The first and most important impression is that this country is so incredibly beautiful! If you see any pictures you can be almost sure that there’s probably not even photoshop involved. #nofilterneeded. And if so, then only to make the pics as beautiful as reality is. No camera is able to capture these colours.
It´s as beautiful on land as in the water. Waterfalls, mountains, jungle, beaches, reefs, coral gardens, sea turtles, whale sharks, sardine run … nature unfolds all of its beauty. The Philippines offer first class snorkeling and diving areas, fishing, hiking, canyoneering, surfing, … there are a million things to do and to enjoy nature. It never gets boring here and there is a lot to explore.
The country consist of more than 7000 islands. One as beautiful as the next one. Some islands are very small though. And for those who want to have a piece of paradise for themselves: I even saw an offer to buy a whole island. 😉
Travelling the Philippines or living here is not for everyone though. Life here is very basic. It’s a 3rd world country and the average income is around 22000php (420USD) a month. Just a few concrete buildings exist, mainly in the cities. But most people are living in bamboo shaks or corrugated sheet huts. Most of the places i was staying at were also built of bamboo woven walls and banana leave roofs.
The country is not prepared for tourists. For example, electricity is a problem. The whole system isn’t built or strong enough to run tourist places in addition to the locals. Blackouts are an everyday issue. Which also means that the water pumps are not always working. And if the shower is working then you have mostly low pressure and of course only cold water. But what do you need hot water for in these hot temperatures? 😉
Because of these issues the bucket shower is very common here. And there’s always a bucket filled with water next to the toilet- this is the flush. The places i m staying in offer basic equipment (400-800php a night, mostly single rooms). But if you choose to, you can also find very expensive places (6000-20000php a night) with all the comfort you are used to. It’s so expensive because these places provide their own generators, sometimes solar systems and their own water systems- even with hot water- to be independent and to avoid breakdowns.
Service and friendliness is awesome everywhere, no matter if you stay at a cheap or an expensive place. And I m always feeling very safe travelling by myself.
I just need to stand around looking kind of clueless and there is always someone asking what i was looking for. Or walking down the streets on the country side i always get asked where i m going… just in case i got lost. Or if i need a trycicle or a ride with a bike. Sometimes i even got them for free. I must have looked very lost and confused even if i wasn’t 🤣.
Whenever i had problems with the scooters i rented, someone helped me out. Flat tire- no problem. They asked a neighbor for a pump- problem solved. Bike didn’t start- guys did the kick start for me. It’s amazing how much they care.
And i never met a grumpy local. They are all smiling and waving and greeting.
And everyone is “ma`aming” me. This is their way of politeness and showing respect. I never got “ma`amed” so often and i needed some time to get used to it without feeling old. Every sentence starts or closes with “Ma`am”. Yes Ma´am. No Ma`am. Hi Ma`am. Where are you going Ma`am?. For groups of mixed gender they created their own word: Ma´amsir. It comes out in one word. This word will be connected with the Philippines in my head forever.
It’s very helpful that people care so much because there is not a lot of information provided for tourists. At least not everywhere. Flying into other places i experienced flyers being provided at the airport already or at hostels and hotels. Flyers with transportation options, schedules and attractions. Like this you always know where the hot spots are and options how to get around. Not so much here. I was completely unprepared going to the Philippines as it was a spontaneous decision. So it took me a while to figure everything out. I felt lost at the beginning but i learned that i just need to jump and i always land on my feet. Sometimes where i wanted to go and sometimes at another beautiful place. Don’t worry too much about planning. Just go with the flow and have faith. (I m going to write more about this in another blog….)
HAPPiNESS AND RELiGiON
This is the most important thing I learned here: accepting things the way they are and having faith that they are good the way they are. This is also seems to be the mindset of the Filipinos. I never heard anybody complain about anything. Not even kids are crying or screaming a lot. They are just happy and smile all the time. During a 6 hours bus ride not one of the kids needed to be entertained or was crying.
Maybe the secret of their happiness is being humble. I feel like not many are reaching for higher goals. Filipinos seem to be happy with what they have. Maybe because religion plays a big role in their daily lives. Most of the country is catholic and churches are always full during service. I even experienced that twice a day, someone leads a prayer over the speakers in the big shopping malls. During these 2 Minutes everything stops. No one moves. Everyone is praying.
Or are they happy because they surrendered? Being thrown back over and over again due to the political situation or due to typhoons or tsunamis might have taken its toll.
But I don`t think they surrender. It rather looks like a new awareness of the importance to protect our planet is developing. Having to deal with these powers of nature over and over, it seems logical that you find things like
-bamboo straws instead of plastic straws
-smoking is prohibited at beaches because they want to avoid cigarette butts in the ocean
-water refill machines, where you can refill your water bottle for cheap to avoid more plastic
-no plastic bottles are allowed on any boat trips
-restricted times for some snorkel or diving spots
-beach clean ups
And many more…
The Philippines are trying to find a good balance between using their resources for tourism and protecting nature at the same time. Of course there is still air pollution and a million other things, where environmental protection doesn`t play a role- yet. But it´s a start.
I am hopeful that, the beauty of this country will last for a very long time and for many more generations of Filipinos and travelers to enjoy and adore.