Philippines: 11 things you should know

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Philippines childrenI spend an amazing one month in the Philippines. I am still unsure whether I can say I love Philippines, but I definitely had an amazing month. I met incredible local people, experienced the most beautiful beaches with crystal clear water and saw one of the world’s largest rice terraces. Philippines is very interesting and still untouched country, which is worth to visit. Here is my list of things you should know before going to Philippines.

1. English
The first thing I noticed when I landed in Philippines, is that all locals speak English, and most of them speak it very good! Only few people throughout my time in Philippines spoke very poor or no English. The reason for good English knowledge is the intense schooling, where everyone has to take English as a foreign language.

2. Construction / decrepit
There are lots of construction sites… everywhere! I’ve seen constructions in small villages on small islands like Panglao or Siargao as well as in bigger cities like Cebu or Manila. Same is for decrepit…when I arrived to Coron, this was the first shocking thing I noticed. Lots of half-build (or half-destroyed) buildings, wood parts randomly laying on the street, abandoned cars, pieces of furniture, unrecognised parts and pieces all around… Not as bad as in India, for example, but the first comparison that came up to my mind was ‘it looks like India, but not that dirty’!

3. Religion
Philippines is a catholic country! They believe in Jesus, there are a lot of churches everywhere. In every small village you will find a church. Many public cars, such as tricycles or jeepnies, have religious slogans written on. In fact, it is one of the most catholic country in asia! This was a surprising fact for me.

4. Romantic music & singing 
Filipino people love romantic music. Not only do they like to listen to it, but they also sing along as soon as they hear a romantic song. Their radio plays mostly romantic music. On my way from El Nido to Puerto Pricessa we listened to romantic music for 6 hours straight. I must say this is far more pleasant than the music I heard in public bus in Indonesia.

5. Food
I did not like Filipino food (sorry my Filipino friends). They eat lots of meat, some fish, and meat parts like head, chicken intestines, pig’s leg, and some other weird looking animal products. I am not a vegetarian, I just don’t like meat, but I can eat it. In Philippines I could not even look at meat, because it did not look appealing to me. And if you want to get good food, you have to go to the restaurant and be prepared to pay a lot more. Philippines could be a taught country for vegetarians. The only vegetables I ate there were carrots I was buying at local markets. They do have some mixed vegetables at local eateries, but unfortunately I did not like those either.

6. Bakery
Bakeries are everywhere!  Filipino people like breads and pastries. Every small or big city has bakery; moreover, its ridiculously cheap! Most pastries are only 4 cents per piece! And most of the stuff taste very good! So be careful! In simple bakeries I, however, had a feeling they use same dough for everything they sell, just making different shapes and sizes of their pastries.

7. Slowest WiFi
Philippines had the slowest WiFi I have experienced in the whole of Southeast Asia. The only decent connection I had was at our airbnb place in Siargao and in my luxury hostel in Manila. Even Starbucks in Manila did not have good WiFi. If you want to stay connected, the best way is to buy a sim card with 3G. I got one from Globe for 20€, unlimited internet for a month. After that I had quite a good network everywhere I was in the Philippines.

8. Pricing/costs
Philippines is not cheap! Be prepared to spend more than you would in other Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam or Indonesia. Food, accommodation, transportation, and tourist activities (like island hoping tours or excursions) are pricy! In one month in Philippines I have spent the most from all other countries I have traveled so far on this trip, considering that I have been saving almost more than before.

9. ATMs & Banks
ATMs and exchange places are not as common as, for example, in Thailand or Vietnam. Check carefully before you go to your destination whether they have ATMs or exchange places. And have some extra cash at all times with you. Not every (even bigger) island has an ATM. And if there is one, it does not automatically mean it will give out cash. In Siargao, for example, there were only 2 ATMs and there were days when it ran out of cash by noon.

10. Availability of information 
Philippines is the only country I have visited so far where getting information online was quite a challenge. Searching for specific information in Google does not usually give any decent results or most of information is just too old. There are not many tourist agencies around, even in places like Coron or El Nido (which are tourist places). So if you need to go from one place to another, the best and most probably the only way is to personally go to the bus/train/boat station and ask there.

11. Traveling time
Philippines is big and there are 7107 islands (of which only 2000 are inhabited)! So you can imagine that if you want to go from one island to another, it takes time! Be prepared to spend one day on average to get from A to B. Planning what you want to see and visit in advance is advisable: this will save you money and time. Cebu Pacific flies to most of inhabited islands, and if you book in advance, fairs should be around 30€ one way.

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