Mabuhay! This is a typical Filipino word used to exclaim "long live" and is an expression used in welcoming guests and a way of showing hospitality. Although Filipino's have their own language called Tagalog, the English language is just as common and used in everyday life including menu's, newspapers, road signs and shops. In fact I didn't meet anyone who didn't speak English.
The country consists of over 7,000 islands about 500 miles southeast (1½ hour flight) from Hong Kong. The overall land area is comparable to that of the UK, yet has twice the population of around 90 million. I guess the reason being that most families have at least 5 children. Filipinos are famous for their warm hospitality and being gentle, friendly and cheerful people.
The most popular thing to do whilst you’re visiting Manila is shopping from many of the big malls. The SM Mall of Asia is the largest in the Philippines and the third largest in the world!
The other top 5 great days out I'd recommend in and around the city are:
2) Avilon Zoo – 600 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and invertebrates; plus 400 species of plants.
3) Splash Island – a massive water park, with many amazing water slides, wave machines and fun activities.
Manila is one of the few major Asian cities with an overt gay scene that openly contradicts the conservative culture of the country. Being in a predominantly Roman Catholic society, homosexuals are generally well accepted in Philippine society.
The heart of Manila gay scene is Malate, just a 20 minute drive from Makati (the central business district). The intersection of Maria Orosa Street and Julio Nakpil Street is lined with various gay establishments, visit utopia-asia.com for an up to date list. I think O Bar and Bed Nightclub are two good staring points, and if your after something a bit more sexual head to Fahrenheit or Club Bath.
Gay Pride is in early December each year, however its not a big a event as you'd expect for a city the size of Manila, and is still a demonstration march, rather than a tourist attracting carnival parade.
The tropical climate means its hot and humid weather all year round. There are just 2 seasons: the wet season (May – October) and the rest of the time is the dry season. The best months to visit are between November – March, as temperatures are at there lowest, averaging at about 25ºC.
The best area to stay in Manila is Makati (the central business district) where there are a lot of top notch hotels, here you’ll find numbers of choices of five star hotel to chose from literally next to each other ( Shangri-La Hotel was my favorite). This area is walking distance from many of the hip, stylish, gay-friendly bars and restaurants like Giraffe, Venezia, Hard Rock Café, and the hippest, trendiest mall in the city Glorietta 4.
A good web site for things to explore in the Philippines is: www.wowphilippines.co.uk
This time in January 2012, the highlight of our Filipino adventure was the beautiful nature sanctuary of Palawan. We visited Puerto Princesa - famous for its underground river and in the north, the beautiful Coron.
The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is located about 50 km north of the city of Puerto Princesa in Palawan. It features a limestone karst mountain landscape with an 8.2 km navigable underground river. A distinguishing feature of the river is that it winds through a cave before flowing directly into the South China Sea. It includes major formations of stalactites and stalagmites, and several large chambers. The lower portion of the river is subject to tidal influences. The underground river is reputed to be the world's longest. At the mouth of the cave, a clear lagoon is framed by ancient trees growing right to the water's edge. Monkeys, large monitor lizards, and squirrels find their niche on the beach near the cave.
AAnother common tourist destination in Puerto Princesa is the Crocodile Farm. It is managed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as a facility to hold rescued animals which they later on release into the wild. Apart from its conservation role, the farm operates commercially by breeding and raising crocodiles, and eventually harvesting them for their meat and skin. Crocodile skin can be used for producing leather, while crocodile meat, often described to taste like chicken meat, is considered a delicacy. There are actually famous restaurants in Puerto Princesa City, like Kinabuch, that serve dishes out of crocodile meat.
One of Coron’s most famous attractions is the Kayangan Lake, also known as the Blue Lagoon. It is said to be the cleanest lake in the whole of the Philippines. The water is unbelievable fresh and true paradise to swim in to experience the wonders of nature in its full splendor.
The Barracuda Lake is a mysterious freshwater lake on top of a volcano crater. It is known locally as the Cayangan Lake but the barracuda that dwell in this body of water have given it a more popular label. This prime diving spot has a visibility of up to 30 meters.
The Twin Lagoons,, as the name suggests, there are two lagoons. The first you can reach by boat, and the second is hidden away, accessible only by a small opening that just shows above the sea level. The topside scenery is stunning and the 'tunnel link' between the two lagoons gives the site that extra bit of interest.
Siete Pecados, otherwise known as the Seven deadly sins, name given for the seven small limestone rocks that surrounds the snorkeling areas.
Maquinit Hot Springs located in the hillside part of Coron, about 25 minutes from the town center. Its pool filled with salt water coming from the bottom of the nearby mountain, its is said to come from an underground volcano and the water’s temperature ranges from 38-40 degree Celcius.
The Philippines are well known for its fantastic beaches. Here are some of the best:
1) Boracay – has always been the favorite place of beach goers to go in the Philippines. This is because of the great white sand and cool waters, Boracay is the place for people looking to party. It is even considered as one of the finest beaches in the world. Boracay is located in the North West part of the Visayas area called Panay.
2) Pagudpud – if you’re looking for a place that can be like Hawaii, Pagudpud is the place to visit. The strong winds and waves can be compared to that of Hawaii which makes this place often visited by surfers. Pagudpud also has long continuous white sands and inviting beach waters for people looking to just swim. Compared to Boracay, this place is more secluded.
3) Mactan Island – the queen city of the South, Cebu, also has its fair share of great beaches. One of them is the so called Mactan Island. It is a tropical island resort. It provides tourist with great entertainment such as night life activities that will spice up the visit.
4) Panglao - if you love to dive visiting Panglao is the place to be. This place is a tiny island found hidden in it’s bigger nearby island of Bohol.
5) Camiguin – the palce has been known to be one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines because it still seems like a paradise. Some people even consider the palce the “Garden of Eden” in the country. Camiguin has a great topography that includes waterfalls, and the hot and cold springs. The place will be mesmerizing and will definitely tempt you to go back.
6) Dakak – a private beach that spans about 750 meters long the Sulu Sea. The beach also has great white sands that can be compared to powder. The pool’s water comes from the spring water and the waterfalls that are on the area.
7) Honda Bay – this are islands that surround the capital of the South Western province of Palawan. Among these islands, the tourist can go island hopping, diving and swim on the cool waters. In one of the islands, one can see the variety of fishes without swimming out too deep.
8) El Nido – the palce has been known as the country’s last frontier and Palawan - the Island of the Gods. This place offers great beaches that will tae you away from the urban life. This place is the best to visit if you are looking for complete peace and quiet. Aside from the magnificent beach, the place also offers you a sight of the beautiful seascapes, towering marble cliffs and a variety of tropical birds.
9) Pearl Farm – far south in the city of Davao, lies the premier beach resort know as the Pearl Farm. The place no longer has the pearls you are looking for. But the place can still offer an experience as valuable as a pearl. This is because of the great resort that is accompanied by the white sands.
10) Siargao – this place is another surfers dream. The place offers you waves that can curl up to 12 feet high. Aside from the waves, the place also has beaches that still remain unspoiled by urban lifestyle.
Another place we visited that is worth checking out is Puerto Galera.
Puerto Galera (or port for galleons, if translated literally) is a small town on the northeast coast of the island of Mindoro is the north-western most municipality in the province of Oriental Mindoro in the Philippines. Though it is a quiet little town, it is a popular cheap destination in the country for Manila locals as its only 4 hours drive away. People come here for its wonderful beaches, fun water activities, forests, waterfalls, and dive spots.
We stayed at the most popular White Beach, a long strait of white sand put forth beside the deep blue waters of the sea. The other most popular place is Sabang Beach, which is known as the premiere party place in Puerto Galera.
You also have to visit Tamaraw Falls in Barangay Villaflor. This 423-foot natural waterfall wonder is found along the road on the way to Puerto Galera. Its worth spending an afternoon here to splash in the water right under the falls. The falls derived its name from a species of buffalo which can only be found in Oriental Mindoro, and is among the country's endangered species.
The Philippines is a fantastic country, with many truly fantastic adventures and things to explore. From the 2000 year old Banaue rice terraces, spectacular waterfalls, tropical rain forests, white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, sea life and corals, lagoons and volcano's, but the one thing that stands out amongst everything is the people, they are just so friendly and welcoming. You'll here "Hello Sir" where ever you go. The only downside is shopping for clothes, as nothing fits me. Filipino people are quite small and even their XXL size is about the same as a English medium size.
Also don't forget to see our 2007 Philippines review... As the slogan goes "Its more fun in the Philippines".