Recently my travel day dreams have repeatedly drifted to the idea of visiting the Philippines. I am really not sure why as I have no personal connection with or in depth knowledge of the Philippines. Like many Americans I know some of the nation’s history, have seen World War II movies set in the Philippines, and have casually followed the country’s contemporary fight for a true democracy. I decided to explore my day dreams via a virtually trip to the Philippines. I am still not sure where this day dream came from but the Philippines are now high on my must visit list. If they are not on your list then read on and I think you will add this incredible island nation to your bucket list.
From a Western perspective, the Philippines were “discovered” by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 and claimed for Spain. He was killed that same year in a battle with locals who evidently did not appreciate his efforts to claim them for Spain, give them Christianity, and other benefits of Western civilization. You can visit his monument in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu. You have to love a people who resisted colonization and spent the next 527 years fighting for independence.
It is not easy to summarize a nation that spans more than 7,100 islands so let me share a little taste of what I have learned along with some photos I found. You will have to wait until I visit to see my photos. If you go first then I fully expect a report and photos from you.
Beaches and Biodiversity. It goes without explanation that the Philippines would have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and plenty of them. I did not expect the biodiversity and geographic diversity. The WWF raves about Palawan dubbing it “the Last Frontier” because of the thousands of miles of unexplored forests and coastlines. I love beaches but what I really want to see are the Chocolate Hills in Bohol Province.
World Fusion. The Philippines have been an international crossroads for more than 500 years so it is a rich fusion of many cultures. It is Asian-Pacific, American, Latin and more. Many people speak one of the island languages and English, they probably attend a Catholic church, and love American culture. You may feel a little confused as to where you are at times as you visit a Spanish monument, go to a World War II memorial, and possibly end the day eating some fried plantains with banana ketchup.
Safe and Friendly. The Philippines are safe and friendly. Manila is a large city, so it has crime like all big cities. There are troubles in the South but you will not be going there. What everyone seems to report is that Filipinos are a warm, welcoming people who are genuinely happy to see you. This may explain why more and more Americans are retiring to the Philippines- safe, warm, and a reasonable cost of living.
I could go on and on: excellent food; SCUBA diving paradise; trekking destination; modern urban centers; incredible history; Pacific-Asia crossroads with great transportation connections; great music, and; a rich cultural diversity. Instead of writing about it secondhand, I am going to go and have my own firsthand stories to tell. You should put it on your list and go before it becomes too touristy.