If I am asked what are the three things I liked most about The Philippines, I would say first the people (happy, smiling and friendly), the amazing lack of tourist presence, and of course, the delicious food! I really enjoyed my trip and even with little planning on what to do, found my days busy with random excursions taking in the lovely culture.
CITIES/PLACES VISITED IN THE PHILIPPINES : Donsol, Iloilo, Guimaras, Manila.
Key Expressions & Words in Filipino
Sarap (Phonetic : Sa-rap) : Delicious
Masarap (Phonetic : Ma-sa-rap) : Really Delicious
Salamat (Phonetic : seh-lah-mat) : Thanks
Most Filipinos are fluent or familiar with some English, so speaking with them was really easy most of the time.
TOP THINGS TO DO/SEE IN THE PHILIPPINES
Manila - Must go see the Chinese Cemetery (and definitely pay for the guide)
Ride in a Jeepney and enjoy watching the amazing variety of creative workmanship on these public transport vehicles.
Iloilo - Browse around in the Food Market. As always in any country, it's fascinating !
Karaoke or Videoke - You can't ignore it, it's everywhere !
Manila - The churches and a promenade in Intramuros and the Rizal Monument makes for an interesting half day.
Manila - Check out Rizal Park (and don't forget to have a look at the beautiful artwork in the artist area within the park.
Get some fantastic sunset photos from the Roxias Avenue Baywalk in Manila
Donsol - Try your hand at Shrimp Fishing
Donsol - Search for Whalesharks if you're there between March and May
Donsol - Go on a serene firefly night cruise
Scuba diving - There's lots of great scuba diving across the Philippines
BEST MEMORIES FROM THE PHILIPPINES
The people - Never before have I seen such a friendly, open and curious people. One of my trip's highlights!
Fascinating mix of Spanish and Asian cultures - two areas in the world that I love! Also strong presence of American brands too with Cinnabon, Mrs Fields, Krispy Kreme.
Where's my knife?! Philipino meals are served mostly only with a fork and spoon. No chopsticks typically either.
So few other tourists around!
Beautiful views such as the lovely pyramid-shaped volcano near Donsol
Amazing sunsets in Manila
Donsol's boats looked so light... reminded me so much of those flies that skim a freshwater lake's surface.
Crazy shaped vines which looked like a plant version of the Lochness Monster in Donsol
Lots of security guards around Manila - Helped to make you feel safer there. Still need to be very aware as poverty is high in The Philippines.
FAVOURITE FOODS / DRINKS IN THE PHILIPPINES
Honey-roasted Pili Nuts from Donsol - Light, sweet & crisp. YUM!
The mangoes of Guimaras, near Iloilo, are in my opinion the best mangoes I have ever tasted. Very sweet, ripe, and not stringy at all. Delicious!!
Adobo (Pork or Chicken braised in Soy Sauce, Garlic and Vinegar) - The Filipino National Dish!
Lightly-buttered Garlic Rice with Sweet or Savory Pork Longganiza (Sausages)... for breakfast. Yum!
Sweet Pork Tocino... also for breakfast. My second favourite. Pork was marinated in saltpetre, turning it pink. Looks like it is probably bad for you, given the bright coloured, but it's very tasty !!
Fresh Calamansi juice... it's the most popular fruit juice in the Philippines. Nice !
Sisig - supposedly sizzling small bits of pork jowl - is a favourite and delicious bar snack, though it looks more like a meal when it comes to you on a filled plate.
Lechon Kawali - Roast Pork with Liver Sauce (luckily the liver sauce tasted more like gravy and nothing like liver)
Soups are delicious here. Whether it is Pancit Molo (Garlic Wonton Soup!), the tangy tamarind-infused Sinigang soup, or Bulalo (Tender Beef Shank and Banana Heart soup), Arroz Caldo (Filipino Congee), or, my favourite, from Iloilo : KBL (Kadios, Baboy, Langka - which translates to black-eyed peas, pork leg, and young jackfruit) - Tangy & Delicious!!
Kangkong - Water-spinach makes a great healthy balancing side dish, especially when so many of the other options are meat.
Another amazing veggie heavy dish (still has some meat) that I really enjoyed is called Laing which is a dish whereby taro leaves and ground pork are stewed in coconut milk, then made into a paddy and steamed in a banana leaf. Delicious!!!
Halo-halo Special - Filipino answer to a 'Sundae Ice Cream'. It has everything and the kitchen sink, including Purple Ube Ice Cream, Shaved Ice, Creme Caramel, Coconut Milk and lots of extra stuff like Nata de Coco, fruit preserves, etc. Tasty!
Desserts : Biscocho were interesting (dried buttered & sweetened bread to go with morning tea. Tasted Ok, but not delicious), Pinasugbo (deep fried slices of saba banana coated with a molasses and sesame seeds) - not bad!, Bibingka rice flour cake - simple but nice, Puto (moist baked glutinous rice cakes) - also simple but nice.
REALLY WEIRD FOOD / DRINKS (SOME EVEN I COULDN'T GATHER THE COURAGE TO TRY!)
Batchoy Soup - Very popular but not for me as it tasted of liver which ruined it for me!
Highly popular street food : Bright Orange Pig Intestines - Didn't dare try. I've had similar before and not a fan of the flavour.
Bittermelon Vegetable - Too, err, bitter.
Balut - Boiled Duck egg containing a partially developed embryo. Need I say more? Quite popular with the locals though. Served as street food at night.
Jeepneys & Transport
Friends & People
Mall of Asia
The Big City
Baywalk on Roxas
The Regional City
Searching for Whaleshark
The Rural Town
Activities around Town
WHAT TO DO WHEN I GO BACK
Try Diwal (Angel-Wing Shaped Shelfish) which are supposed to have a unique creamy texture and be delicious but only available in season. Good place to get them is in Iloilo, at the restaurant Breakthrough. Not sure if they are available in other regions.
Recommended to the Baked Talaba and Sizzling Squiddies at Samurai restaurant, which is located across from Smallville.
Other food to try in Iloilo : Linabog na Pagi (Sting ray cooked with ginger), Popular Chain's main dish 'Mang Inasal' (marinated in Ilongo spices and sauces, skewed on a bamboo stick and grilled over red hot charcoal), Restaurant 'Tio Tatoy's Lechon Manok (BBQ's Chicken), Food Stall or Restaurant called Roberto's - Get one of Philippine's best Siopao (Order the biggest Queen Siopao Steamed Bun Dumpling with Chicken, Ham Chorizo and Bola-bola).
Iloilo : Dinagyang Festival (at the end of January), Unesco World Heritage Site Miagao Church has the most impressive façade with its impressively detailed carvings.
Manila's Crazy Markets at Quiapo Church. Coconut Palace. HapChan Tea Houses, Hobbit House Blues Bar, KaFreddie's Folk Bar (Wed, Fri, Sat), Quezon City for Food.
Batanes, a small scenic tourist village (Origin of artist (Joey) which I met from the Art Association of the Philippines).
The rice terraces around Banaue (North Luzon) are most popular for trekking, but there are peaks – including many volcanoes – to be bagged across Luzon, the Visayas, Mindoro and Mindanao.
There are many rice terraces in Banaue, and you should see the three most-visited ones: (a)
the Grand Rice Terraces in Banaue (b) the Rice Terraces in Batad, which are among the most visited because you can swim in the natural Tapia waterfalls; and (c) the Rice Terraces of Mayoyao are the most preserved because it is difficult to get there.
Stop in Baguio on the way to Banaue for a hike through the beautiful rice terraces, and from there all the way up to Vigan, the Spanish looking/feeling town. The City of Baguio is located on a mountain - Stay on Session Road or Harrison Rd. “Summer capital of the Philippines” – located some 1,500 meters above sea level. The city is known for its mild climate. Nice parks : Burnham Park, Wright Park and the famous Mines View Park.
Fagada/Sagada - hanging coffins
The Philippines, which is located on the pacific ring of fire, has 37 of the world's biggest volcanoes, 18 of which are active! The scary mother of all Filipino volcanes is the perfectly conical-shaped, Mount Mayon which has had 47 eruptions since 1616, the last one occurring in 1993 with devastating consequences. For those daring backpackers looking for an adventure, the mountain can be climbed in two days, though one must be aware of recent volcanic activity (currently, the summit is off limits due to toxic fumes from the crater). Mount Pinatubo is an active stratovolcano located on the island of Luzon, near the tripoint of the Philippine provinces of Zambales, Tarlac, and Pampanga.
Palawan for diving. El Nido beach.
Cebu City - Queen City of the South. Laid back colonial feel. (resorts, malls). Mango Avenue has a young and live music feel. During Sinulog Festival in January there are festivities here (parading and dancing).
Bohol. Ranked number one tourist destination in the Philippines. Great for rainforests. Home of the tarsier. Dinner cruise along the Luboc river. Panglao fine white sandy beaches. Limestone formations 'chocolate hills'. Taste local delicacy Kalamay or their new baked polvoron, both will make your mouth water.
Dumaguete City (near Cebu and Bohol). Famous for their long boulevard and their sweet, and heavenly tasting Sylvanias, tasty desert. Catch the spectacular sunset and sunrise along Rizal Boulevard.
Roxas City - known as the Seafood capital of the Philippines. Try to check the beach at night time; you’ll get to see food vendors set their table on the sand and cook foods for you under the moonlight.
Camiguin Island - Often called Fire Island, and known for its numerous number amount of volcanoes. One of the most frequently visited place in the country due to white beaches.
Boracay - known as the beach that never sleeps - night long of parties. famous for its white, fine, sugar-like sands along the famous White Beach. Touristy - known for having delicious gourmet food, the hottest nightlife, the coolest adventure sports, pampering spas, luxurious resorts and the bohemian lifestyle all rolled into one fun island experience.
Eating chori burger and drinking Jonas Milkshakes. Riding the very picturesque Paraw boat as the sun sets on the horizon.
In Manila : Aquarium. San Sebastian, a steel church, quite beautiful. Fort Bonifacio - clubbing district. Fun and exciting at night. The Recto - large market (mostly daily items,
not souvenirs. yay!). Binondo and Quiapo have a certain raw energy and unique markets.
Top 8 Most Awesome Filipino Restaurants
#1 Ka Lui, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. like eating in a Filipino home. The dishes are quite unique, and their presentation can surprise you.
Claude Tayag’s Bale Dutung, Pampanga. Pampanga is the culinary center of the Philippines, and Claude Tayag’s Bale Dutung (House of Wood) is the best place to taste true-blue Pampanga cuisine. They offer a private dining group experience (minimum of 10) where you enjoy a long, slow-cooked, five-hour lunch. Roast baby pig (!!)
Breakthrough Restaurant, Iloilo. the undisputed king of fresh seafood in Iloilo. famous for its Aligue Rice and the Managat fish (also known as red snapper or mangrove jack).
Native Chicken Inasal, and fresh and baked oysters are also served here.
Kinabuhayan Café, Dolores, Quezon. Every stay in Kinabuhayan Café is magical. Its bed & breakfast is designed in such a way that you feel like you are living in a theater stage set
– any photo you take is photogenic. Plus, every dish that comes out of the kitchen is really good. Jay Herrera is the heart and soul of the place, with his charming, bohemian persona and
magical touch when it comes to food. He is popular for his Alagaw Leaves appetizers, Risotto, and cooked-on-the-spot Lamb Chops. Jay has a secluded place called Kubli Springs where
they set up beautiful-looking lunches and dinners. The spring waters running down your feet and just-enough lights at night all add to the ambiance for a romantic evening under the stars.
Café Juanita, Pasig. serving their heirloom recipes in this colorfully homey restaurant. Artistically done comfort Filipino food is the specialty of the house -- from Molo, to Kare-kare, to Twice-Cooked Adobo. But you also have the option of ordering other Asian-inspired dishes.
Pendy’s, Bacolod City. Pendy’s is the foodies’ choice because it is run by Omon Maravilla’s family. don’t leave Pendy’s without trying the well-made Negrense cuisine. Among the crowd favorites are the Chicken Dinuguan, Pancit Molo, and Batchoy with Lechon. the best part of the Pendy’s experience is having the Napoleones and Half-moon for dessert! Pendy’s also has a pasalubong center that carries the best pasalubong: Bailon’s Piaya and Dulce de Gatas.