64. The Philippines

The Philippines: With stops on a half-dozen different islands, several thousand boat rides and visits to two hospitals, The Philippines made good on its promise to be full of rich reward, frequent hassle, and leave us with a burning desire to return and see even more.

Amy: The Philippines turned out to be a real gem. I arrived with pretty low expectations, mostly due to warnings from other travelers. I’m not sure why some travelers have such a low opinion of this place, because I found it to be rich with personality and charm and as ecologically diverse and beautiful as anywhere in SE Asia. The people are also incredibly nice, English communication is very easy and seriously, the Philippines has the hottest people so far. I’ve heard Thailand might win the beauty contest but I can’t say first hand yet. It was also really fun for me to be in such a righteously Catholic country. Georgous, centuries old Roman Catholic churches made from coral stone, ghetto style grafitti Madonnna’s, genuflecting tricycle drivers complete with rosary beads on the mirror and much more. I loved it. It was too bad we left the country just as Holy Week began because apparently we missed massive parades and re-anactments of the steps of the cross. I also thoroughly enjoyed our time with the Santiago family. It was really great to be mothered for a little while and I was really impressed with how tightly knit Filipino families are. Modern American families could learn a thing or two.

Sloan: This country is home to my new favorite and least favorite places in Southeast Asia. The seascape of the Bacuit Archipelago in Palawan, its azure horizons and limestone impossibilities, is like a classical painting of the most beautiful dream you’ve ever had. And Manila’s airport is a 1960s diorama of Dante’s Hell, with several kinds of torture waiting for you in every concrete-bunker-chic waiting area. Gruesome, speaking of which I ’m pleased and disappointed that I didn’t attend a single cockfight, the country’s fourth most popular recreational activity behind basketball, karaoke and eating/snacking. So we ate very well when we stayed with Emy’s family but didn’t do as well finding good Filipino food on our own – The notable exception being the ripe mangoes, the finding, peeling and eating of which were equal parts religious experience and substance addiction. I made trips to two hospitals, the one in Bantayan and another in Manila (lingering chest cold) that was as well equipped, better organized and substantially cheaper than any hospital I’ve visited in The States. Manila also had the coolest bar we’ve been in so far, a live music venue called “The Hobbit House” that’s owned and operated by hyper-efficient little people who make no apologies for the low ceiling height. Finally, there were two English language oddities that I came to love in this place. The first was a new cross-gender pronoun that every service industry worker uses to address a customer – “Maamsir.” It’s become a running national joke and you can now even buy a “Maamsir” t-shirt. The second is the use of the phrase “wait for a while,” which to us means, “wait for a long time” but to Filipinos means, “wait for just several seconds.” Hilarity ensues!


  1. sable says:

    Are you documenting all of this travel with a video camera as well? I hope so because it would make an excellent documentary (and/or TV show).