"The Philippines: The Fiesta Islands of Asia" Top 5 Page for this destination Philippines by hunwagner
Philippines Travel Guide: 24,921 reviews and 84,461 photos
If you are already familiar with the rest of Asia, be prepared for something very different in the Philippines!
This tropical archipelago of 7000 islands has a completely different feel from any of her neighbours.
The reason for this is to be sought in history.
The great Eastern religions of Buddhism or Hinduism never made it this far, and even Islam has barely gained a foothold when the Spaniards arrived and turned the place into a Catholic colony of theirs, like much of Latin America.
Then just over a century ago they lost it at war to the mighty USA, which has added yet another twist to the local culture.
Now an independent nation and a proud bastion of democracy in the region, the Philippines has absorbed influences from all her former masters, and successfully blended them with her native Malay traditions.
The end result is intriguing and pleasing - the cities and their people appear very Americanized at first, with English signs everywhere, English spoken with an American accent, and people who intruduce themselves with English nicknames asking foreigners which state, rather than country, they come from.
Scratch the surface just a bit though and you find a deep-rooted Spanish-Catholic legacy. Real names of the Filipinos are likely to be Spanish ones, Catholic celebrations are the highlights of the year, and for ceremonial occassions people don the traditional national costumes that wouldn't have been out of place in Spain in centuries gone by. Most attractively, colorful fiestas akin to those in Latin America are celebrated with great passion, with exuberant outpour of passion and joy that is totally unmatched in Asia.
Yet deeper still, Asian values still persist. Family ties remain very strong, old people are respected, and saving face remains as important as elsewhere in the East.
This description applies to the majority, Christian lowlander population of the Philippines. But to add to the cultural mix, there is also a staunchly traditional Muslim community in the south which never succumbed to Spanish influences, and tribal minorities in the mountainous regions that only really came into contact with the outside world when American missionaries converted them.
What this means for the visitor is that there might be surprises whatever expectations one comes with.
Foreigners are also likely to find Filipinos perhaps the easiest among the Asian peoples to mix and make friends with.
Though they may not be as outgoingly curious as some other folks in Asia, they will not place a barrier between themselves and foreigners either. The fact that English is very widely spoken also makes meaningful communication much easier. While in Indonesia a foreigner will almost always remain a "mister", in Thailand a "farang" or in Japan a "gaijin", once Filipinos get to know you, they will refer to you by your name, and treat you as one of them.
This may not be very obvious if you stick to busy cities or commercialized resort areas, but if you go off the beaten track a bit and make a little effort to get to know the locals, you may well end up concluding that the greatest attraction of this country is her people.
And going off the beaten track will never be easier.
Even with the increase in visitor numbers in the past few years, once you are away from a few major resort areas and cities, you will still find that you have an entire archipelago of beautiful beaches, tropical nature and friendly people just about entirely to yourself.
Indeed, the more you get to know the Philippines, more likely you will be to wish to see and experience still more of it.
I have spent a total of eight months in this fascinating country, but still have a long wish list of places left to visit, and fiestas to catch all the same!
- Pros:Great people, beautiful nature, affordable prices yet very few tourists
- Cons:Ugly cities and commercialized beach resorts
- In a nutshell:South-East Asia's biggest surprise!
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