First Impressions of the Philippines

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April 6, 2013
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April 12, 2013

First Impressions of the Philippines

What I think about the Philippines so far

Less than a week I’ve been in the Philippines, I have very complex opinions about this country. Since day 1, this country showed me extreme good and bad at the same time. I’m not sure how I feel about it in general, but I want to share the initial thoughts about the Philippines. (note: I’ve only been an extremely small portion of the country, and met a limited number of people. But, from my previous experience, the first impression turns out not too wrong.)

It’s hot

No doubt, my first impression of the Philippines was the temperature. As soon as I got off from the plane at Manila, the massive heat hit me with surprise. Seoul was quite cold when I left. It is officially flower blooming spring, but the weather has not been generous to us. I prepared myself with a light layer of clothes even if the temperature at the bus stop in 4:30am was harsh. However, my jeans felt so uncomfortable in the Philippines. I finally landed the land of tropical sun, and I love it.

People are very respectful

The body language of people at many of Asian countries (including Southeast and East Asia) are complex. They are naturally shy but quite aggressive on some occasions. A bus conductor even hit me (with a fist) in Vietnam because I was refusing to pay the money he wanted, which was three times more than the normal price. The bus was full, but no one gave a shit. He was a bully. People say respect is the greatest thing about Asia, but the respect comes with title and age, not from the heart.

On the other hand, people who I interacted so far in the Philippines were quite respectful to each other. I can see that they are nice because that’s who they are, not because they want the business. I couldn’t imagine this people scam me like the Vietnamese bus conductor did. To children, to elders, to women and to the customers, everyone’s nice to each other. No smoking in the public area. People say ‘excuse me’ all the time and try hard not to get in anyone’s way. Everyone says ‘good evening’ on the street. It was a huge difference between the Philippines and other Asian countries I’ve been so far.

Riding Jeepney is the essential part of traveling in the Philippines

They don’t really walk

Tricycle, motorbike, van, and Jeepneys; either they really like the idea of transportation by fossil fuel, or they just genuinely don’t like to walk. I’m not sure which. People wait 5 minutes in the tightly crammed Jeepney to get off at right in front of their house in 10 meters. The city is filled with fumes during the day due to the unaccountably many vehicles. I think it’s time to import the electric bike to the Philippines from China.

It’s not an easy destination for independent travelers


I started my journey from Kalibo. Our 16 days itinerary is simple: flying into Kalibo – Guimaras Island – Bantayan Island – Malapascua Island – flying out from Cebu City. It appeared to be quite an efficient plan, we thought.

From Kalibo to Guimaras resort where we are right now (and we didn’t even make it to the resort we wanted yet), it took 12 hours. It was supposed to a simple but long journey, but it turned out to be super long and difficult one. I’m fully aware of the ‘everything takes longer’ rule in travels like I always say, but it is quite severe here with a lot of unspoken rules. The most useful information I got about transportations was from fellow travel bloggers from the Philippines. We found out even the guidebook wasn’t that much helpful in this case.

My travel style has been the mixture of pre-research and on-location-information, but it needs a lot of pre-research to travel (or just fly between islands) in the Philippines especially if we’re going out of traveler’s route, such as ours at the moment.

 

 

The religion

 

Catholic was introduced to the Philippines in 1521 with the arrival of Magellan and now more than 90% of the populations are Christian, and about 80% belong to Roman Catholic Church. It is one of the two most predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Asia. It’s easy to spot catholic churches around the country. It reminded me of being in New Mexico’s adobe church.

San Migual rules

San Miguel rules in the Philippines. It usually costs around 30 – 35 pesos (USD 0.75+), and tasted decent.

San Miguel in the Philippines

Juno Kim
Juno Kim
Juno Kim, a happiness-seeking storyteller. Photographer, writer, and trained mechanical engineer. Life-long nerd. I left the cubic farm to follow my true love: the world. A firm believer of serendipity, astronomy enthusiaster, and living by passion and love in life. Currently, on a quest to discover stories and find the place where I can call 'home'. Follow my journey through @RunawayJuno and Google+ .

23 Comments

  1. That is so true about the respect in Asian countries. I live in Cambodia and people there are very respectful-even towards foreigners, but i also had very unpleasant encounters in Vietnam. Moto and taxi drivers tried to rip us off all the time (3 times in one day!) and when we refused to pay they started shouting and getting very aggressive. One taxi driver locked us into his car. When we threatened to call the police he backed off though.

  2. Hi Juno,

    How’s your adventure going so far? I’m now back in Manila after my Seoul trip. It was cold there! And it is hot here in the Philippines! Just hit the beach and enjoy the sea, sand and sun. Too bad we won’t be able to see each other.

    Claire

  3. Andi says:

    I’m dying to visit! I just watched a show about the violence in the Philippines and it’s sadly put a bad taste in my mouth regarding the country. Having said that, I’m still dying to visit!

  4. I’m planning to go there next year. The advice about the independent travels is useful. I will remember that when I do my research.

  5. Next time when you visit Philippines, make it longer and try to explore Palawan. Its really beautiful and I fell in love the first time I went there. 🙂

  6. eagertravelcris says:

    Yes.. unfortunately the transportation system isn’t nicely set up yet.. travel between islands is a bit troublesome.. you have to access the main bigger islands… walking isn’t preferred because of the hot and humid weather.. nevertheless i hope you have an enjoyable trip.. 🙂
    Have you made it to Cebu already? Bantayan Island is really nice.. but so far from the city.. i think 5 hrs by bus if i remember right?
    You should check out Palawan.. Coron and El Nido best places i’ve been to so far…

  7. CN says:

    “First Impression of the Philippines” or “First Impression in the Philippines”? 🙂

  8. Interesting observation you got there. Traveling within the Philippines can be very tricky since the islands are far away from each other (but looked cute on the map lol). Most visitors visit Palawan, although Guimaras is a nice place if you want quiet time. There are some bloggers based in Cebu City. Meet up with them and they can give you a good tour 😀

    Hoping to meet you still. Is there any chance you’d be back in Manila or are you flying out straight from Cebu?

  9. Jessica Hill says:

    I’m currently working with five Filipinos at a school in Thailand, and after talking to them I’ve become really interested in going there. Thanks for the behind-the-scenes first impressions of the country! Looking forward to more.

    • Juno Kim says:

      I’ve only been to south part of the country, but it will be really interesting for me to go north someday. The culture is quite unique because of the influences from western countries and also pretty similar to other Southeast Asia countries.

  10. Interesting about the Philippines reminding you of NM. Catholicism has been in both places. Thought Magellan’s arrival in the Phillippines beat the Spanish in Santa Fe by about 75 years.

  11. grasya says:

    we were on the same island of Panay when you first came to the Philippines but sad our paths didnt cross because I was leaving for Manila while you’re already in Guimaras. I’m still glad you had fun despite too much sun ^_^.. and yeah land transportation system espcially in rural areas really needs to be improved here.. coz there are still lots to explore ^_^

  12. JR Riel says:

    I love this very honest look at my favorite country in Asia. I agree, the Philippines has a lot of challenges, and I’m glad you were open about those aspects. But I especially appreciate your ability to see the positive side of the country as well. For myself, I fell in love with it almost immediately, yes, and my first stop was a few days in Manila. I agree with most of the things you have said here, especially that point about their being respectful. It still tugs at my heart when I think of the new friends I’ve made, and when I first met them I thought they didn’t care for me or what I was saying, they were just being very respectful in listening carefully and not interrupting and trying to honestly process what was being communicated. Great post, Tweeting it now.

  13. Everything in the Philippines does definitely take longer. But the Philippines is one of my favorite places I’ve traveled to! Next time you have to visit El Nido 🙂 It’s seriously one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. I’ve never been to any of the places (other than Manila) that you listed-looking forward to hearing more about them!

  14. Gayla says:

    I have friends from the Philippines, yet I know so little about the country and its culture. Basically, I just knew that it was heavily influenced by Spain. It’s very interesting to read about your experiences. I know I would definitely not enjoy the heat and humidity 🙁

  15. I love hearing people’s experiences about visiting the Philippines. My family & I moved to Australia from Manila when I was 5, so all the experiences I’ve had going back to visit have been as an adult and with almost a lifetime of living in a completely different culture, but also seeing it as a “My god that could’ve been me” type of view. I agree with you that the Philippines is a hard nut to crack, travel-wise, it’s quite difficult to go from place to place and the heat is EXCRUCIATING at times but I think it’s one of those countries where you have to accept if for what it is – crazy, chaotic, beautiful and a bit edgy. Hope you had a blast, I’m dying to go back myself! 🙂

  16. […] weeks of my journey in the Philippines is finished. It was a complex mixture of good, extreme bad and something in between. The country […]

  17. Yes, next time you come back to Philippines, you should also explore the North where you can see the Banaue and Batad Rice Terraces. Also, don’t miss Palawan. 🙂

  18. Sam says:

    I was in the Philippines four years ago, and I had many of the same first impressions as you! I only travelled on Luzon island (the northernmost, and largest) so transport wasn’t too difficult – just buses, no boats! I was really surprised by how Catholic the people are. I mean, simply because I had no idea before I went there.

  19. J.D. says:

    I’m heading to the Philippines tomorrow and I’m really excited! Plus, I’m from New Mexico, so if the churches remind you of there, it’ll be like I’m back home.

  20. Thanks for the heads up.
    We are going to Boracay (stopping at Kalibo aiport) in October.
    Glad the people are nicer than other Asian countries!

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