My take on Tourism in the Philippines

Foreword: Just in case you are wondering, The Philippines and the regions that were affected by Typhoon Haiyan is slowly getting on its feet. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s not an easy feat to immediately get better, but as you will see in our Department of Tourism site’s home page, it says it best that even after the storm, we are “the same beautiful country, the same beautiful people.”

So last week, I was asked to help out the embassy to man our booth at the Travel and Hospitality Expo at the Muscat Exhibition Center in Seeb. It was a very interesting experience because not only was I able to interact with the locals, which rarely happens; but talking with them and other nationalities gave me some surprising insights on what others think of the Philippines as a holiday destination.

What surprised me the most is that even with the 30,000+ Filipinos working and living here in Oman, many of the locals here have no idea about visiting my country on holiday. First let me get it out of the way by saying that our Embassy here is of course doing the best that they can to promote tourism in our country, thus the initiatives in joining such expos.

I guess that considering everywhere you go here, in restaurants, hospitals, and all sorts of companies there is sure to be a Filipino, I would’ve thought that at least some of them would be promoting or at least talk about how great it is to visit the Philippines.

And I highly doubt that they don’t, but what do I know? Now that I write about this, it sounds as if this recent discovery that I am finding very surprising seems a bit silly.

Now because I wasn’t prepared of the very little knowledge people have about the Philippines, whenever someone would ask me, “So what can you tell me about tourism in your country?” The first day I found myself baffled. Where do I begin to tell you where to go, since there is so much to choose from?

So I decided to write about the things you can consider in going on holiday in the Philippines. As well as address some of the questions I was often asked during the expo.

The first thing I would encourage you to do is visit our beaches, I guess that is, at least for me, the best thing about visiting my homeland. Its beaches are one of the most beautiful ones in this great big world of ours. The kind of thing that inspires the concept of paradise. And I have to say that I am really not exaggerating on this one, there are no words to summarize how beautiful they are.

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Now recommendations, Boracay is a place to start, because it’s the kind of place where ease and holiday comes to mind. It’s the place to bring your family to and just spend the day at the beach. Night life is also big there, so for the party-goers Boracay is a great place to shake it. The only problem I have with Bora is that facing the pristine shore and its powdery white sand is one great thing, but as soon as you turn around commercialism will hit you like it has never before. Which for me kind of ruins the whole getting away vibe.

For a more being one-with-nature-type, I highly suggest that you visit Palawan (both Puerto Princesa and Coron). Pagudpod in the northern part of the Philippines is also a great beach experience, and Cebu and Bohol are also great places for a swim. The southern parts of course has its own to brag about, but I have yet to explore those areas for me to personally say so.

Someone at the expo was curious about a poster in our booth that showed The Sinulog Festival in Cebu, and this is another thing I highly recommend you come visit for. Our festivals are really fun and colourful, (for example the Pahiyas Festival), and this will be the great time to experience authentic Filipino food. There are lots of great restaurants to eat at, but if you asked me, the best place to really enjoy a good Filipino meal is to be invited in a Filipino home.

pahiyas

I am city girl through and through and was born and raised in the capital. But I won’t encourage you to stay, as soon as you arrive stay a few days in the city, and immediately go to the beaches. There are great things to do in Manila like visit historical sites like Intramuros and the Luneta Park. A food trip to the Chinese district in Binondo is also highly recommended. If you like shopping we have the biggest mall in Asia, aptly called Mall of Asia. But if you are a proud cheapskate like me and opts for knock-offs, then I suggest you look for Greenhills and go crazy.

To be clear there is nothing wrong with Manila, it’s an organic urban jungle that is packed with life and all sorts of people. But just as every nation’s capital, city life is about the daily grind, where you find the workers, the students, the politicians, the celebrities, and everyone else in between. And this means heavy traffic, congested areas, pollution, and all the elements a great big city requires.

And I am not going to lie and tell you and in terms of safety for yourself and your valuables, Manila is the model city. But relatively as long as you follow the general and international rule of awareness and minding your things, not going through dark alleys, and getting in the car with a complete stranger, then I am sure you will do just fine.

When JG and I went to Rome, we were warned of the rampant pick-pockets in the tourist areas, and because we heeded this advice seriously we never lost a single Euro. It’s basically the same in the Philippines, just as I am sure it is in Bangkok and Jakarta, even in Singapore. Don’t leave your stuff unattended, don’t just leave your iphone lying around in the food court, and if you are just going to buy trinkets in the market, for the love of God, don’t dress like you are going to a party.

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Picture from blogger My Tinted Lenses

Another thing I would tell you about visiting the Philippines is that we Filipinos are probably one of nicest bunch of people you will ever meet. We smile at every opportunity and find laughter even at the worst cases and situations like funerals (not kidding) and disasters when a storm floods our homes. In fact our being nice and happy is both the thing that I like and hate about being Filipino.

We are really nice, in fact sometimes too nice. One of the things I love telling other nationalities is that if you visit our house, it is customary for us to make you, our visitors, feel as at home as possible, we will serve you the best meal that we can. Say for instance, a family may not be able to afford a can of corned beef, but they will surely borrow money just so they can serve it to you when you visit.

In the Philippines, does not matter if you are the ugliest, most foul person there is, we will never tell you so, instead we will concentrate on your other traits like how nice and kind your mother is, or how well you dress, or how nice you smell. Of course if you truly are the most unlikable person living on Earth, the worst we can do is endure your stay and pray you never come back.

There is one trait we Pinoys don’t like though, and that is arrogance/boastfulness/being haughty. To us, modesty and humility is the shinning attitude that must live in each person. Doesn’t matter if you are the best in everything, you can never ever admit that yourself and must wait for someone else to acknowledge it. And even after someone does say how great you are (something you may have already known), you must always negate it, and pretend that you have been given the most wonderful compliment you have ever heard in your entire life.

And so far, that is what I can say about the Philippines. My country is not perfect, far from it, very far from it. And I could go on and on about the many things that I don’t like and wish could be changed. But as we are born into a family no matter how crazy they are, it is your family, and where your home and heart is. And this post is just probably a tip of what I can tell you about it, probably in a conversation that can last ten minutes, and as I told the people at expo we could sit here and talk all day, and it would not be enough, the best thing you can do is come and visit us and experience it yourself –  which I hope you really would.

The views written on this post and this blog are mine alone and are not shared or represented by my husband or the Philippine Embassy in any way.

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