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The Philippines


Official name: Republic of the Philippines
Population: 108 000 000
Total area: 300 000 km²

Gallery

The tourist attractions of the Philippines

Philippines at the background of tourism in its region

Philippines is a picturesque tropical country which advantages I would have to list for a long time. The Philippines attracts tourists from around the world mainly due to its fairy-tale beaches, although the country is still less known and much less visited than the neighboring Thailand. In 2018 almost 39 million tourists visited Thailand, and the Philippines was visited by only 7 million. Thailand still wins at tourism because of its cultural heritage in the form of Buddhist temples, but in my opinion when it comes to beaches, I prefer the Philippines, and it is not about the beauty but about privacy. On the beaches of Thailand white tourists organize a mass invasion every year, while the Philippines is an outsider, and still gives a sense of privacy. In addition, the Philippines lies off the beaten track, on the islands, and it is not on the list of travel priorities.

A view of Apo island from the top.

According to the collected statistics, I think that countries of Southeast Asia such as Thailand is usually the starting point for short trips to Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and for a moment also to Malaysia. Tourists can get to all those countries by bus, and to Cambodia for example they mainly go to see Angkor Wat. Philippines on the other hand is a remote island country which requires plenty of time, more planning, and there are no colourful and impressive Buddhist temples, or ruins of ancient cities. For that reason, in my opinion, Philippines is still a country where there is more to discover.

Paradise beaches and diving in the Philippines

The main reason why tourists visit the Philippines are its wonderful beaches with white sand and palm trees leaning to the sea. Philippines is an archipelago of tropical islands, where nature captivates with its beauty on the surface and under water, as diving in the Philippines is also very popular. The islands however are not the only attraction, because Philippines also has narrow strips of sand appearing from the water, with a few palm trees and houses built on bales. This is the Philippines, that an average tourist has heard about, but as soon as they get there, it turns out that the country has a lot more to offer.

One of the many beautiful beaches in Bohol island.

The Philippines has more than 7,500 islands, and most of them have wonderful beaches with beautiful lagoons, coral reefs and dramatic rock formations. Tourists sunbathe under palm trees with coconut in hand, next to warm, turquoise water, or they walk on a pier, watching colorful fish and sea turtles. Philippines is a beach paradise that looks like a landscape from a perfect postcard. I walked many times on white sand in the company of my women and dogs, on one side having the sea, and on the other coconut palm trees. However, the beaches of the Philippines differ from each other, and one is not equal to the other. I realize that not everyone can go away for 3 or 4 months, that’s why I will talk just about several beaches, which among all the paradise places of the Philippines have emerged as the most beautiful ones.

Boracay, located north of Panay, has the reputation of a paradise on earth, and it is the most advertised and the most expensive beach island in the Philippines. Palawan is also very popular for beaches, and places such as El Nido or Puerto Princesa are known for the best beaches in the Philippines, and in the whole region. It is probably more beautiful over there than in heaven, and leaving this paradise can cause a serious breakdown. Among the palm trees, exotic birds, healthy food, tropical fruit and diving in the coral reef, one can spend months. Other popular beaches are those on Siargao island, between Leyte and Mindanao. On Cebu island I went to Moalboal to see whale sharks in the wild.

Kalanggaman island – the pearl of tropical nature.

In the north of Cebu I was also on Bantayan island, and on the nearby Virgin island, and then on Malapsuca island, which attracts mainly divers. Near Negros, close to Damaguette, there is Apo island, which next to beautiful beaches, is also a destination for scuba divers. I also spent a week on Panglao island, south of Bohol, which is also famous for its beautiful beaches.

How could I forget about the island of Kalanggaman, between northern Cebu and central Leyte. Kalanggaman is a narrow strip of white sand in the middle of the blue sea, with several palm trees in the distance.

I could write about the beaches of the Philippines for a long time, but one day I have to finish this article …

Waterfalls in the Philippines

Although the beaches are what gives the Philippines its fame, in my opinion the blue waterfalls hidden in the jungle are equally attractive. I crossed the jungles many times, so I could finally get to the blue waterfalls surrounded by lush tropical vegetation. Some waterfalls are single and others consist of many levels. Some are small, some have small caves underneath, while others 25m high and fall with great strength. Always in the Philippines, there are natural swimming pools with places for jumping and swimming, as well as swings and rafts. Some waterfalls are located near rice fields and banana plantations, and in order to get to others I had to walk longer on rocks. Jungle waterfalls are yet another wonderful chapter of the Philippines.

Locong waterfall in Siquijor island.

During my travels I bathed in many waterfalls, and I would like to say a few words at least about a few of them. On the island of Negros I went to the Casaroro waterfall, which was over 30m high and the water fell into a blue pool surrounded by rocks with great strength. There were also two other waterfalls called Pulangbato, and a bit further hot springs in the jungle.

I think that when it comes to waterfalls, I should definitely mention the Siquijor island, where there are many quiet waterfalls in the jungle. In some of them I was completely alone, and I only heard falling water and the sound of the jungle. The biggest and the most powerful is the set of a few waterfalls called Cambugahay, where I jumped into a natural pool clinging to a rope like Tarzan. The Kawasan waterfall, which was very secluded and is located in the depths of the jungle, also gave me great pleasure. Other ones worth mentioning are Locong and Lugnason.

Before I finish describing this wet chapter of my trip, I think I must necessarily mention a set of Kawasan waterfalls on Cebu island. When I parked my moped, I first walked through the jungle trail, passing tall bamboos, a small river and fruit sellers. After a kilometer walk, a blue lagoon appeared in front of me, with a huge pool and a strong waterfall. I bathed for an hour, and floated on a raft, and then I went to the upper parts, climbing the rocks, and I repeatedly jumped into the water from at least 10 meters. The waterfalls were of course great and adventurous, and they offered many thrills, but to me the jungle was also important.

A 30m high Casaroro waterfall hidden in the jungle on the island of Negros.

When in Bohol you must definitely see the Cam-Umantad and Mag-Aso waterfall, and the water caves on Panglao island. I could continue this chapter for a long time, and I hope that I’ve been able to show the beauty of the Philippine waterfalls.

Other highlights of the Philippines

The presence alone in such a beautiful tropical country as the Philippines is already a great attraction. I really enjoyed crossing the exotic islands on a moped, in the shade of palm trees. On the way to the beaches and waterfalls, when driving through the rice fields, I stopped under banana trees to spend time with local Filipinos. I played pool with them, I had grilled meat, and I bought coconuts and rice cakes baked under palm trees.

I also enjoyed jeepney rides, and Filipino fish and fruit bazaars. On some bazaars I saw real sea monsters, and as for the exotic fruits of Asia, I wrote a separate article on this topic. It was beautiful, and I was happy because everything that I needed to be happy was a simple life and small needs.

Jeepney – my favourite kind of transport in the Philippines. Here in the city of Legaspi, Luzon.

Filipinos are usually happy and they sincerely smile when they see a white tourist. In my opinion, white tourists in Thailand are treated only as ATMs, to which nobody smiles for free, whilst in the Philippines they still smile in an honest way. Filipinos also need money, but they are more real.

Apart from that I saw tarsiers (the smallest primates in the world), I swam with whale sharks, I was in butterfly farms and beautiful gardens, and once I also fed a young lioness with milk from a bottle. I saw post-colonial Spanish architecture, rice terraces, picturesque landscapes, the Mayon volcano, caves, jungles, and even a Catholic church built of volcanic lava.

The natural beauty of the Philippines was my favourite thing, although the country has many great advantages. The Philippines is a beautiful country.

A happy Filipina.

Philippines – the current times

Economy

The Philippines are considered to be a newly industrialized country with an economy transforming from the agriculture-based, to based more on services and production. Since 2017, GDP at purchasing power parity has been estimated at $1.8 trillion. Today, the Philippines is the world’s 34th largest economy by nominal GDP, and is one of the emerging markets, and the sixth richest in Southeast Asia by GDP per capita; after such countries in its region as Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

Although the data may look quite favourably, it is easy to see the realities of this developing country when travelling in the Philippines. People in the Philippines live poorly and sometimes survive on what they grow or catch on their own. I think that this is very important information for the followers of cold economic statistics.

The Philippines however has very good forecasts, because economists from reputable organizations predict that by 2050 the Philippine economy will be the fifth largest in Asia, and the 16th largest in the world. Currently, the Philippines, along with Thailand and Indonesia have been considered to be the “Tiger economies”, what I personally cannot confirm after my observation of the Philippines and the poverty of the people of this country. According to data from 2015, as many as 21.6% of the Filipino population lives below the poverty line. In the Philippines, there are large socio-economic contrasts, also taking into account the region of the country. Corruption and insufficient infrastructure also pose problems.

On the other hand, these good forecasts make sense, because the Filipino labour force is over 44 million, while the receptionist, cleaner at the hotel, a salesperson or a bodyguard in a shop earn only about 250 pesos a day. Teachers earn about 15-18.000 pesos a month (around $300), while a bank teller around $180. The Philippines have a lot of hard working people, who work for little money. By this I mean that the economic power of the Philippines is being built on exploitation of its citizens.

When in the Philippines I travelled high class; most often on a board of jeepney.

The basic export includes electric cables, transport equipment, clothing, copper products, petroleum products, electronic products, coconut oil and fruits. Although the Philippines has always been mainly a farming country (currently 7.4% GDP), services (58.6% of GDP) are of increasing importance. The industry takes 34% of GDP. The Philippines also manufactures aircraft parts, cell phone chips, laptops, and parts for German and Japanese cars. The above is worth mentioning, in case someone thinks that “Philippines is just a country of rice and bananas”. The economic realities are completely different, although all the goods I mentioned are for export.

The mining industry is also important in the Philippines, and the country is rich in mineral and geothermal energy resources. The Philippines has deposits of gold, silver, nickel, copper and many other metals. The Philippines also has marble, limestone, clay, gypsum and sulfur. In addition, there are a lot of information centres in the Philippines, because of the general knowledge of English. Only in 2016 revenues from phone centres reached about $27bn.

The main trade partners of the Philippines are: Japan, China, the United States, Singapore, the Netherlands, South Korea, Hong Kong, Germany, Taiwan and Thailand.

I fly like Tarzan over Cambugahay waterfall on Siquijor island.

A big injection of money for the Philippines are payments made to Filipino accounts by over 10 million Filipino employees, working mainly in the Arab countries. Approximately 2.5 million Filipinos work in the Middle East, of which about 1 million in Saudi Arabia, and around 270,000 in Kuwait. In the US, there are about 4 million Filipinos. In 2017, remittances from foreign accounts reached a record amount of $28.1bn, while a year earlier, in 2016, this amount reached $26.9bn. Remittances made by overseas Filipino employees are therefore very important for the economy of Philippines.

Finally, I would like to talk about what interests me the most, and that is tourism. Well, in such a beautiful country as the Philippines, tourism revenues reach over 12% of GDP. Only in 2017 the tourism sector earned about 3.3 trillion pesos, which is about 21% of GDP, and according to the latest report of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), these revenues will double over the next 10 years. Tourism in the Philippines accounts for almost 6% of national employment, what gives about 2.3 million full-time jobs.

Whale shark, not far from Oslob.

In my opinion, the Philippines are on the right track, and the country will certainly grow economically, what unfortunately doesn’t mean that Filipinos will become richer. Currently, in 2018, more than a quarter of the 105 million people of the Philippines live in poverty, or more than 26-32 million people. In my opinion, the economic growth of the Philippines, and all the uplifting statistics on the industry and export of the Philippines, are only cold data achieved on the brutal exploitation of the Filipinos. According to official figures, there are 800,000 prostitutes in the Philippines, half of them are underaged, and the main reason is the terrible economic situation. (For comparison, there are as many as 2 million prostitutes in Thailand, about 70,000 in England, and 18,000 in Poland).

Education

Education in the Philippines was shaped by countries that colonized the country. Earlier the Filipino education was based mainly on the Spanish system, which can be felt today even in Spanish-sounding cities and names. Today however, only about 3 million Filipinos speak Spanish, because after 48 years of colonization of the Philippines by the United States, Spanish was replaced with English. Many Filipino teachers graduated from American universities, and the official language of the Philippines, next to Filipino, is English. According to a public poll, 76% of Filipinos said they understood English.

I, as an English teacher who even taught English in England, and who travelled around the Philippines for 2.5 months, I got the impression that everyone understood me well and spoke fluent English, even though I could feel the American accent. In my opinion, the Philippine education system, along with the Filipino culture, was inspired by America, and this cooperation is continued.

According to the Filipino law, education in the Philippines is compulsory and free for 14 years. Education is divided into primary school (6 years), then high school (4 years), and possibly 4 years of higher education, which leads to a bachelor’s degree. Education until the end of high school is funded by the Filipino government, and it is mandatory, but the realities are completely different. In big cities like Manila, primary school is graduated by 100% of children, but in distant villages on Mindanao or Visayas islands, the graduation level of primary schools sometimes stands at 30%. President Duterte also spoke about government funding for the higher education, although that gentleman already said a lot of things. According to the research carried out by the Philippine Statistic Authority, 9% of Filipinos aged 6-24 were never in school because of their poverty.

A trip around Philippines.

The lack of a proper budget for the education system is a huge problem in the Philippines, which is why it is considered bad or even very bad. This does not mean that “Filipino teachers are bad, or that Filipino children are stupid”, but that because of the lack of basic conditions for learning and lack of teaching materials, education in the Philippines is very difficult, and even cumbersome. Especially the provinces lack tables and chairs, and sometimes pupils have to bring chairs to school so they don’t sit on the floor. There are also missing books for basic teaching and other teaching aids, and sometimes there are even 100 students in classrooms, and there is noise. There are not enough toilets in Philippine schools and they often turn off electricity. In such conditions, even the wisest Filipinos have problems with the acquisition of knowledge. There is shortage of teachers in the Philippines, because the salaries are very small, and students are so bored and irritated that they lose desire to learn.

There are also private schools in the Philippines, where there are libraries, plenty of books, teachers earn more, and classes are twice smaller than in state schools. Private schools also provide uniforms, computers and even air-conditioned rooms, which is important in this tropical country. In the Philippines however, 83% go to state schools, and 17% to private schools. Enrollments for secondary schools stand at around 88%. The level of literacy in the Philippines is 95%

Chocolate Hills on Bohol island.

Health

Healthcare in the Philippines is free for all Filipinos with free PhilHealth insurance. Hospitals are divided into private and public, and there are 1800 of them in the whole of the Philippines, most of which are state-run. In large cities, hospitals are well stocked, while in the provinces, hospitals are unfortunately under financed and there isn’t new medical equipment. As for PhilHealth, it is free only in theory, because not all research and operations are covered by the insurance. In many cases, patients have to pay by themselves. For example, a doctor’s visit at home costs 500 pesos, and a night in a hospital costs 2500 pesos. Filipino health care is therefore free, but the system is designed to pull as much money as possible.

As for Filipino doctors and nurses, according to the popular opinion they are at a very high level, and many have diplomas from foreign, also American universities. Filipino doctors and nurses are so good that they are willingly employed abroad. From an economic point of view, this is good for the Philippines, because doctors working abroad send a lot of money to Filipino bank accounts, but on the other hand Filipino health service loses great specialists.
In the case of some health complications and necessary operations that cannot be performed in the Philippines, I advise Singapore and Hong Kong.

Fisherman with a delicious dorado fish, on the island of Negros, near Sipalay.

Private hospitals are particularly good in the Philippines, and health care in them is at a higher level than in state hospitals. For local Filipinos these services are very expensive, but for foreigners they are priced reasonably enough. The Philippines has become a popular medical destination. There are 20.000 pharmacies in the Philippines open around the clock, and many medications are available without any prescriptions. It is also very helpful that everyone speaks English.

Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, such as malaria or dengue fever are rare in the Philippines, but only in cities. Malaria is still present in parts of the island of Luzon, Mindanao, Mindoro, Basilan, Palawan, and in the Sulu archipelago. When it comes to malaria, the Philippines is still a low-risk country, especially aat an altitude of below 600 meters above sea level. Nevertheless, I still advise to use sprays against mosquitoes in certain parts of the Philippines.

In the Philippines there are often typhoons and floods, which lead to cholera epidemic. In 2017 almost 200 cases of a serious bacterial infection were reported in some areas of Cebu and Bohol islands.

HIV / AIDS infection in the Philippines is low, but it is growing. The Philippines have one of the lowest rates of infection, but it has one of the fastest growing number of such cases in the world. The virus is more common among homosexuals, who are a high-risk group. The rate of infection among men having sex with men increased 10 times in 2010-2015. In June 2018, 28.045 people underwent HIV antiretroviral therapy. The majority of them, 97% were men. If someone wants, he can call this paragraph: “the dark side of tolerance”.

Culture / Religion

In my opinion the culture of Philippines is not the culture of the East, but the one resulting from the mix of Eastern and Western cultures. The culture of the Philippines consists of elements related to the first people of the Philippines – Austriansans, despite the fact that today the Catholic culture of Spain is definitely predominant, with strong influences of American culture. In addition, the culture of the Philippines also depends on the island, because despite the fact that the Philippines is definitely a Catholic country, for example on Mindanao Islam plays a significant role, which a culture originating from the Arabs. In the Philippines one can also see smaller influence of Japanese and Indonesian cultures, although after traveling around the country for about 2 months, I personally define the culture of the Philippines as “a Catholic culture of Spain with enormous American influence, where people are closely attached to the island life in the tropics.”

Staff transport in the Philippines.

The Philippines were a colony of Spain for 333 years, making it today the only Catholic country in Asia. Filipinos are very religious and Christmas is celebrated in the Philippines the longest. Throughout the country there are many churches and huge cathedrals, which were rebuilt many times, and which are of great historical value. One of them, the Santo Nino cathedral in Cebu City was built after the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in Cebu. (This is my favorite cathedral in the Philippines). Today, cities and villages, streets and Filipinos people all have Spanish names. Waterfalls, beaches and mountain peaks also have Spanish names, and the letter “j” is pronounced as “h”, as it is pronounced in Spanish. The Spanish culture of the Philippines is therefore evident, and 3 million Filipinos still speak this language.

As soon as Americans removed democracy introduced by Spain and they forced their own in 1898, the Americanization of the Philippines began. This process had a lasting impact on the culture of the country. The Americans sent English teachers to the Philippines, and that way the language has been taught nationally. After 48 years of colonization of the Philippines by the United States, Spanish was replaced with English. Many Filipino teachers have graduated from American universities, and the government language of the Philippines, next to Filipino, is English. According to the study, 76% of Filipinos said they understood English, although I had an impression that everyone in the country could speak English in the Philippines. In addition, the city names have the “city” element, such as Cebu City or Iloilo City. Many English words have been introduced into Filipino dictionary, sometimes with different spelling. Examples are: cake = keyk, cookies = cukis, biscuit = biscuit. In the Philippines, American fast food bars are also popular, but the Philippines also has its own network called Jollibee, where by the example of McDonald’s they serve burgers, chickens like from KFC, spaghetti, and Filipino rice dishes. Even the cult Filipino jeepney was also influenced by America.

However, I as an adventure traveller did not go to the Philippines to discover Spain or America. To me, the Filipino culture is more interesting because of the way of life and people’s attachment to tropical islands. This culture is much more interesting to me and I would like to discuss it. When traveling in the Philippines, I saw that the Filipino culture also involves spending time on the beaches, under palm trees, whilst renovating wooden boats and setting off for fishing with nets. Filipinos spend time in nature, on bamboo hammocks, among coconut palms and banana trees, close to rice fields. They also grill meat, play pool under a roof made of palm leaves, and women bake rice cakes using coconut peels as firewood. Filipinos love to eat outdoors, and they love dancing and listening to music. The calendar of the Philippines is full of many festivals, during which Filipinos sing and dance in colorful costumes, and through their traditions they refer to the pre-Christian past of the nation, with Catholic beliefs and the ideology of modern times.

Tarsier – the smallest primate in the world, endemic species of the island of Bohol.

Despite the difficult economic situation, Filipinos are a happy and hospitable nation, but also intelligent and closely attached to the nature. I wish these people all the best, and I think that from the point of view of a white traveller their traditions are interesting and worth getting to know. Because of the island culture of the Philippines in the bosom of tropical nature, travellers can easily take it as a culture of relaxation, even though life in the Philippines is not easy.

Regarding religious division, 92% of Filipinos are Christians, 81% of whom are Catholic and 11% are Protestant, Orthodox and others. 11% of Filipinos are Muslim, and about 2% are Buddhist.. Indigenous religious beliefs in the Philippines are also practised, but only by about 2% of the population. The Philippines is therefore dominated by Catholicism.

Freedom of speech

Article III Section 4 of the Philippine Constitution of 1987, states that no law shall be passed in a way that restricts the freedom of speech or expression. Well, let’s see how these beautiful words relate to freedom. In England there is also freedom of speech, but those who don’t agree with Islamization of Britain go to prison for “parking tickets”. I say this in case the English would ever want to praise their “oasis of democracy”, while looking for faults in distant countries.

Sohoton Natural Park, and its highlight – “the natural bridge”.

Generally, journalists in the Philippines can say what they like, but what’s happening next is really interesting. Well, the Philippines have been on the list of countries that have been murdering journalists for years. This means that if someone has critical opinion about the president or the government, in the best case he either goes to prison or he is found dead. In the years 1992-2018, 80 journalists were killed.

There was a well known case in the Philippines, showing the true colours of the “war on drugs”, organized by President Duterte. Over 12.000 poor Filipinos from the province were killed in this war, and journalists writing about that case had huge problems. The so-called Ministry of Justice was building charges for years, and under the political microscope in the Philippines there is also the Catholic church, in the event that it might become critical of the government’s actions.

The so-called “slander” is a serious crime in the Philippines, but in my opinion it is a reflection of the European version of the same law, called “hate speech”. It is a law created by “democrats”, so they could kill freedom of speech. It is therefore the same in Europe; just the name is different.

Filipino mothers with children on the island of Apo.

According to the Reporters Without Borders, on 2019 press freedom index, the Philippines is on the 134th place, on 180 countries and territories. The judgement of freedom of speech in the Philippines I leave to my readers.

Ecological problems

Tourists visiting the Philippines, including myself, consider this country to be the beach paradise with blue waterfalls, caves and tropical vegetation. However, behind the whole beauty of the Philippines there are ecological problems that keep mounting up. One does not even have to travel around the Philippines to see the first ecological problems. It’s enough to land in Manila. For example, Pasig River which crosses Manila is one of the dirtiest rivers in the world, with tons of rubbish on its banks. Nearby, there is the Rizal Square, a beautiful Oceanarium on the river, and just next to it such a dirty surprise.

The main ecological problems of the Philippines are: air and water pollution, soil erosion, coastal erosion, landslides, illegal extraction of natural resources, deforestation of the country, extinction of wild animals, and the often overlooked; destruction of coral reefs. In the Philippines, they fish with dynamite. All these problems are of course related to over-population of the Philippines, which also create the problem of garbage collection. When in the Philippines, I advise you to drink bottled water or coconut milk, but not tap water.

The next environmental problems of the Philippines include the so-called “climate warming” or “climate change”, but I approach these two with a distance. Left-wing worshippers of “climate warming” cannot answer the question, why the population of polar bears increases, if apparently “the water levels are rising and the ice melts”.

Another great beach during my travels. This time it is the Bantayan island.

Apart from that, the Philippines has a very unfortunate location, because it is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In addition, the Philippine islands are surrounded by water from all sides and face the Pacific Ocean, where 60% of typhoons are in the world. In 2013, typhoon Yolanda killed 10,000 people and destroyed homes, crops and infrastructure worth one billion pesos.

Air pollution from industrial waste and cars is the largest in Manila, but it affects around 98% of the Philippines’ population. Annually, 4000 Filipinos die from poor air quality, and Pasig River is one of the dirtiest rivers in the world with 150 tonnes of household waste and 75 tonnes of industrial waste being thrown away every day.

Of course this topic is related to water pollution. In the Philippines, as much as 58% of surface waters are contaminated, what means that although there is no problem with water shortages, drinking it is dangerous. In the Philippines only 5% of the total population is connected to the sewerage network, what means that 95% of Filipinos throw waste and all kinds of dirt into the rivers, and then they make tea from it. In the health section, I briefly mentioned about the cholera infection.

Tropical fruit of the Philippines.

With the permission of the Philippine government, in the twentieth century the forests were reduced from 70% to 20% of the country’s total coverage. Illegal logging is a daily occurrence, what I personally experienced what I personally experienced on Bohol. I entered the forest, and soon a desert covered with clay appeared in front of me. The Philippines have 46 endangered species, 4 have already been slaughtered, and the original rainforest coverage has been reduced to only 3.2% as for today. In the beginning of the 20th century, Filipinos had 17 million hectares of tropical forests, and today they only have 1.2 million hectares. In such moments I don’t like Filipinos anymore, and I refer again to my article, titled: “The population explosion”.

History of the Philippines

The beginning of the formation of the Philippines

The first people living in the Philippines occupied themselves with collecting tropical fruits, hunting and fishing. For centuries, the first Filipinos lived only off the land and what the sea provided, and only between the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC they learned to cultivate land and breed animals.

In the 10th century, Filipinos developed a lot more thanks to trade with China, and in the twelfth century Arabian merchants arrived to the Philippine islands and introduced Islam.

The Spanish colonization of Philippines

In 1521 Ferdinand Magellan reached the Philippines and included it to the Kingdom of Spain. This is how the Spanish colonization of the Philippines began, which lasted for 333 years, until 1898. As soon as Magellan reached the Philippines, the country began to be Catholicized. After Magellan’s arrival, in the same century the Spaniards built among many objects, the Cathedral of Santo Nino in Cebu, the Manila Cathedral, and fortified forts in these cities. Colonization of Spain had huge impact on the Filipino culture, what I discussed in the chapter “culture / religion” above.

Casagwa ruins.

In the hope of a more effective colonization process of the Philippines, Magellan baptized the puppet ruler Humabon, who in his opinion was supposed to be a Filipino serving the Spanish crown. However, colonization of the Philippines was not so easy for the Spaniards, because the ruler named Lapu Lapu didn’t want to give in to the Spanish crown, and other people also opposed him. Magellan therefore sent the army to remove the patriot, but the Spaniards lost and Magellan was killed.

Magellan’s dream of full control of Spain over the Philippines was fulfilled only by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, who in 1565 led the offensive on the island of Cebu. The symbol of success of that war campaign was a Spanish fort, which exists to this day. Then, in 1571 Spaniards sailed to the island of Luzon and built a city surrounded by a wall, called Intramuros. Inside the city they built a Catholic cathedral and Fort Santiago. The city of Intramuros was the beginning of the capital of the Philippines, which then changed its name to Manila. Even the very name of the country – Philippines, comes from the name of the Spanish King Philip II.

Then the Spaniards colonized the entire island of Luzon, and created a feudal system in the Philippines, what means that the Spaniards were owners, and the Filipinos were cheap labourers. (Like today in Poland in the case of Jews and Poles).

The following years were going according to the wishes of the Spaniards, who with the help of conquistadors employed missionaries, and together converted Filipinos to Catholicism. At the same time churches were built, as well as Catholic schools and universities, and the Spanish were developing the Philippines in a way that suited them. A higher class of Filipinos who converted to Catholicism lived in prosperity, and the lower class didn’t have any rights, except the right to cultivate rice and build Spanish projects.

Mayon volcano, Bicol, Luzon island.

Soon the Spaniards also started trading with China. Goods such as silk, varnish and porcelain were imported into the Philippines, from where the Spanish sent Chinese goods to their other colonies, such as Mexico. (I think that this is a very important paragraph, because I usually hear the opinion that “the British colonized the whole world”. People tend to completely forget about colonial Spain, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and to a very small degree also Germany.)

Just when I wanted to make the British innocent, unfortunately I have to provide an information that in 1762 the British Empire conquered the Spanish colonial capital of Philippines – Manila, and occupied Manila and its main port of Cavite for 20 months. However, under the Treaty of Paris of 1763, the British gave these territories back to the Spaniards in 1764. (I learned about exactly the same case whilst traveling around Malaysia, where the British fiercely competed with the Dutch and the Portuguese.)

In the second half of the nineteenth century the Filipinos were already very tired of Spanish colonialism and the liberation feelings grew. In 1872 Filipinos organized a rebellion, but it was quickly crushed. A noteworthy name is the Filipino writer Jose Rizal, who later became a national hero. In 1892 Jose Rizal founded a political movement called the Philippines League, which called for reforms, not for the revolution. However, the colonial authorities of Spain found him too dangerous, and that’s why Rizal was executed by the colonial regime of Spain on the 30th of December 1896. Rizal wrote two novels, “Noli Me Tangere” (“Do not touch me”) and “El Filibusterismo” (“Filibusterer”), which fueled Filipino nationalism. (I would like to point out that the struggle for freedom and nationalism are considered good in the former colonial countries, but nationalism and the fight for freedom in European countries are equated to “racism” and “Nazism.” This is nothing else but the double standards of the “modern” Left.)

Filipina in a hut covered with straw roof.

The execution of Rizal only enraged the Filipinos and the revolution grew stronger. At the same time Andres Bonifacio created a more extreme organization called Katipunan. Filipinos however did not defeat the Spaniards, because another enemy was already on the way.

The American colonization of Philippines

This paragraph about the history of the Philippines may seem like the reminder of the Polish history. When “friends” from the Soviet Union defeated enemies from the Nazi Germany, they decided to stay in Poland for the next 50 years, and they would have probably stayed longer if there were conditions for it. In the case of the Philippines, Spain played the role of Nazi Germany, and the role of “Soviet saviours” is obviously played by America.

American colonization of the Philippines began in 1898, when there was a war between the US and Spain. The same year, the Americans defeated the Spaniards, and under the peace treaty Spain handed over the Philippines to the USA. In the meantime, the Filipinos resisted because during the war the revolutionaries surrounded Manila. Although the Americans already took control, the war with Philippine patriots lasted until 1902, when the leader of the revolutionaries – Emilio Aguinaldo, was captured. That way, Americans introduced “democracy” in the Philippines.

This Filipino man is an optimist.

The American occupation of the Philippines was similar to the Russian occupation of Poland, because it involved the destruction of the local culture. Americans wanted to Americanize Filipinos, what they described as the “good assimilation”. It is true that Americans improved literacy in the Philippines, but mainly in English, which was in their favour. Despite the introduction of English words and American customs, Filipinos preserved their culture.

In 1935 the Philippines became a commonwealth and were partly independent. Manuel Quezon became president and the US promised that Philippines would become completely independent in 1945.

However, in December 1941 Japan attacked the American fleet in Pearl Harbor, and then on the 10th of December 1941 Japan invaded the Philippines. As a result of the Japanese invasion, the Empire of Japan occupied Manila from the 2nd of January 1941 to the 6th of May 1942. The Americans returned to the Philippines in October 1944 and recovered Manila in February 1945. (Reragdless of the independence, the US military in the Philippines located in Subic Bay and Clark Air base were present until 1993).

The post-colonial times

The Philippines gained independence on the 4th of July 1946, and Manuel Roxas became the first president of the newly independent nation. Unfortunately, the beginnings of the new nation were not easy, because when there were no occupants and colonizers, the Filipinos were fighting each other. An important name here is Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the Philippines from 1965. At the time there was a lot of poverty in the Philippines, communist hooligans were formed, and people were furious that the Philippines was not being modernized. Marcos suspended the congress and arrested the entire opposition, in 1983 he murdered the opposition leader Benigno Aquino, and in 1986 he organized a “free election”, which he evidently . At the time, Cory Aquino, the widow of Benino Aquino also announced her victory, which resulted in a revolution and Marcos was forced to leave the Philippines. In 1992, Fidel Ramos came to power, who improved infrastructure and economy.

Miss and Mister of a local college.

The next president – Joseph Estrada was the president of the economic crisis, who was accused of corruption and then forced to resign. To this day, the Philippines is a poor country, but people are optimistic about the future.

Map

Location

Practical information

Tourist Visa: people who would like to visit the Philippines for tourism have several options. Generally, most citizens of the European countries (Poland, UK), North America, Russia and Australia get a free stamp at the airport, which entitles them to a 30-day stay. I knew already that I would stay longer, that’s why I bought a visa for 59 days at the Philippine consulate in London, for £28. It is also important that from the date of issue of a Filipino visa, you have to fly to the Philippines within 3 months, but your can stay in the country no longer than 59 days.
Interestingly; China, India, Pakistan and Iran need visas from day 1.

Extending the visa in the Philippines is very easy but expensive, that’s why to those people who want to stay in the Philippines for half a year, I advise to organize visa trips to the neighboring countries and buy a new Filipino visa for the next months of stay, whilst there. Eventually, after our return to the Philippines we get a new free stamp, but only for 30 days. It is also possible to stay for 6 or 12 months in the Philippines, and even longer. Generally, if a tourist has a thick wallet, the Filipino official has a rubber stamp.

Safety: I spent 2.5 months in the Philippines and I never had a problem. I traveled day and night in the islands of Luzon, Panay, Cebu, Bohol and many others; and it was always safe. There is evidence that the followers of the “religion of peace” organize terrorist attacks in Mindanao island and in the Sulu Sea, but I talked to Filipinos living in Davao, who said that it was safe.

In the Philippines there is a conflict with Muslims from the Abu Sayyaf group, who organize terrorist attacks, set fires to churches and kidnap people for ransom throughout the country. I however, advise to not to get paranoid. According to the British Foreign Office it is better “to not to enter \ wooden church because a brick might fall on the head”, but for example in 2018 Philippines was visited by over 7 million tourists, and all returned in one piece. In my opinion, the biggest danger in the Philippines comes from a broken condom, because of a risk of disease.

Moving around the country: Philippines has a well-developed transport. In cities there are of course iconic jeepneys and taxis, but I also recommend motorbikes for rent and hitchhiking. There are well organized bus connections between the cities on the same islands. The Philippines is an island country, that’s why there are small passenger boats between the islands and large ferries that carry buses.

Fortunately, there are also air connections in such a vast country as the Philippines. I recommend AirAsia https://www.airasia.com/, and Cebu Pacific https://www.cebupacificair.com/. I cannot imagine that I would have to go by buses and ferries from rice fields in northern Luzon to the beaches of Palawan or Bohol. Fortunately, those two airlines offer regular flights at sensible prices.

Prices (for 2018 when £1 = 67Php): Generally the easiest conversion rate during my trip was that every 1000 pesos I spent was worth about 15 pounds. The Philippines is not an expensive country, and I think that everyone who works in a European country can afford a month trip without bleeding out their home budget.

For dormitories I usually paid from 300 to 400 pesos a night, although sometimes I had the same price for private rooms. For that price however, do not expect golden taps and crystal chandeliers. I’m talking about the budget here. Slightly more expensive rooms cost 500-600 pesos, and even 100 pesos, but this is a higher budget that I did not need.

Transport is cheap. For 12 hours by bus, from Manila to Legaspi, I paid 650 pesos. For a 3.5 hour bus ride from Cebu City to the Bantayan island I paid 230 pesos, and an additional 105 pesos for the ferry. For example, a 2 hour drive from Cebu City to Moalboal cost me 140 pesos. Transporting local boats to small islands usually costs between 20-50 pesos. The cost of jeepney rides is around 8-10 pesos. Hiring a moped for 24 hours will cost 150-250 pesos plus the cost of petrol.

For admission to private islands, such as Kalanggaman or Virgin, I paid 500 pesos per person. The entrance to the waterfalls cost me 20-50 pesos, although there was one for 100 pesos.

Food in the Philippines is good, healthy and cheap. For 50 pesos you can have lunch, but the skewers and grilled chicken under the palm of the palm, for 15-40 pesos. There are also tropical fruits, such as rambutans and lanzones, for which I usually paid 50 pesos for a medium-sized bag. Mangosteen is a little more expensive, and bananas cheaper. Often you can also buy a sliced jackfruit or whole marang for 20-50 pesos. I advise you to buy fish in bazaars, not in restaurants, and then the cost will also be much smaller, and Filipinos under the palm trees are happy to grill it for 20 pesos.

After counting all the costs, I think that for 1000 pesos a day one can have a great time in the Philippines. If someone sleeps in dorm rooms, moves around by local transport, eats at street stalls for local people, and avoids tourist places, than this cost is enough. Therefore to summarize, for about 15-20 pounds a day a budget traveler can live in the Philippines in a pleasant and plentiful way. These costs however do not include the prices of visa extensions, entries to private islands, the cost of alcohol, restaurants with western food, and of course the prices of “companionship ladies”.

Climate: If we were to take the case more thoroughly, then the climate of the Philippines could be divided into tropical rainforest, tropical monsoon and humid subtropical (in areas of higher altitude). However, to put it a bit easier, the climate of the Philippines is an equatorial climate with outstanding features of the monsoon climate. Da tourists means that the Philippines has only two seasons: a wet season and a dry season. The dry season begins at the end of November and ends in May. Rainy seasons start in June and last until October.

The weather in the Philippines is hot and humid, where the main features are cyclical changes in wind direction and rain intensity. It is associated with monsoons, storms and frequent floods. The southern islands, like Mindanao, are the most vulnerable to destructive typhoons. Floods in Manila also happen regularly, but this is still nothing with the southern islands, where typhoons cause huge floods and devastate entire cities and crops, and leave people without shelter.

The climate of the Philippines is characterized by high temperature, huge humidity and lots of rainfall. The average air temperature in the Philippines remains at 27-28 ° C, although in the hottest months, just over the monsoon, the temperature rises to 34-37 ° C during the day. It is colder in mountainous regions, although the temperature never drops below 15 ° C. The water temperature varies around 24-28 ° C. The Philippines, however, is a very humid country, because throughout the year the humidity is at least 80%, and during the rainy season even up to 100%.

An important question that I will try to answer is which months are best for visiting the Philippines. April and May are very hot and the sun has no pity. I would like to remind here above all to white people that a long stay in the hot sun will cause burns to their white skin. It is not true that the heat is a native of Dubai, where in May white people feel as if they were burning on a pan. In the Philippines there is a sea breeze and a lot of vigor, but the sun is very sharp. Also, I certainly would not travel in the Philippines from March to May because it is too hot. I prefer the rainy season, because it is still very warm, although there is no feeling of heat, and at the same time there are regular rains, which made me feel better. I was in the Philippines from August to December, and at that time I had a bearable sun and rain. The temperatures were lower and it was easier to breathe in this hot, humid country.

Climate: If we were to take the case of climate more in depth, then the climate of the Philippines could be divided into tropical rain forest, tropical monsoon and humid subtropical (in areas of higher altitude). However, to put it a bit easier, the climate of the Philippines is an equatorial climate with typical features of the monsoon climate. To tourists it means that the Philippines has only two seasons: wet season and a dry season. The dry season begins at the end of November and it ends in May. Rainy seasons starts in June and lasts until October.

The weather in the Philippines is hot and humid, where the main features are cyclical changes in wind direction and rain intensity. It is associated with monsoons, storms and frequent floods. The southern islands, like Mindanao, are the most vulnerable to destructive typhoons. Floods in Manila also happen regularly, but this is still nothing, comparing to the southern islands, where typhoons cause huge floods and devastate entire cities and crops, and leave people without shelters.

The climate of the Philippines is characterized by high temperature, huge humidity and lots of rainfall. The average air temperature in the Philippines remains at 27-28°C, although in the hottest months, just before the monsoon, the temperature rises to 34-37°C during the day. It is colder in mountainous regions, although the temperature never drops below 15°C. The water temperature varies at around 24-28°C. The Philippines is a very humid country, because throughout the year the humidity is at least 80%, and during the rainy season it goes up to even 100%.

An important question that I will try to answer is which months are the best for visiting the Philippines. April and May are very hot and the sun has no mercy. I would like to remind especially white people, that a long stay in hot sun causes burns to their white skin. It is still not the heat similar to the one in Dubai, where in May white people feel as it they were burning on a frying pan. In the Philippines there is a sea breeze and a lot of humidity, but the sun is very strong. Also, I certainly would not travel in the Philippines from March to May because it is too hot. I prefer the rainy season, because it is still very warm, but there is no feeling of heat, and at the same time there are regular rains, which make me feel better. I was in the Philippines from August to December, and at that time then sun was strong enough for me to bear and it was raining too. The temperatures were lower and it was easier to breathe in that hot, humid country.

Internet: has the advantage that it exists in the Philippines. Sometimes it works better and sometimes worse, and sometimes it just jumps out of the window and it is not there at all. The worst situation is in small villages. Either way, who goes to the Philippines for the internet?

12 May 2010

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