When people talk of holidaying in South East Asia, I usually hear Bali, Thailand, Cambodia… and yes they are excellent, but there is a gem, just a small leg away, which is well worth the trip. News coverage recently may make you think of Typhoon Haiyan, and whilst a very serious and important cause that we commend people for supporting, it would be a mistake to pass up on a trip to the Philippines for concern of the weather. As a nation of 7,107 islands rich with incredibly friendly people, a fascinating fusion of cultural influences, untouched beaches, clear waters, and creatures you can only imagine… this is a place you can only fall in love with.
Whether you are looking for a luxury getaway or an off-the-beaten-track backpacking trip, adventure or uncompromised leisure, the Philippines has it. With 400 years of Spanish cultural influence followed by a 40 year American presence, Filipinos are the most all-embracing people with a larger than life attitude. Laughing, singing and smiles are not an effort here, but a way of life…andwow, can people here sing. In a world where people barely have the energy to raise their eyes from Whatsapp to avoid bumping eachother in the street, this is a place where people are loving, genuine and fun, and nature is second to none. You heard it before, right? ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines’… really. It is! Here are a few favourites.
Historical Centre of Manila a breath away from Taal Volcano
Buzzing with energy, and like any capital city, it has an abundance of restaurants, malls, bars and clubs. Perfectly located for travel around the country, there are a few pearls worth taking the time to visit here on your way through! A stroll through the walled city of Intramuros will allow you to explore the remnants of the Philippines’ former life. Amongst the sites visit the historical landmark of Fort Santiago, a fantastic tribute to the national hero Jose Rizal who was executed in defence of liberalisation from Spanish rule, and just across the way, the UNESCO world heritage site of San Agustin Church.
A Volcano with a Killer View
The true treasure of this part of the Philippines is just a short drive away and so worth a day trip: Tagaytay, where Taal Volcano stands. Situated in the Pacific ring of Fire, this is the second most active Volcano in the country, with a breathtaking view of Taal lake beneath. Take a light hike, or a donkey, and grab a fresh coconut up top whilst immersing yourself in nature at its finest with this view. After, having worked up an appetite, head over for lunch to the hideaway Antonio’s for an elegant finish to the tour, or for the tropical experience to be had in Sonya’s Garden.
Island hopping in Palawan, a Starfish Central
Palawan is like being shipwrecked… you just need your swim-suit! Picturesque and postcard perfect, you need only to arrive and hop aboard the readily available boats to enjoy the sun on the white shores and the sea life in the clear waters. It is a fun relaxing hop around. The only downside here is that you will eventually have to leave. The underground river is a point of the people’s pride there at Puerto Princessa… it’s full of bats so brace yourself!
Luxury at another level in Amanpulo
For the luxury traveller or ultimate romantic, Amanpulo is the kind of place that would make you question if you died and went to heaven. A perfect fusion of nature feel and luxury experience, this is a notch up from the already divine Palawan experience, here we have a private island, accessed by the island’s one flight a day for an experience that can never be forgotten. Treated as though you are a royal present on the island every detail is conceived for you: only wish, and your dreams shall be made true… if they haven’t already been 2 steps ahead of you and organized everything already. You will be torn between the spa and the beach, it’s that good. This is peace, tranquillity and the ultimate getaway.
Party at Borocay!
As it says on the tin… this is the party place of the Philippines… fun, sun, sand and sea. It’s a fun stop with beach dancers playing with fire and nightclubs taking the party to the beach it’s a giggle here. The deal maker is sunset.
Further a-field at the Pearl Beach Farm in Davao
An excellent value luxury experience, this little haven is probably one of the lesser visited spots of the country and as you can see, one of the most beautiful. Fall asleep to the sound of the waves under your bed and cabin and wake up with a view of blue!
Bohol bees and the world’s most lovable looking creature!
Bohol is fun and makes for a very different little trip. You have to see the Tarsiers which blink at you with eyes that scream ‘I’m adorable’. Unfortunately, we have to reserve the desperate urge to touch them as they are the shyest of animals and will want to call a swift end to their life for shame of being touched. So worth seeing them though! Lunch calls and ideally, these angels are just down the road from Bohol Bee Farm which has delicious organic food.
And for my final pick – Swimming with Dolphins in Zambales!
If you haven’t done it, or I’ll say is, ‘great fun!’ I am terrified of water and rarely have the courage to dip more than a toe in to unchartered water, but somehow having a life-raft the size of this one, with such a sweet approach to bringing you in, leading you across the water, playing with you, how could you say no? Close the day soaking up one of the Philippines fine sunsets and there is little more you could want from the place. Here is my last stop favourite, Sambales, an atypical destination for tourists, this can be a fun stop, with beaches for you .Charlotte V. Rose Head of Human Capital AFA Press