My girlfriend grew up in The Philippines and it had been a dream of hers, to explore her country deeper. I have spent a month with her in Manila, Davao, Puerto Princesa and El Nido. I had visited Cebu and Dumaguete previously on 07.17.
- 12.17 – 01.18.
- One Month
I had visited Manila twice so far and I can assure, it is not emminent to visit Manila. It should not discredit the good times I had there with Couchsurfing and my girlfriend, but there ARE better places in The Philippines, so why lie, but not setting the bar a bit higher?
The core of interest in Manila is Intramuros. Spanish Colonial walls, surrounding a city ghetto and some architectonical buildings of historical importance. The St. Augustin church is a UNESCO heritage site, but unfortunately only astonishing by it’s history and not by it’s design, cause if you have seen the Cathedral in Einsiedeln or in Lyon, then you know what I mean. I spent most times in Manila in Restaurants, malls and in traffic (UBER), so if you are stuck in Manila anyway, go to the arcade in one of the malls. They are so cheap and you can feel like a child again. Also, don’t get traumatized by the local food, it tastes better elsewhere in the country.
My girlfriend’s hometown bases in the South of the country and is cheaper and more interesting than Manila however, neither haven’t I made greater experiences with local cuisine, nor have I visited the most famous touristy sites like the Eagle park or the Crocodile park. If you somehow got stranded over there, I hope you are not alone, cause I would not know, what to do during the day all alone. I still managed to enjoy the times there, since I got to experience Christmas and New Year with local family vibes.
I reached this village from Cebu, by riding a bus and a ship. I had a Workaway at a diving community, which I cancelled after a few days, since I wanted to return to my girlfriend in South Korea. The beach had not impressed me, but the diving spots did. Apo island is really beautiful, I had seen large turtles, bathing within colorful corals. For diving, it’s worth a visit.
Underrated little paradise, that has definitely a value in staying for a few days. Badjao Restaurant in the mangroves is definitely an eye catcher and has a good price/value balance. Restaurant Kinabuch’s Crocodile Sisig is my personal recommendation. It’s croco meat, nicely crisped in oil with onions and egg. The trycicles are cheap and everything is close by. You can do a day trip to the underground river in Sabang, or make a overnight stay there. I really enjoyed my three day stay.
We spent a week at the Northern tip of Palawan, discovering beaches and islands. We booked an average room with fan next to the bus terminal. Surprisingly, it turned out to be a convenient location, as we had a local market in front of us, and El Nido had nothing greater to offer, but touristy and expensive restaurants. Electricity drop outs and smelly water are inevitable but many places run generators (01.18). Since you cannot swim properly in El Nido itself, we would recommend The Las Cabanas Beach or Nacpan Beach. The Duli beach had sand flies and was not better or prettier than Nacpan Beach. We only finished Tour A with the boat (there are four tours) and we visited the small and big lagoon, the secret lagoon and beach stuff. There are no valuable snorkelling spots on Tour A, just rent a canoe at the lagoons and enjoy being surrounded by cliffs, climbing into the skies. The secret lagoon is also something for the eye. I recommend Tour A, but bring some decent slippers, since they want you to walk many times on rocks and broken corals.
The Thousands of islands of The Philippines are making it harder to travel around it than other countries, but it has a nice variety of scenery and at some places, a good kitchen to offer. The underground river in Sabang, Nacpan Beach and the islands around El Nido were definitely worth a visit. Davao, Cebu and Manila were not very impressive, so I would just skip cities in The Philippines so far, unless you know someone there. At the end, it feels a bit like Sri Lanka, but a little bit more rural. I will definitely visit this country again with my girlfriend, so I have a lot more to explore.