The photos popped up in my Facebook newsfeed last week. An old coworker, who recently moved to Vietnam, had ventured to the Philippines for this first time. I saw lush green jungle. Undulating peaks. Wild goats, cows and roosters. I recalled the times a college friend had told me about her visits to her motherland. Accommodations unfolded like garden palaces, clad in bright, beautiful colors. It was this same friend who introduced me to Filipino food: steamed crab during a dinner date with her mother; empanadas during a visit to meet Finn; pancit at a New Year’s Eve gathering. The Philippines is a place I’ve gotten to know remotely, via relay of the sights, sounds and tastes of those who have been there. There are a lot of beautiful resorts in the Philippines, too, from Boracay and Palawan, to Cebu and Bohol—check out travel sites like Traveloka to book your own accommodation in advance. Here are a few of the things I would do in the Philippines if I ever get the chance to go.
1. Eat my way through Manila
Image courtesy Roberto Verzo on Creative Commons
JB Macatulad, a Manila local, writes about the top foods to try in the Philippines, and the restaurants at which to try them, on WillFlyForFood. Of his recommendations: chicken inasal at the hidden gem Bacolod Chicken Parilla in Quezon City; chicharon bulaklak, a deep-fried part of the pig intestine at bars like Baliwag and Pepeton’s Grill; and sans rival, a cake of buttercream, meringue and chopped cashews, at Estrel’s and Cafe Mary Grace. The area near Greenbelt Park in Manila is home to a high concentration of restaurants, and conveniently has the Astoria Greenbelt within walking distance of the Greenbelt Pedestrian Walkway. Can anyone say food tour?
Image courtesy Rick McCharles on Creative Commons
The rice paddies of Southeast Asia are so iconic, and every time I see an image of one, I want to go to there. Rice paddies in the Philippines are believed to have begun in prehistoric times, and one of the more well-known, though hard-to-get-to, ones is the Banaue. Some Filipinos consider these remote rice terraces, which stretch to 1500m above sea level, the eighth Natural Wonder of the World. It’s best to visit when the planting time occurs between February and March or when the harvest takes place between June and July.
Image courtesy Storm Crypt on Creative Commons
Situated in southeastern Luzon in the Mayon National Park, many people hike or climb this 8,077-feet high active volcano, but I don’t need to get that close! Mayon, known for its distinctive cone shape, has erupted more than 30 times since 1616, and most recently in 2006. But, my, does she look pretty!
4. Visit White Beach
Image courtesy Lutz on Creative Commons
I’ve been to Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays, Australia, said to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. With its stretch of powdery white sand and clear blue water, White Beach in Boracay might be a rival. In addition to enjoying the beach and various water activities (my personal favorite is snorkeling), there are restaurants and shops to keep you occupied.
Image courtesy paweesit on Creative Commons
Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park is a Unesco World Heritage Site in the southwestern part of the Philippine Archipelago. It’s known for its cave system with limestone karst formations and an 8.2km-long underground river, one which you can take a paddle boat, that flows right into the sea. The park has diverse plant and animal life in that it has both mountain and sea ecosystems.