The Philippines – or why you will love this country
Where to start when talking about the Philippines? The warm and welcoming culture is overwhelming and all the stories seems true: it´s such a happy country, and yes indeed everyone is singing all the time. Beyond bright people the Philippines show off with their countless number of islands, turquoise water and greatest biodiversity you can imagine. Philippines has one of the highest rates of new species been discovered – sixteen new species in the last ten years – from crocodile to endemic Philippine tarsier.
The climate is tropical meaning hot and humid and the best time to travel depends on where you want to go. In general high season is dry season in Western, central and Northern parts starting November and ending in April. In the Eastern part of the Philippines it´s better go in August to November, Typhoons can cause heavy and long-term rainy periods from June to September but prices drop significantly for e.g. accommodation..
Although there are more than 180 languages everyone speaks English which is a big asset when travelling the countries and not speaking one of the local languages.
The Philippines' location on the Pacific Ring of Fire and close to the equator makes the country prone to earthquakes and typhoons, but also endows it with abundant natural resources and some of the world's greatest biodiversity.
The arrival of Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer leading a fleet for the Spanish, marked the beginning of Hispanic colonization. In 1543, Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos named the archipelago Las Islas Filipinas in honor of Philip II of Spain. Philippines became part of the Spanish Empire for more than 300 years. During this time, Catholicism became the dominant religion, and Manila became the western hub of the trans-Pacific trade. In 1896 the Philippine Revolution began, which then became entwined with the 1898 Spanish–American War. Spain ceded the territory to the United States, while Filipino rebels declared the First Philippine Republic. The ensuing Philippine–American War ended with the United States establishing control over the territory, which they maintained until the Japanese invasion of the islands during World War II. Following liberation, the Philippines became an independent country in 1946. Since then, the unitary sovereign state has often had a tumultuous experience with democracy, which included the overthrow of a dictatorship by a non-violent revolution. If you ask travellers where to go in the Philippines they will most likely recommend to go to Palawan however the weather is even better in middle and eastern parts of the Philippines.
Manila – Paris of Asia
Manila is not only one of the most underrated, but also one of the impressive capitals in Southeast Asia. Just because of its pure size and its traffic. Metro Manila is actually 16 cities added up but the soul remains in the City of Manila. The city itself has a population of 1,8 million people whereas approx. 23 million people live in the Metro Manila area. This numbers already shows how much traffic you can expect going in and out every single day. To phrase it like this, Manila´s congested traffic is a just a symbol of the heavily pumping arteries of an enormous city trying to get all the energy where it belongs keeping the city alive.
Historically, Manila was named “Paris of Asia” being a splendid city with wide streets and impressive town houses. After WWII everything changed. The so-called “Battle for Manila” fought between the joint Filipino and American forces versus the Japanese Imperial Army completely destroyed the city. The time thereafter can be stated as “challenge and response” since Manila bounced back and proved the aliveness of the city. Today Manila is known amongst others for its unique cultural experience – party all night long.
Cebu City and the Eastern Visayas – The economic and cultural hub in the middle of large and small islands
Cebu City is clearly the gateway to diving, beaches and off-the-beaten-track adventures in the mountains. History and especially WWII left its traces in museums, monuments and underwater wrecks. Hard hit but not destroyed by several natural disasters, this area proved to be more than a tremendous island playground: resilient. Shortly after an earthquake hit Bohol 2013, super-Typhoon Hayan levelled large parts of this area. Nowadays you wouldn´t experience any of the traces of these tragedies but it´s beautiful as ever, and ready to explore.
Arriving by boat or airplane in Cebu City you can either enjoy the thrill of the economic epicentre of the Philippines plus check the pulsating nightlife or directly dive into the underwater world all around Cebu. Be aware that Cebu has not less energy than Manila meaning that streets are also crowded and getting from A to B could take longer than expected.
If you look for a premium dive spot the two go to places on Cebu Island are:
Moalboal Its known for its massive sardines swirling around in the water.
Pescador Island just offshore Moalboal is ideal for a relaxed and long island drift dive following the current along a spectacular wall attracting all kind of large fish.
Just go for one local dive shops of either SDI or PADI. Anyways all of them are safe. Special perk for divers and nudibranch lovers: you will be in the heart of a nudibranch treasure and I promise you will spot very seldom ones. For those who don´t know nudibranchs, go to Moalboal (or somewhere else where you can dive) and experience it ;)
After so many fish, nudibranches and amazing underwater world, you can afford to take day off diving and explore off-the-beaten-tracks. Simply rent a scooter and target the Kawasan Falls 1h away from Moalboal. It´s a beautiful place for hiking and kind of canyoning up the falls. You will be rewarded from the climbing by an awesome cool down in one of the many pools of the Kawasan falls. When heading back don´t forget to eat in some delicious local street food.
to be continued for part 2 ...