammed once u weren’t if u get the taxi from the airport they have a flat rate of 500 pesos within a certain mile for some reaso this taxi operators manipulates the fare πŸ™‚ next time u better off getting one outside the airport… Thanks for sharing ur experience with us…I haven’t been home for 2 years now as I had a baby but defo miss Philippines especially when it’s winter here in England lol

        1. I didn’t take an airport taxi, I walked further down and took the metered ones. I’ve taken the taxi from Manila airport to Makati around 4 times, each time it was only 170-180, just this time he did some weird thing with his meter after we finally stopped and it said 500. After 18 hours of flying, I was too tired to argue with him. But, forgiven and forgotten! I can only imagine how much you miss the Filipino sun up there in England, hope you get to return home soon πŸ™‚

  69. i have to admit…got teary eyed with your article..I too love my homeland. thanks for loving my country. …really appreciate your replies on every comment.

  70. Wow! What an inspiring blog you have here. We thank you for this. I myself wants to visit our beloved country and haven’t done so. Hopefully soon.. Anyway, have you ever been to the South of Manila in Batangas? You can try our Kapeng Barako(local coffee) and special Lomi. We have also plenty of beaches here. You can also buy Balisong(knife) specially in Taal where it is locally made. You can also explore Taal Volcano..

  71. You must really be an extraordinary person with extraordinary skills. How can you possibly respond to each and every person who commented here? Thanks, Bren, for me, you are heaven-sent for us Filipinos. I wish you more success in everything that you do. I hope you never tire of writing about my country and its people!

  72. Bren, I just posted your article in my Facebook wall. I hope you wouldn’t mind. It’s really encouraging. In spite of the many challenges our country face (such as corruption, illegal drugs, bureaucracy, Manila traffic, pollution, etc.) and the bad publicity it sometimes get from other countries, your article is quite refreshing. I live in Davao City where people, beaches and mountains are also awesome. I hope you’ll have the chance to come down here and visit us.

  73. Super Agree! The Philippines is truly best with many things, what u wrote is true!,, im a Filipino and i travelled to Asian countries yet i still find my country the best in many things,,thus i slowly plan my trips all over the Philippines … Ive been to Easternmost, Southernmost, Westernmost part of this nation.. Try to go Mindanao in Tawi-Tawi region of islands bordering Sabah, Malaysia..the place is untouched amazing plus unique culture blend of Pilipinos and Malaysians; also Saranggani, Davao City, Gensan City, North&South Cotabato.. the best too!

  74. I lived in the Philippines for ten months last year and I loved it! However, I didn’t find many of the things that you posted to be true. In Boracay the vendors will literally follow you trying to buy a pair of fake Ray Bans. Yes, the Filipino food is different, but there is very little variety. Maybe this next one is because I’m a white young female, but almost half of the time when I rode the taxi to my house, the driver would take me the long way and in the jeepney I often didn’t receive my change. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE the Philippines and would do anything to go back right now, but it is a different experience for everyone, and if you are white and can be obviously noted as a foreigner, you will be treated much differently.

    1. Yes, I understand you completely. I lived on Boracay for a month, during high season, and funnily enough I did not get harassed AT ALL. Of course, my Chinese face had a lot to do with it, and also strong “don’t mess with me” body language goes a long way as well. I’m going to have to completely disagree with you on the food, I thought there was amazing variety, so much so that I couldn’t even try everything I wanted to during my 6 month stay. However, I’m glad you had a great time there, it really is the hidden gem of South East Asia.

  75. Hi Bren! glad you enjoyed your 6 months stay in PH, Thank you for this article, Please find time to visit Masbate Province when you return, We have the Rodeo Festival to be held in April, Enjoy the Crystal clear and white sand beaches of Balangingi Island in Pio V. Corpus, Haleya Beach in Monreal, Palani Beach in Balud, etc…hope you get to return soon…

  76. Thank you for an awesome article sir Bren πŸ™‚ Made me appreciate our country even more. πŸ˜‰ when you get back here.. try camping in Anawangin, Zambales or try to visit Ilocos to see the heritage houses we have πŸ™‚

  77. Hi Bren.Thank you for appreciating our country.Must see Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City every 3rd week of January, the rich culture, heritage sites and old churches within the city.Splended spots in Iloilo Province.Also, try to visit Guimaras Island 15 mins away from the city where they have the sweetest mango in the whole world and beautiful white beaches.

  78. Hi Bren. Thanks for this nice article. Thank you also for sharing your great experience to the world. I hesitated about commenting as there are so many comments from locals like me here. But I want to express my hearty thanks to you on behalf of our fellows here. Mabuhay ka!

  79. You stayed here for six months and didn’t even give me a call? !

    Hahaha. .. kidding. We don’t know each other. At least not yet.

    I’m amazed at the volume of reaction you received for your blog. I haven’t read them all but I’m quite sure that you will receive an offer from someone to host you when you come back, if you haven’t already.

    Great blog. Thank you for your kind words for the Philippines.

  80. Dear Bren,

    I bet if every Filipino reads your article, not only will they be humbled and thankful but they will also create long lasting friendships with you which you can count on anywhere you go here! Im working as a Human Resources practitioner in Singapore, had to leave my country for the same classic reason…earn a better living. But i know i will be back to the Philippines in a few years and like you, my family and I will continue to discover our beautiful country!

    Other than the mountains, also visit some old cities with lots of cultural heritage to see. And yes, try videoke and eat-all-you-can restaurants,too!

    Thanks Bren! You are such a generous soul to write so many beautiful things about the Philippines! May God bless you with more so you will have more than enough to visit beautiful places in the world!

    Elma Pangilinan

    1. Hi Elma, yes I notice many Filipinos leave in search of a better living, but you’re all still united by your culture, its very admirable. Best of luck to you in 2014.

  81. You should experience Masskara festival in Bacolod (usually mid-October) and Ati-atihan in Kalibo (usually early January and my favorite). It’s like Pinoy mardi gras. The beautiful costumes, the street parades, the generally happy and friendly atmosphere, the parties – it’s absolutely uniquely Filipino! Tip: January is festival season in the Visayas region with Ati-atihan (Kalibo), Sinulog (Cebu) and Dinagyang (Iloilo) and all these places have spectacular beaches nearby πŸ™‚

  82. So love your article! but you did not mention Baguio City, have you been there? I don’t know if it’s mentioned already in the comments, but it’s a nice place to visit as well. It’s just sad to say that the government is not really promoting the country. I am half filipino, and have been to the country 4X already. I just hope that this blog of yours would somehow help in promoting the country and get its fair share of visitors.

    1. Have not been to Baguio! Heard a lot about it though. I’m noticing more promotion is happening new, some of the latest campaigns are actually very good.

  83. Thank you for appreciating our beloved country…it’s very heartwarming specially coming from a well travelled person like you…who also comes from a very beautiful country…just to share, New Zealand is by far my most fave country from all the countries I’ve visited..and really hoping to get back and cover more places there someday…

    I am also very blessed to be given a chance to explore and enjoy a lot of the beautiful places in my own homeland before embarking on the world outside…but with your blog…it seems a lot more will be added to my bucket list…

    Hope you’ll enjoy much more in your next visits…try to explore our very interesting, colorful and fun festivals…most of them have religious origin…some are cultural..and some is just to celebrate anything like food…almost every month, two or more provinces are celebrating one…Sinulog of Cebu, Ati-atihan of Aklan, Pahiyas of Lucban, Moriones festival, Masskara of Bacolod, Panagbenga of Baguio City just to name a few…

    Happy travelling! Cheers πŸ™‚

  84. The Philippines is indeed a great country and the Filipinos are a great people. I also think that you are a great man with a great heart that’s why there is such an overwhelming feeling of greatness in your post, in your readers’ comments and your responses.

    You appreciate the Philippines and we Filipinos appreciate you Bren!

  85. Hi Bren! I envy you. I have 1 year more here in Europe and i really miss HOME. Phuket & Bali are in my bucket list but now after reading your blog..erase..erase..erase.

    Try to visit DONSOL, Sorsogon for Whale Shark Viewing.

    When i got home i will surely visit the unheard beaches uve been visited. Im a traveler & addicted to it. Thank you very much for appreciating the BEAUTY of our country. xxx

    1. I’m glad you’ve been bitten by the travel bug. It will change you for the better. I’d suggest visiting Phuket and Bali anyway, both of them are unique in their own way, just not good for relaxing but it’s an experience to see it for yourself. But I’d suggest just spending one or two nights, haha! I visited Bali when I was much younger, and already it was quite commercial with a fair share of hustlers, so I can only imagine how much worse it is today.

  86. The least i could do your article is spread it around! I hope you do not mind me, i am posting your article on my social media acct! Thank you very much Bren for this wonderful write up. May you be blessed with more travels around the globe and esp here in our country.

  87. Thanks for this article! I’m a Filipino of Chinese descent and I do experience some people selling things higher than normal price because I don’t look Filipino but overall, Filipinos are really great people! πŸ™‚ I did notice you mentioning about the danger and yes, I think, just like in every country, there is a level of danger which is why we all have to be careful; Generally, if it were that dangerous, you wouldn’t find as many people doing business here but here we are. I think caution is still something we should all have but it doesn’t mean everyone is bad. I’ve had my fair share of getting lost and all those times, no one has led me astray. I’ve gone with complete strangers who brought me right to the place I was looking for. Too trusting from my end but so far, I haven’t been wrong to do so. So just as you should exercise caution, do keep your positive outlook on the people of this country because they are really nice if you get the chance to know them – and you’d find that we all love to party and meet new people so you’ll definitely have new friends.

    Again, thank you – for saying such nice things about the people and my country. I hope you get the chance to visit and see more. I’m from Cebu (born and grew up here) and the beaches are great but I think you should also try hiking and going up the mountains to see the falls, the “forests” and as mentioned by some people earlier – the view from the top of the mountain. I currently work in Manila and Mt. Pulag, Mt. Mayon, and Mt. Pinatubo are some of the places I have yet to go to. Batanes is also wonderful and you can also try going to Sagada. πŸ˜€

    1. I agree, there is always danger, even the safest country in the world has criminals, but my experience was always positive. Even walking around after midnight, I had no issues at all. On the contrary, walking home at night in Bangkok is a nightmare! Well maybe not a nightmare, but definitely not ‘peaceful’. Anyway, thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  88. Thanks for this very simple and very true write-up of the Philipines, Bren. Although I have to say, on the scamming part – it may be because you don’t look “foreign” enough hah! It does happen, maybe just not as much as in other places.

    It’s both exciting and bit scary to see more recognition on The Philippines being the next Asian destination.

    We love the place and we are darn proud of it. But just as anything that gets famous, things become more commercialised and lose their charm. I hope we don’t !

    1. It’s true, your neighbouring countries have suffered greatly from over exposure, and the scamming is one big spin off from that. Even if scamming does happen in the Philippines, it is not even close to what happens in China, Thailand or Bali. Perhaps your tourism department knows exactly what they’re doing, not over promoting and keeping things a little under the radar. Who knows. Glad you enjoyed the post πŸ™‚

  89. Hi Bren, thank you for this article. I had just attended a holiday destination show in London yesterday and in a way felt sad that the Philippines is almost always not on the countries listed in southeast asia for travel groups. The Philippines is a beautiful country and although i have travelled much of Europe i will always come home where the fun is. Next time you’re in Pnas do come and visit my place in Davao City and Mati City. Places like Samal Island i Davao and Waniban Beach, Oak Island, and Dahican Beach in Mati.

  90. Thanks Bren for this wonderful article. In a couple of weeks I will be there to spend time with family and friends. Can’t wait to enjoy the Filipino food. By the way, you might be interested in exploring

    the Northern part of the Philippines, Ilocos Region, Banaue Rice Terraces, Callao caves among others next time you visit.

  91. thank you bren for writing a beautiful & truthful remarks about our country.
    i hope other tourist will see & experience the good things you’ve experienced in our country..

  92. Next time when you go visit Coron Palawan, try to visit underground river also if you have time but I think you to make a reservation.

  93. Hi, Bren…this article is superb and I am proud to share on my Facebook page. I have a lot of foreign friends and for sure the article will amaze them. I am also impress that you can still manage to reply to all the messages in here. I am an accountant by profession just like you are and I love to travel as well…but time and budget don’t approve at this point. I surely do missed the Philippines coz I am working in another country though i find time to do a home leave twice or thrice a year…I look forward on doing the same travel mania that you are enjoying….have fun on your next destination…God bless!

    1. I actually fell asleep last night replying to comments..haha. I write this blog to inspire people to travel more and see their world, so I hope you do get on the road more! Thanks for reading πŸ™‚

  94. Thank you very much for writing such an inspiring blog about your experience during your visit and stay for 6 months in our country! You’ve been to much more places than me! Having migrated and worked in the US for 32 years, I’ve been going home every year for the last 12 years .I want to see and experience the other pristine beaches and other world class resorts and natural cove, caves, waterfalls and scenic views!
    On your next visit please take a 45 min. flight from Manila to Bicol region, especially Legaspi City! The Majestic Mayon Volcano will take your breath away!You can mountainclimb, zipline, ride ATV and more.There’s Misibis Bay Resort a 30 min. boat ride from Legaspi City to the Cagraray Island. Albay has more waterfalls, caves, hotsprings to offer. Nearby Sorsogon has whalewatching, more beaches, Caramoan CamSur is few hours away. Catanduanes has more beaches not yet touched by commercialism.
    Pilinut candies are gifts most foreigners love. Pili tree grows only in Bicol region! Pinagnat is a specialty of Albay esp. Camalig town. It is made from Taro leaves cooked with either shrimp,fish, meat or tilmok inside, cooked in coconut milk!
    you can easily reach Legaspi City- {the southern most tip of Luzon] by commercial bus [a 10 hour ride] or 7-8 private car but you’ll avoid airplane delays, cancellations.
    May I share your blog to my FB friends. thanks so much!!

  95. Thanks for the kind words Bren, try Oslob, in Cebu or Donsol, sorsogon for some whale watching. You have to visit the majestic Mayon volcano. Malapascua is a remote island in Cebu famous for thresher sharks. If you are tired of the beaches try our diving sites too. Bacolod has colorful festivals. Guimaras has the sweetest mangoes and fish sanctuaries. Batanes is a sight to behold. Bohol though damaged by the recent earthquake boasts of wonderful white beaches. You should be named tourism ambassador. Thanks for promoting our 7100 islands.

  96. Hi Bren,
    I am a Ships Captain and (my late Father before me) on ocean going ships. I have been around the world more than 2x and just like you have been Blessed to see beautiful places and mingle with the locals . But what I have to say is this what makes the Philippines special and different is it’s like a total package everything is there. I have lived here in the US since 1988 but I always take every opportunity to go back when I get the chance and money. Honestly it is on the top of my “Bucket List” God willing to retire in the Philippines when the time comes.

    1. Out of all the countries I’ve been to, I think I too would retire in the Philippines or my hometown NZ. Perhaps next time someone in the mall offers me a condo I should buy one.. haha

  97. thanks for that great article about my country!
    I think you have visited so many places than I do! I’ve never been to Batanes or Mt. Pulag but I heard good views about these places and maybe include them in your next visit.

  98. thanks for writing about the Philippines. honestly, i haven’t visited many parts of our country. due to its archipelagic structure, it’s a challenge to go to different places. but yes, i agree there are many wonderful places to go to in my country.

    you should also try trekking the mountains. aside from the beautiful and exotic beaches, we have lots of mountains. for an urban place in the mountains,you can go to baguio city. for nature tripping, you can go to mount pulag, mount apo (highest peak in the country), taal volcano (one of the smallest in the world), mount mayon (with almost perfect-cone peak), and more.

    you can go try spelunking as we have so many caves. you can also do water rafting in cagayan de oro city, davao, and cagayan province.

    see you again in the Philippines.

  99. Great article! I used to read blogs but never really post comments. BUT you moved me. Make me MORE PROUD of my country. You just proved that I made the right decision to explore first what my country offers before visiting others. Been travelling for quite sometime now and been to different provinces. And, yes each has own uniqueness and beauty. Try Batanes – the northernmost of the Philippines. It’s one great stop – compilation of seas, cliffs, mountain. Hope to bump you on the road one day πŸ˜‰ Enjoy and have fun on your journey. Muli, maraming salamat! (again, thank you very much)

    1. You’re very lucky in The Philippines, could travel to a different beach every month and never run out of places to see! I hope you continue to explore your country and never stop travelling. Thanks for reading πŸ™‚

  100. talking about beaches and islands,, i hope you could visit palaui island since you mentioned anguib beach. palaui is dubbed as one of the best beaches in the world. and go to batanes. πŸ™‚

  101. Aside from Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City, there’s upcoming Paraw Regatta http://iloiloparawregatta.com/ celebration. Then you can visit Guimaras Island or you can drive in northern Iloilo and visit Gigantes Island in Carles..it’s pure paradise. You can do island hopping (7 of them) in one day.

  102. Thanks Bren for appreciating my beautiful country. Another good place and hospitable place is Daet, Camarines Nort (east coast of Luzon) . We have nice virgin island white sand beaches like Calaguas Island, water falls and great foods. When you are in daet, please come to our place KFisher Seafood and Japanese Restaurant. We’ll be honoured to serve you seafoods straight from our fishing boats. Please email me if you are in the area, rscujr@yahoo.com. Thanks again.

  103. thank you for this! it is truly inspiring and made me super proud of you for loving my country! <3… yes, philippines is soo beautiful, undeniably!

  104. I feel guilty of sort of neglecting my country of origin…I have lived here just for 27 years in probably more than 20 places mainly in Mindanao and Manila before I went to work abroad for 6 years in Saudi Arabia and moved to live in London since 1997. I had visited last the Philippines in 1995 and never been back since. I’m pretty sure things have moved on. I have never been to the best beaches in the Philippines except Boracay and few others not so popular beaches. I don’t really mind because I have lived in some of the untapped, virgin and beautiful beaches in Mindanao as a child.

    Reading your review made me feel proud as most of the Brits would prefer Thailand and Bali and other neighbouring Asian countries than the Philippines. Yes, you hit the G-spot of describing the Philippines comparing to the neighbouring Asian countries which are so popular among the westerners for destination. No wonder a friend of mine a British guy who loves Thailand very much and used to be in Thailand at least twice a year. He had tasted the Philippines and it’s his favourite destination nowadays that made me jealous as he had been more than six times in 2 years exploring the beautiful beaches. In fact he is still there…

    I hope one day I will be able to come back and visit the Philippines despite my dislike of flying….there is still a place in my heart of my former country although my home is London. Thanks for the best review/article about the Philippines…….

    1. I am also guilty of not fully appreciating my own country. It always takes someone else to remind us that there is beauty to be shared and travelled at home. Best wishes for 2014, hope you return to your homeland soon πŸ™‚