Backpack Philippines: Overview

Backpack Philippines: Overview

  • EAT! – Fresh seafood: 7000+ islands means it isn’t hard to come across! Or heed the advice of the Black Eyed Peas “Bebot” song and try out the chicken adobo – a big hit with the locals.
  • DRINK! – Shake it: Mango shake, coconut shake, durian shake, anything shake, mango daiquiri, anything daiquiri. Or if you’re partial to beer you can’t beat a San Miguel. You can find it – anywhere. Oh and watch out for Red Horse and Tanduay, alcoholic content varies considerably from bottle to bottle.
  • WEAR! – Bright colours: beach gears; no fears, no cares.
  • BEWARE! – Karaoke: Stay away from the karaoke microphone! Unless your voice is up to it? It’s a national obsession and competition is fierce in these parts!

Introduction to everything Filipino

The Philippines – where do we start? The place will not only surprise you but leave a lingering and unforgettable impression. For no good reason this group of 7000+ islands has been somewhat neglected from the typical “south east Asian” circuit. Note to all backpackers – this stunning archipelago, easily comparable to the Mediterranean or the Caribbean, should NOT be missed! Low cost carriers and an extendable 3-week visa on arrival, pave the way for some serious exploring.

Deserted Beaches, Amazing Diving and Friendly Locals…

The neat thing about the Philippines is you don’t have to go far to get off the beaten track and you can easily find a deserted beach, or island for that matter, to while away your days. If the tropical scene on land isn’t enough then plunge into the depths of the Philippines ocean and see unimaginable amounts of corals and tropical fish. If you love diving, you will delight in islands such as Malapascua, Balicasag (Bohol), and Apo. Even if you’re not a diver then a simple mask and snorkel will be enough to view the magnificent whale sharks of Donsol, or the never ending tropical reefs dotted around most of the islands.

Incredible Wreck Diving in Coron, The PhilippinesIncredible Wreck Diving in Coron, The Philippines

It doesn’t stop there though. The heart and soul of the Philippines is buried within the 90 million inhabitants who will be some of the friendliest and happiest people you will come across on your travels. English is widely spoken, meaning that you can often have good yarns with any locals you come across. They’ll be more than happy to share stories and will be genuinely interested in yours too. While there isn’t a set backpacker route in the Philippines, the English factor, combined with the accommodating nature of the Filipinos makes for some fairly easy travelling conditions. Filipinos, by nature, are extremely optimistic people and travelling through the country you can’t help but be lifted by their positive attitudes.

Beach Parties, Kite Surfing and Sunsets…

If you want to ease back into beach life, but aren’t quite ready to part with civilization, then Boracay is your place. After a stunning sunset over western facing White beach, Boracay is transformed from a carefree beach scene into one heck of a wild party! Restaurants and clubs line the 4km length of beach, so you can wine and dine with the feel of sand between your toes. There’s no time to be hungover either with kite surfing winds blowing on the other side of the island from November-April and dive certificates being handed out to those on courses. If you’re feeling unhealthy after too many nights clubbing then best to head over to pristine Palawan for some detox time – many claim this to be the best of the Philippines.

Wicked nightlife in Boracay, The PhilippinesWicked nightlife in Boracay, The Philippines

Bancas and Jeepneys…

Every part of South East Asia seems to have its own style of “homemade” transport. In the Philippines, if you want to go by sea then look no further than a “banca.”  These boats will be your gateway to many an island paradise. Tricycles are the Filipino version of the tuk tuk and can be found on most of the islands in various shapes and colours, offering cheap and easy transport. Jeepneys, whilst not doing much for the pollution in some of the big cities, are a fun way to get from A to B and you have to admire the creativity that goes into the paint work! Hiring a scooter/motorbike is the best way to get around on your own terms.

Brightly-coloured decorated jeppneys in the PhilippinesCreatively decorated “jeepneys” in the Philippines

Nightlife, Karaoke and Culture…

If you need a break from a beaches and want to get back to a sense of civilization then just head to one of the major hubs such as Manila or Cebu. Here you will find lively nightlife and probably won’t be able to avoid the pull of the karaoke microphone, especially if you’re out with locals! Given the fact that most Filipinos sing before they can talk you’ll find some amazing live music wherever you go, with most bars having solid acoustic sets to kick off the night.

As well as being born to sing, Filipinos also seem to be born to shop. A favourite weekend pastime in the big smoke is spending time at the nearest shopping mall. Whether it’s for shopping, or just a solid dose of air conditioning – who knows!? There is some great shopping to be done in Manila and gems can be found even on a backpacker budget.

The Intramuros area of Manila will take you back to a time when the Spanish ruled the country, while the Ayala museum will remind you that Filipinos have also been at the mercy of the Americans and Japanese over a fairly turbulent history. The Spanish influence in the Philippines also provoked the massive spread of Christianity through the region, which can be seen in the large, immaculately presented churches dotted around the country. Religion is a big part of Filipino life and many celebrations and activities surround certain religious events.

The Future of Tourism in the Philippines?

While international tourism isn’t quite as developed in the Philippines as in other areas, the domestic tourist market is strong and adventure tourism packages are growing. There are so many incredible travel experiences on offer for backpackers that you’ll be wondering why the place isn’t swarming with people! The country has a little bit of everything to suit every taste… Trekking in the rice fields of Banaue, quad biking around Mt Mayon, hitting the wakeboard park at Cam Sur or surfing in Siargao will ensure that you burn off all those cocktails you’ve been drinking on the beach. In short, if one thing’s for sure, you won’t want to leave this paradise!

Sunset in the Philippines

4 Random Facts about the Philippines

  1. The USA bought the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam from Spain in 1898. The Filipino-American Independence War from 1898 to 1902 ensued. 4,234 Americans were killed, while 16,000 Filipinos were killed in action and 200,000 died from famine and pestilence.
  2. While the Philippines national language is Tagalog, it is the biggest English speaking country in the world after the US and the UK.
  3. The Philippines is the largest producer of coconuts in the world.
  4. The highest paid athlete in the Philippines is boxing champion Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao.