An archipelago of over 7,000 islands, sitting to the east of South East Asia, tourism to the Philippines is increasing. But it still doesn’t get quite the same amount of tourist attention as Thailand, Indonesia or Vietnam.
This is going to change though. People are starting to realise how wonderful the Phillippines is, and how deserving it is of a place on the global tourism stage.
I was invited on a press trip to the Philippines in November 2019 and absolutely loved my first time in the country. I went to Manila, Boracay and Panay Island with the tourism board, and also explored Bohol, Pampanga, and Mindanao.
There’s still a lot more for me to explore in the Philippines. I haven’t been to many of the main tourist spots (apart from Boracay) and there are, of course, many less-visited destinations that I want to go to.
However, in my month in the Philippines, I definitely got an idea of how wonderful this country is. The tourism board’s slogan is the wonderfully catchy ‘its more fun in the Philippines’, and I realised that in many, many ways, this is very true.
So here’s a list of reasons to visit the Philippines, or a list of why it really is more fun in the Philippines…
There are more smiles in the Philippines
I’d heard about how nice Filipino people before I went to the Philippines, but I wasn’t prepared for just how amazing they are. South East Asian culture is very hospitable and welcoming, but Filipino people take it to a whole other level.
I’d say 99% of people I met had a huge smile on their face, wanted to chat and get to know more about me and welcomed me to the Philippines. I’ve honestly never felt so immediately at home in a country. There’s just something special about the people here!
There are more beaches in the Philippines
I know that there are beaches all over South East Asia, but the archipelago of the Phillippines certainly has some of the best.
Most of the country is very close to the coast, so you really won’t have to go far to find beautiful golden sands to relax on. There are the famous beaches of Boracay and El Nido, but these are the most touristy – there are also thousands of quiet, relaxing beaches for those who favour more chilled out spots. Once you take a glimpse of some of these beaches, you’ll instantly start planning on retiring to the Philippines!
There’s so much diversity in the Philippines
The Phillippines is a unique fusion of Native, Spanish, Mexican, American, and Chinese culture.
It’s been through a pretty brutal history of colonialism – first by the Spanish in 1565 and then by the Americans from 1899 to the Second World War, when the Philippines was under harsh Japanese occupation, and then briefly by the Americans again until Filipino independence in 1946.
However, while the colonial periods were tough, most Filipinos recognise that they have brought about the nation’s unique culture it has today.
Not only is the Philippines as a whole completely unique, but it also has diversity within the country itself. There are 120-175 languages, many different cultures, foods, and ways of life. The majority of the country is Christian, however, there are Muslims all over the country, particularly in Mindanao, and other religions are apparent in various places.
One of the most interesting places I visited in the Philippines was Zamboanga, a region of Mindinao that speaks Creole Spanish. The Latin influence here is obvious and it’s completely different from Manila – but Zamboanga itself is a melting pot, with Filipino, Spanish, and Malay influences.
There’s a unique history in the Philippines
As I mentioned, The Philippines was habituated by Native tribes until the Spanish came from Mexico, leaving behind a distinct Latin influence in many areas of life.
Then the country was an American colony, once again altering the culture.
When the Philippines became independent, they once again forged a unique national identity. Learning about how the different cultures have shaped this nation to become one of a kind is fascinating, and it’s well worth chatting to some locals about this while in the country.
There’s stronger beer in the Philippines
I couldn’t write a Philippines blog post without including the ubiquitous red horse. The cause of many a hangover while I was in the Philippines, Red Horse is the kind of drink that’s a great idea at the time… not so great at all the next morning!
It’s 6.7% alcohol, although it is surprisingly easy to drink still. I’d definitely recommend having one or ten while you’re in the Philippines.
Also on sale in many 7 eleven stores is El Diablo beer, which is 12% alcohol. I’ve tried and tested this, and I along with all of my friends who have tried it have reached a common consensus: don’t try it. It tastes like petrol. We tried this so you don’t have to.
If you want a regular beer that won’t get you drunk from one bottle, San Miguel is a good choice!
There’s more diving in the Philippines
With thousands of tropical beaches, it’s no surprise that the Philippines is a diving paradise. I’ve only personally gone diving in Bohol, but there are plenty of islands which specialise in diving: like Malapascua which has thresher sharks, Apo Reef which is the second-largest barrier reef in the world, and Coron which is famous for shipwrecks.
What’s more, the reef hasn’t been over touristed like it sadly has in other parts of South East Asia – I found the diving much more vibrant and beautiful here than in Thailand or Bali, for example.
There’s more rum in the Philippines
Spirits aren’t all that popular in South East Asia, but Filipino rum is an exception. If you know where to look, you can get rum and coke for as little as 50 pesos. Add that to a few Red Horses and you’ve either got a recipe for a fun night or an absolute disaster, depending on which way you look at it.
Maguey is the most popular (and cheapest) rum, but Don Papa is also very good and worth trying at some point while you’re in the Philippines.
There’s more food in the Philippines
Now, I must say that while the Philippines excels in most areas, the food is far from my favourite. I don’t eat meat, and Filipino food is very meat-heavy.
But the reason that Filipino food makes this list is because of Filipino food culture. You are fed so much here, and Filipinos are excellent hosts. Because of this food culture and the fact that nearly all Filipinos speak excellent English, they are always happy to adapt and create vegetarian meals, even though nearly all traditional Filipino meals are far from vegetarian.
It’s this hospitable culture that I experienced so many times that made me add Filipino food to this list!
There’s so much to do in the Philippines
If you think the Philippines is all beaches, you’re so wrong. There are mountainous regions, rice paddies, native tribes who welcome visitors, historical attractions and an area where everyone speaks Chabacano, a form of 16th century creole Spanish.
There are plenty of beaches as well, of course, and any trip to the Philippines should involve these, but I’d definitely recommend exploring other sides of the country as well!
There’s luxury accommodation in the Philippines
Luxury travel isn’t normally my thing (although don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to say no to a luxury hotel!) but on my Philippines fam trip we were treated to lots of gorgeous hotels like Discovery Shores Boracay and Hilton Manila.
We also toured around various luxury hotels in Boracay (which, by the way, is set to become the Philippines’ next luxury destination) and saw how amazing some of these hotels are, with incredible attention to detail.
If you’re looking for a luxury stay in Asia, the Philippines may very well be your answer. Here are some more of my thoughts about visiting Boracay in 2020.
There are backpacker hotspots in the Philippines
If your budget is more cheap beer than champagne, don’t fret – there’s plenty for backpackers in the Philippines. I didn’t visit all that many backpacker spots in the Philippines – Zamboanga and Pampanga aren’t really on the Philippine’s banana pancake trail. However, there are plenty of tourist spots in Palawan and Cebu island – these places are really popular with backpackers.
It’s got raw, untouched beauty and rustic living – sometimes without WiFi or mobile signal but always with good people and good vibes – a great destination for those backpacking around South East Asia.
There’s sustainable tourism in the Philippines
On my Philippines fam trip, I learnt about various eco-tourism initiatives in the Philippines. From the use of metal straws and reduction of plastic in places like Boracay and Bohol, to cultural immersions on Panay Island (we learned about traditional village life through the Motag Heritage Museum, how clothes are made out of pineapple through a Pina Weaving workshop and went on a walk through preserved mangroves).
There are some great sustainable initiatives in the Philippines, that are fantastic to support when travelling this country!
There is a distinct culture in the Philippines
If you visit the Philippines any time from August to January, you’ll be celebrating Christmas – a good third of the year is taken up with Festive frenzy. A rarity in Asia, the Philippines is also predominantly Christian, which was adopted from the Spanish. Filipinos are very, very religious – with religious parades being commonplace throughout the year, at any time of day or night.
Filipinos also love to sing, with KTV being very popular throughout the nation. And after a stint at KTV, you might take a jeepney (American WW2 tanks that now serve as public transport) to go to Jollibees – the Filipino fast-food chain, which serves things like sweet spaghetti and rice and gravy. There aren’t many vegetarian options there so I’ve not sampled much of the menu, apart from curly fries and the peach and mango pie, but I can’t deny that it is uniquely Filipino, like so many other things in this island nation.
These are just some aspects of unique Filipino modern culture. I guarantee you’ll carry on seeing more when visiting!
There are local stories and legends in the Philippines
While much of travel in the Philippines is focused on nature, there are lots of local legends to learn, which any native will only be happy to tell you about. During my first week in the Philippines, I heard that the Chocolate Hills of Bohol are said to be the teardrops of a giant who fell in love with a mortal woman, only to be left in despair when they couldn’t be together.
Zamboanga, where I spent my last few days in the Philippines, is steeped in legends and stories as well. These tales remind you of the rich culture of the Philippines pre-colonialism.
There are magical sunsets in the Philippines
I couldn’t write a post about the Philippines and not include its sunsets. Being an archipelagic nation definitely has some advantages, one of them being that the sunsets are nothing short of spectacular. Boracay is one of the best places to witness the sun go down every night, but Bohol is a strong contender as well, and another favourite of mine was the lesser-visited Samal Island in Mindanao. However, there are fantastic sunset spots all over the country.
Reasons to Visit the Philippines
Hopefully this post has given you an idea of how many amazing reasons there are to visit the Philippines, and inspired you to make it a travel choice for 2020! I had such an amazing time in this country, exploring golden beaches, unique cultures and being welcomed by the friendliest people. It’s definitely a country that I’ve got a lot more to see, and that I’m very keen to return to soon!