A friend of mine recently returned from a trip to the Philippines and I asked him to share about his time. Take it away KC!
If you’ve ever considered visiting the Philippines, you may have heard of the slogan “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.” Just like many slogans, this one was created by the country’s tourism department—one that gained a lot of traction among locals and tourists.
But is this slogan just clever marketing, or is it really more fun in the Philippines? Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to find out.
This trip was unique for me for several reasons. It was my first vacation with my family, including my young nephews. (For the most part, I travel with my boyfriend.) Secondly, it was the first time in years that I took a three-week vacation. That may not sound like a big deal, but as a shameless workaholic, taking off work for that long was no small feat for me.
It was also my first visit to the Philippines in more than eight years and only my second since immigrating to Canada 15 years ago. This trip was an opportunity to rediscover my home country now that I’ve spent a majority of my life in Vancouver, Canada.
I’m happy to report that this vacation far surpassed my expectations.
Let me start with the obvious: the Philippines has some beautiful sights. If you love beaches, you’ll definitely love the Philippines. Two of my favorite beaches from this trip were in Pangasinan, my home province located about four hours north of Manila. The first one was Patar in Bolinao, Pangasinan, a beach with white-ish, golden sands and crystal blue waters.
Another favorite was the Hundred Islands in Alaminos, Pangasinan. This tourist attraction literally has 100 islands, and so we had to rent a boat for the day. We mainly stayed on two of the bigger islands, Quezon and Marcos. Both had clear, swimmable beaches, and getting bored on these islands was impossible as they offered a wide variety of activities like zip lining and snorkeling.
If you’re not into beaches, you might love the falls. I got to visit two places with stunning falls, both in Negros Occidental, my mom’s home province located in central Philippines. We spent one day in Mag-Aso falls in Kabankalan. To see its magnificent falls, we had to go through steep steps, but it was well worth the effort. The resort also had beautiful natural pools, accessible by a short hike.
We spent a night in another resort called Mambukal. Located in Murcia, Negros Occidental, it has seven falls, a sulfur spring and lots of flying foxes—a non-scary species of bats. Seeing the falls required some hiking. We didn’t get to see all seven falls (unfortunately two of them weren’t open to the public at that time and the 7th fall was very far), but the spectacular views were definitely worth the trek.
The Philippines is gorgeous, but it has more to offer. The food is fantastic, especially seafood. Tropical fruits like guavas, mangoes and jackfruit are must-trys if you go.
Another reason why it’s fun in the Philippines? Everything is a lot cheaper! Even with the weak Canadian dollar, I found most things reasonably affordable.
All of this isn’t to say that the Philippines doesn’t have its share of problems. If you go to the city, traffic congestion is terrible. In my last night there, I got caught in Manila’s rush hour, forcing me, my brother and my mom to sit through traffic for three hours. Pollution is also a problem if you’re in a city.
Despite these issues, I had a lot of fun in the Philippines. And it’s not just because of the beautiful sights, the delicious food and the affordable lifestyle. What really made my vacation memorable was the people. In large part, I had fun because of my family there. Reconnecting with many uncles, aunties, cousins and grandparents was worth the trip alone.
Many strangers also made a big impression on me. I met some of the loveliest locals, and their stories reminded me of resilience, optimism and love. One driver told me about his 13 children, and how he was working tirelessly to give them a better life. One 25-year old shared his excitement about launching a business and how his parents discouraged him from pursuing the entrepreneurial path. Some people shared their frustrations about finding a decent job and what they’re doing to make ends meet.
These were not fun stories, but they reminded me that a great travel experience isn’t just about the place itself. Ultimately, it is about the people you meet. Most of the people I met didn’t have a lot of money, but they showered me with hospitality, sincerity and kindness. I am forever grateful for meeting many of them.
In the end, the beauty of the Philippines is only matched by the warmth of people who live there. That is the real reason why it’s more fun in the Philippines.
KC Claveria is a full-time marketing pro and an occasional traveler. He enjoys sunny places, good people and warm weather. He is not a foodie. Born in the Philippines, KC now lives in the often-rainy-but-beautiful city of Vancouver, B.C. He blogs about content strategy, social media and inbound marketing at KCClaveria.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.