Thursday, 1 December 2011

Travel guide to the Philippines

The beaches here are straight out of a Bounty advert - perfect white sand, peridot-green seas and strategically-placed palm trees come as standard.

Under Spanish guideline for more than 300 years, the country s initial name Islas Filipinas honored King Philip II of Spain, and Tagalog (the nationwide language) continues to be littered with Spanish words. Towns named Sevilla or Valencia are dotted with 16th-century wooden houses and crumbling cathedrals made of white coral and egg white, a number of which were damaged by the earthquake of 2013.

The Philippines passed into American hands in 1898, and although the nation gained independence in 1946, US affects aren’t far away, especially when you re cruising previous Manila’s mega-malls in a crowded Jeepney a brightly-colored, repurposed jeep left behind by the Americans as it blares out Guns N Roses.

Stopping for a snack at one of the carinderyas (roadside restaurants) provides a taste of the country s past. Pork is on every menu here, whether it’s lechon (roast piglet plus head) or adobo marinated pork confit.

The damage wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 has actually mainly been fixed now, however know that typhoon season (roughly June-November) can make travel between islands tricky. Must you find yourself here in March, the Malisimbo Arts and Music festival ( brings in world-class acts to Mindoro. Masskara (October in Bacolod City) and Sinulog (January in Cebu) attract countless revelers for the Filipino variations of Mardi Gras.

Currently, 1 is worth 65.4 Philippine Pesos, while US$ 1 is 46 pesos.

Beach jumping

Each of the 2,000 populated islands has its own personality, and typically its own dialect, too. The Palawan archipelago gets props for large beauty the jungle beach town of El Nido was Alex Garland’s inspiration for The Beach (he was residing in the Philippines when he composed the book).

Then there’s Boracay, with its high-end hotels, nightclubs and a 5km stretch of white sand dotted with bars. This is the Filipino celebration island although it’s not yet reached Phuket or Koh Samui levels of stag- and hen-party supremacy.

On the other hand, Coahagan island is a tiny speck in the Olango chain, however wandering around the town here provides a look of standard life. Fishermen sell their catch of the day on the beach, and when you’ve chosen your sea urchin for lunch, their better halves will throw it on a grill for you. For a similar pace of life, the former whaling island of Pamilican now offers boat journeys to find dolphins and a coral sanctuary for snorkeling.

Teardrop-shaped Siargao has been a place of pilgrimage for internet users since the 1980s, when it’s hollow tubular waves called Cloud 9 put it on the map. In the north, the browsing region of La Union attracts backpacking novices and weathered pros.

The very best way to reach most of the beaches is by banca, a conventional fishing boat with wooden legs that make it look like a spider, however barges and ferries cover longer crossings between neighboring islands. Be warned, though you may wind up sharing your seat with someone’s pet rooster.

Life aquatic

If swimming with whale sharks isn’t on your container list yet, then it should be. Moving along next to their placid, pin-hole eyes and gaping maws is thrilling and scary in equal measure. Head to Donsol Bay on Luzon Island or Oslob in Cebu to find them at Oslob they feed the whale sharks, so while seeing them is guaranteed, there have been concerns that this stops the sharks moving.

Leading notch dive spots are 10 a peso here, so anticipates to see more tropical fish than a footballer’s fish tank. An introductory dive is 2,300 pesos, consisting of boat, guide and equipment.

For a bigger splash go to Apo Reef extensively thought about among the best dive websites in the world. It’s a three-hour boat journey from Pandan Island, however is the location to identify sharks, manta rays as well as dugongs.

Adventure time

Bohol s Chocolate Hills will be a disappointment if you’re anticipating Wonka-esque waterfalls. Rather, these 1,200 dome-shaped mounds of coral deposits turn brown in the dry season, making them appear like Hershey s Kisses.

Renting a quad-bike is the very best method to obtain near to these surreal shapes and check out the villages at their base. Nearby, the teal-green Loboc river is perfect for travelling down on a riverboat (450 pesos per person consisting of lunch, purchase tickets at Loboc wharf). Look out for excitable kids jumping off rope swings from the trees above.

A 10 hour-overnight bus trip from Manila, the Unesco-protected rice paddies of Banaue are a gigantic’s staircase of green terraces, sculpted into the mountains of Ifugao some 2,000 years back. The amphitheater-shaped Batad is the most well-known website it’s rather a hike here and a guide can organize an overnight remain in a conventional thatch-roofed hut (; 300 pesos a night).

Head a couple of hours further north and you re rewarded with the green and misty mountains of Sagada. This is the location to go spelunking in the Samaguing caves and see the hanging coffins of Echo Valley one of the few places in the world where this conventional burial approach of colorful caskets dangling down a cliff-face can be found. Hire a guide from the traveler information office for 200 pesos, or go solo and walk behind St Mary’s Episcopal Church before taking a tough left on to a dirt road that winds uphill to the cemetery.

Animal conveniences

Part mouse, part frog, part monkey tarsiers have to be seen to be thought. These giant-eyed, fuzzy critters are an endangered species, and just about 5 inches high, so you’re unlikely to spot one in the wild, but a journey to the Tarsier Sanctuary in Bohol (; admission 50 pesos) is the very best method to obtain snap delighted while they sleep (they’re nocturnal).

When sunset falls, go to Maribojoc to see fireflies radiant so vibrantly that they appear like the Christmas lights on Oxford Street. Gliding through the mangroves seeing the twinkling swarms that take control of the trees, plus the incredible stars above, makes for a wonderful experience. An excursion expenses from 1,950 pesos per individual, consisting of supper (

Where to stay

Most islands have bamboo cabanas exactly on the beach for as low as 500 pesos a night, but if you re yearning air-conditioned breakfast buffets, the Philippines is an exceptionally good value location to splash out on a high-end hotel. Dreamland's Mactan (shangri-la. com) has a divine Chi day spa and doubles from 11,000 pesos, B&B.

The family-run Bohol Bee Farm ( on Panglao has a delicious organic restaurant and quirky bungalows to rent. Doubles from 3,000 pesos, consisting of breakfast.

Homegrown hotel group Hennan ( provides a balance in between luxury splendor and regional character think swim-up bars and barbecues on the beach. It has three resorts in Boracay, opened a 4th on Alona Beach in 2014 and is currently developing a 5th on the virgin island of Malcapuya, Palawan. Doubles from 4,919 pesos, B&B.


Kate Wills travelled with Emirates (, which flies from half a lots UK airports to Cebu via Dubai. Company class seats consist of personal mini-bars and full flatbed recline, while meals can be selected from a premium menu.