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Mabuhay! Welcome to the Philippines

Did you know that The Philippines are actually a collection of over 7,100 islands?  In fourteen days, I visited just two!  Here I hope to ... Read more
Mabuhay! Welcome to the Philippines

Did you know that The Philippines are actually a collection of over 7,100 islands?  In fourteen days, I visited just two!  Here I hope to share a couple of snapshots to whet your appetite and hope that when you do decide to visit, you’ll experience the genuine enthusiasm, friendliness and warm hospitality of the Filipino nation. Shaped by its history, its leaders and its geographical disasters, there’s no doubt if you’ve already visited South East Asia, this country is very different indeed.



Many faces of Manila

Located on the main island of Luzon, this city is crazy busy, overcrowded and not one of the easiest places to explore on foot but is a must.  Made up of 17 sprawling districts rolled into 1, Metro-Manila has a population close to 13 million with the city alone just over 1.7million. No wonder it’s hectic.   There’s a real depth of history to uncover which helps to place a perspective on the quirky, diverse, and east meets west culture of the Filipino.  Influenced by a host of nations over various times of occupancy (China, Spain, America) through architecture, food and customs, you’ll be pleasantly rewarded with a rich fusion of culture.  We stayed in the historic walled quarter of Intramuros with a 360 degree view from the Sky Deck of our hotel, a very pleasant way to reflect each evening.



Ash everywhere

Ever changing Mount Pinatubo is located in an amazing landscape created back in 1991 when over a period of around 3 days this volcano erupted furiously and created its own unique canyon.  Sheltered by Lahar hills (a mixture of dust and stone which was ejected), you’ll find these incredibly fascinating shapes towering above as you journey slowly for a couple of hours to the top of the crater rim.  Shaped by wind and rain, the area is continually changing but hold on to your seatbelt as first you need to cross the vast riverbed of Crow Valley and the many river crossings in your 4x4 to get there!



Step by Step

Heading further north into the Cordillera mountain range is where you’ll learn of the customs and tales of the Ifugao people.  From head hunting to rice guardians, in this area you’ll be welcomed by amphitheatres of terrace after terrace of rice paddies.  Nothing will prepare you for the beauty of these impressively hand-carved terraces which are now World Heritage Sites.  Steep and deep, there’s a network of steps (used by farmers and tourists alike) to navigate through in the very best examples of Banaue and Batad.  Top tip, definitely take advantage of the offered pole as it’s a great tool to steady your balance especially if you opt to visit the Tappiya Falls.




Escaping karaoke is possible, a national pastime in the Philippines, but I doubt you’ll be able to avoid music completely.  I’ll never forget our restaurant owner breaking into a rendition of Country Road, promising just the 1 song.  And then continuing with at least 5 Elvis Presley songs later…..  Country roads, take me home, to the place I belong, West Virginia, mountain…..ah!  



A bit of everything

Whether you’ve a sweet tooth or more inclined to go for something a bit more wholesome, the main flavour types of the Philippines can be described as sweet, sour, salty and bitter.  Basically there is a food type for anyone’s taste, all served with a big helping of rice, the staple dish.  A couple of main dishes for example are Chicken, Pork or Beef Adobo where the meat is stewed in vinegar and garlic, or a Sinigang where the meat is served as a soup with a tamarind and sour flavour. Mangoes have to be mentioned as they are just delicious, reportedly the sweetest in the world.  The strangest item would be Banana Ketchup or the Civet Coffee.



Hanging Coffins

A visit to the hillstation of Sagada is not to be missed.   A fascinating ritual of the Igorot people is explained in depth and our guide Mel was inundated with inquisitive questions over this tradition of hanging tiny coffins (and chairs) from the surrounding cliff faces of Echo Valley.



Don’t Stress me Out

This cute creature, the Tarsier is incredibly shy and nocturnal.  With eyes as large as saucers, you can’t stop yourself from staring and cooing at every opportunity!  However they are endangered and at the Tarsier Sanctuary established 20 years ago, you gain a real insight into the ongoing conservation work to protect them. Once kept as pets, they are said to be prone to suicide when stressed, and the domesticated cat is their biggest threat.



And relax!

With 3 days on the island of Bohol, you’ve time to chill and take everything that you’ve experienced this far.  There’s no better way to wake up than by having fresh mango juice, coffee and breakfast by the sea.



Getting there

Flying with Oman Air, I had a smooth transition through the airport hub of Muscat.  With aids to help you sleep, the latest films and a full meal service on board, the punctuality of this airline can’t be faulted.  It’s long haul to Manila, but with this opportunity to break up the journey, ensures the adjustment to timezone is more easily achieved.

>> View The Philippines - Highland and Island Explorer

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