There will come a time in your life when you will have will exhausted all Southeast Asia holiday options like Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and you will hesitatingly think about Philippines. Some old people and other ignorant ones will say things like “Oh but what is there to see in the Philippines?” or “It is too far and unsafe.” or “There is nothing to do there”. Ignore them. It will be the best thing you do that day. And research this beautiful country and make your way there. You will NOT regret it.
Philippines is an insanely beautiful country. I went stomping through the country for two incredible weeks and I cant wait to go back and spend more time there. The beaches are one of the most stunning in the world. And there is something for everyone. The tagline of the Department of Tourism Philippines is “It’s more fun in the Philippines”. And they’re right, it definitely is. But like with all trips, before you plan a trip to this country, here are some things you should know before you go:
Officially known as the Republic of the Philippines, the country is an archipelago in Southeast Asia located east of Vietnam and north of Malaysia, comprising of around 7,107 islands — of which only 2,000 are inhabited and these are categorized broadly under 3 divisions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Manila, the capital is located in Luzon.
FUN FACT: The Philippines are called the Pearl of the Orient. Jose Rizal, national hero, gave this name to the country in his last poem.
Some parts of the country down south are not safe to travel to. There are radical groups and militant Islamists in the south that make it a little unsafe for foreigners to visit. Does this mean you shouldn’t travel to the southern Philippines? No it doesn’t. You can still travel there but keep your wits about you and for this one time, it okay to stick to the tourist areas. Many locals have told me that some of these were isolated incidents and it’s okay to go there. Also, Mindanao very is beautiful.
FUN FACT: The Filipinos love fighter champion Manny Paquiao so much, that during his fights, most people stay at home to watch and the crime rate drops to zero! One time in 2011 the government and the rebels called ceasefire so they could watch the fight together! Also, Manny is a Politician!
The Philippines basically have two seasons: dry and wet. Both are hot and humid. with the occasional typhoon or two. Philippines is located in the ring of fire, which makes it very susceptible to earthquakes. But it still doesn’t make it unsafe to visit. You might need an umbrella and you can carry one if you want. A storm or two might get slightly in the way of island hopping, but you’ll be fine.
FUN FACT: The Philippines gets an average of 19 typhoons every year.
The Philippines has a population of 100 million. It is the 7th most populated country in Asia. An additional 12 million Filipinos live and work overseas. Usually, the men are called Filipinos and the females are called Filipinas. The people are are also called Pinoy, pronounced P-noy not Pee-noy.
The people are very warm and friendly. They are known in the world as VERY happy people. Despite the poverty, typhoons, storms, they are shining with positivity. English is spoken everywhere. And they love foreigners visiting their country. The Filipino hospitality and good manners will surprise you. They are very generous, warm and kindhearted folks.
The Filipinos love to throw a party! They love to entertain. They love live music and karaoke. They take karaoke very seriously! Although some parts of the country are conservative, mostly you can wear whatever you want. The women dress up and do their hair really well. Everywhere I turned I saw really smart trendy haircuts.
The language of the people is Tagalog/Filipino. They have about 180 languages and dialects. Here are some basic phrases in Tagalog:
How are you? – Kumusta?
Thank you – Kumusta?
Thank you very much – Maraming Salamat
Yes – Opo
No – Hindi
Let’s eat– Kain tayo!
Let’s go! – Tara na!
I don’t know– Hindi ko alam
Where is… – Nasaan ang…
How much is this? – Magkano to?
Delicious – Masarap
FUN FACT: They speak such good English that there are so many call centres here and the Koreans come down here to learn English.
Since the country has been destroyed and rebuilt many times, and is still continuing to build itself, the infrastructure is slightly under developed. The most popular modes of public transportation in the country are Jeepneys. They are also an important representing symbol of the countries as they were originally US military jeeps that were left behind after World War II. They are decorated in flamboyant colors. Some are even air conditioned. They blare music while chugging through the streets. And they will stop anywhere if you yell PARA! (stop!).
The other mode of public transport is tricycles. They are motorcycles with a side car attached. And they’ll take you anywhere you want. They are the rickshaws of the country.
Then there are the taxis. I’ve heard stories about taxis being a front to commit scams and other crimes. I took a taxi once in broad daylight, made sure the meter was running and it turned out fine. But I wouldn’t take my chances if I had to go too far or at night.
Another very convenient and value for money way to get around is the Grabtaxi app. Grabtaxi is their version of Uber. It is a neat little app you download into your phone and you can see the fare and the map so it’s a safe and convenient way to get around. I used Grabtaxi at different times of the day and even late at night and it was very convenient. Most grabtaxis have pillows!
Okay let’s face it. The traffic is pretty bad. The rush hour is especially bad and you have to factor that in while planning to go to a certain part of the city. It is chaos but organized chaos. No one honks. People stay in their lanes. People stop or slow down to let you cross. No one whips out of a corner or swerves dangerously. Some of the roads are not wide so it gets congested quickly. You are allowed to complain about the traffic if you’re from the first world. But if you’re an Indian, especially from Bangalore, who complains about the traffic in Asian countries you deserve a sharp smack on the face.
The Philippines were colonized by the Spanish, Japanese and Americans. And this has heavily influenced their culture. The Spanish occupied the Philippines for over 300 years and this has had a huge impact on their culture, traditions, food, religion and lifestyle.
Spain was one of the most powerful nations in the world in the 1500s and was on a mission to conquer and lay claim to as many nations as possible. At first they just wanted to lay their paws on the wealth from the Asia spice trade, but then they also wanted political power. One fellow Magellan set sail under the Spanish flag, reached the Philippines, claimed to have “discovered” it and set about trying to claim ownership. At the first the natives received him warmly, then he got annoying and they had to get to rid of him. So they killed him. They honor Lapu Lapu, who killed Magellan, with a statue in Mactan Island.
In 1564, Spain eventually took the Philippines by force in a battle and stayed around till 1898.
The Filipinos were pagans, which means they worshipped nature and the earth. The Spaniards introduced Christianity, making them worship a statue on a wooden cross. No damage there right? Now there are over 6000,000 churches in the Philippines. and they are the 3rd largest Catholic country in the world.
Most of the citizens are still very conservative, divorce is still not allowed, abortion is still viewed as immoral, and even the Reproductive Health Law that guarantees free access to contraceptives for all citizens was fiercely opposed by the church for over 14 years until it was finally passed as a bill in 2012 and approved in 2014. Naturally, of course, the church still opposes it. Despite the religious majority, the country has no problems with gays or transexuals. A lot of the country is progressive about it, but of course there are some who can’t tolerate other people’s life choices even though it doesn’t affect them in anyway.
Almost 20% of Tagalog is inspired from Spanish. Their greeting Kumusta is derived from the Spanish Como Esta (how are you).
The Spanish cuisine has heavily influenced the Filipino cuisine and they introduced things like corn, potatoes, beef, sausages, coffee, bread, flour etc.
The architecture of the Philippines is a reflection of the history and heritage of the country. The most prominent historic constructions in the archipelago are based on a mix of indigenous Austronesian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, American, and Spanish influences. The Spanish built cathedrals, gardens, churches, stone houses and cobbled stone pathways. The heavily influenced Spanish styles can be found in the walled city of Intramuros in Manila and the Vigan in the northern Luzon part of the country.
FUN FACT: Siesta or the art of taking a nap after lunch is another thing the Filipinos inherited from the Spanish. The term ‘Filipino Time’ is linked to Filipinos always being late. Although there is no direct link between the two, the practice of the Filipino Time also came from the Spanish. The Spanish start and end their day late, and the Filipinos may have acquired this attitude from them.
It’s holiday season in the Philippines right now. Christmas is a festival they simply LOVE to celebrate and usually they start celebrating as early as September and end it sometime in January. Yes, you read that right! People will start saying things like “ber months are here” or “the weather is getting chillier” when in fact it is not, just like south Indians. Homes, stores, malls and other buildings will start putting up Christmas decorations and blaring Christmas songs. It’s really cozy and festive.
Things they celebrate during this season:
- Simbang Gabi or Night Mass, where Catholics attend masses from December 16th to 24th as a way of honoring the Virgin Mary and also a way of anticipating the coming Christmas Day.
- Noche Buena: On the last day of the Night Masses (Misa de Gallo), Filipino families will get together to celebrate Noche Buena as they eat a BIG feast — ‘lechon‘ or roasted suckling pig is almost always the center piece of this occasion.
The entire Christmas celebration ends on the 1st Sunday of January on celebrating the Feast of the Three Kings.
The Filipinos also love to celebrate Halloween. Halloween in the Philippines lasts from the eve of October 31st (or even before this day) to November 2nd. Due to the strong Catholic background, Nov 1st and 2nd are spent remembering their dead loved ones and mostly celebrated in the cemeteries or memorial parks. This is the most important part of their Halloween tradition, although there are some pumpkins and trick or treats because of the American influence and huge number of expats. But it’s also celebrated with candles, flowers, prayers and visits to the cemeteries.
You might think it is serious and morbid for a Halloween with graves, cemeteries, prayers etc, but for the Filipinos, this is a fun event. It’s like a mini-reunion for families and friends alike. Tents, shelters, chairs and tables are set up in front of the grave sites to provide a place where the family and their visitors can stay, talk and eat. There are sometimes food stalls, live music and of course karaoke and other other entertainment. the best part is, families bring baskets of food and drink to share.
There was a time that the Philippines was dubbed as the “Text Capital of the World” as 35 million people send about 450 million text messages daily. Today, they are being dubbed as the “Social Media Capital of the World” or the “Most Social Nation” as well given how they have the most active users on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Time magazine had even previously titled them as the “Selfie Capital of the World”. Turns out Delhi never was the selfie capital.
So if you’re hanging out with Filipinos, prepare for a LOT of picture taking and being tagged on Facebook. Some Filipinos have multiple accounts: One for home, another one for work, another for friends, etc.
- They speak very good English because of their colonization.
- The best way to compliment a host is to eat heartily.
- Religion and festivals are very important to the people.
- Filipinos LOVE sweets. And sweets feature in many meals as accompaniments or desserts. They have a huge variety of traditional sweets from different regions like we do in India.
- Filipinos love to be late without reason. Just like india we follow IST, which stands for Indian Standard Time, which usually means Late!
- They love social media and selfies!
- Family is very important and extends to relatives and friends too. They usually gather together to celebrate festivals and celebrations like new years and birthdays.
- It’s normal for kids to stay wth parents much after they are 18. They usually stay with them till they’re married and sometimes even after marriage.
- Parents have a huge say in their children’s future, like careers and who they marry even after they are adults.
- Mostly old parents stay with one of the kids, typically the older sibling and it is not considered culturally acceptable to leave them by themselves or send them to a home.
- They usually address people older than them with a subfix to their name like Ate and Tita for girls and Kuya or Tito for guys. They also add po while talking to elders. In difeerent parts of India, we address our elders and even people a few years older than us with similar subfixes.
- Every time they meet elders they place the elders hands on their forehead for blessing as a sign of respect.
- The tricycles and cabs might reject you, i.e refuse to take you to your destination of choice if it’s very close or very far, or just according to their mood. If you’re Indian you cannot even count the number of times this happens to you in a day!
Pasalubong is the Filipino tradition of travellers bringing gifts from their destination to people back home. Pasalubong can be any gift or souvenir brought for family or friends after being away for a period of time. Whether coming from the farthest Philippine islands or foreign lands thousands of miles away, Filipinos who have traveled always try their hardest to give the best pasalubong back home.
The gift of pasalubong are souvenirs that share the travel experiences and happiness one felt while away from home. And who doesn’t love presents from foreign countries?
- Imelda Marcos: Shoe crazy dictator and one of the most controversial first lady of the country.
- Nicole Scherzinger: Pussycat Doll lead singer is Filipino from her dad’s side. Don’t you wish your girlfriend was Pinoy like her?
- Bruno Mars: Bruno Mars is Filipino from his mom’s side and most likely a Pinoy “Treasure” 😉
- Vanessa Hudgens: First lady of Disney is Filipino from her mom’s side and claims to eat rice everyday. She could also be Indian, we need to check!
- Allan Pineda: Unknown guy in the Black Eyed Peas, born in Pampanga! <3
- Enrique Iglesias: Everyone’s school time crush and maybe a Filipino “Hero”? 😉
- Caterina Fake: Founder of photo sharing site Flickr and one of the first few women tech entrepreneurs.
- Monique Lhuillier: Born In Cebu, owns some pawn shops there and sells expensive giant gowns to Hollywood.
- Darren Criss: A Filipino Harry Potter? Yes it’s true! The cute guy from Glee is Filipino.
- Haille Stienfield: Little Kalabasa Haille also won an Oscar. #PinoyPride
- Pia Wurtzbach: Reigning Miss Universe who was the victim of the Steve Harvey Goof up of the Decade!
So there you have it folks! Are you excited to visit this incredible country? Going to help you plan your trip with itineraries, travel guides, tips and hacks soon. What more would you add to this list? I’d LOVE to hear. Let me know in the comments. 😀