Our trip to the Philippines started terribly. We got food poisoning from an Indian restaurant in Phuket where we arrived from Koh Lanta to take our flight to Manila. Actually, we kind of ‘missed’ the flight. The traffic was fine that day, the guesthouse we lived was close (20 minutes of walking) and we arrived to the airport six hours before the departure.
What we overlooked, however, was that the departure time was 00.25 on the 1st of April, which meant we should have arrived at the airport the evening of the 31st. But we arrived on the 1st in the afternoon, when the plane was already long gone. April Fools Day was indeed foolish.
But it all turned out fine in the end; we caught a flight the following day, arrived safely to Manila at 4 am, spent ten hours at the airport, tasted a lot of Filipino food and took another plane to Caticlan and a local bus to Pandan in Antique, one of the four provinces of the Panay Island.
You might remember from the post about our plans how we wanted to experience the Philippines through our own adventures. We also planned to meet with Clelia from Keep Calm and Travel, who stopped in Pandan while exploring the Philippines.
In the end, we deviated a lot from our initial itinerary. We loved the small town of Pandan and its barangays (a Filipino term for a village, district or ward) so much that we decided to do a tour of other small towns and villages so that we could stay in contact with locals and avoid crowds on the beaches that were filling up quickly due to the Easter holidays.
A vast number of Filipinos were travelling to see their relatives in different parts of the country or to spend their vacation on the beach, which coincided with very high rates for flights.
Nevertheless, thanks to all these coincidences, we travelled for three weeks across Panay and we were deeply moved by the people that crossed our path.
We spent the majority of our time with locals and we were incredibly touched by their stories, their humble yet bright personalities and vivacious energy. Now, we would like to thank them for some lessons that have influenced us.
To do that, we are dedicating this post to all of the dear people of the Philippines whom we met on the road. Many of you do not have the internet, a computer, and some of you have little to no electricity, but the world is small and we do believe these words will find you one day.
That said, we want to say a big thank you and share with you what impressed us the most:
Your smiles are charming
We did nothing but smile on the streets, in the hotels, at the markets and in the bistros everyday. The elderly, children, vendors, and fishermen; all of you smiled after the first surprised look crossed your faces.
You welcome foreigners warmly
“Where are you from?” and your other curious questions started many conversations. After we responded, you proudly said, “Welcome to the Philippines!”
You love singing
A luggage porter at the airport sings, a shop assistant sings (at 4 am!), a guy selling tickets for a local bus sings, staff members in hotels sing. Not to mention that karaoke in small villages is as common as a bakery shop. There is even karaoke in the jungle!
You are big basketball lovers
No matter how small or destroyed a town or village is after a typhoon, there is always a court for outdoor basketball. Over 30°C and the hot sun? No problem. You still manage to start a game with some friends.
Your politeness is impressive
“Yes, ma’am”, “Yes, sir” was something we were getting used to for a while. And despite us requesting that you call us by our first names, you kept on with your high standards of politeness.
Your wild nature is a magnificent experience
Lush, wild forests, saturated, green rice fields, waterfalls and rivers, all in unspoiled beauty. There is much more to admire than just your beaches, especially your hills and hidden gems of small islands that offer spectacular views of the landscape, villages, rivers and unpaved roads, where only a local can manage to ride a motorbike!
How helpful you are
Where to eat, what to see, how to get somewhere: you suggested tips and insider info without us even asking you.
Your faith in God is profound
It was a big visual change for us, to come to the Catholic Philippines from Buddhist Thailand. Buddhist string bracelets were replaced by crosses on necks, temples and altars became churches, chapels and statues of Jesus and Holy Mary.
The churches we visited in Panay and Manila were full and many young and children attended the masses, compared to some predominantly Catholic European countries.
You are impressively family-oriented
You used to work and live abroad and you’ve come back because of your aging parents or a family you have a strong bond with. No matter how good the job was you had, you prefer to take care of your loved ones until they get better.
Many of you also come back to retire in your homeland or plan to do so in the future.
It was not easy to explain to you that we left our homelands to travel around the world using only phone contact with our families.
Your women are so pretty
Those of you in the countryside and small provinces simply shine with their pure, feminine beauty with no artificial, cosmetic additions. In the cities this changes, but we consider this an inevitable side effect of commercial pressures in all large, global cities.
You love sweet, salty and fat
We had heard so many contrasting opinions about your cuisine and honestly, the food we tasted was very nice. We especially enjoyed the homemade meal we tried at our Couchsurfing host in Manila, but very often the amount of sugar or salt in your dishes was too much for us.
You are great storytellers
Once you see there is someone who is ready to listen to you, you tell your story and you are not at all shy when talking about your private life.
You speak English even in small neighbourhoods
Sometimes it was a simple “good afternoon” that you loudly declared with a smile on your face, other times you started to chat about different countries and our travels. Whether it was kids running on the shore, ladies at the markets or a solitary man living alone in a forest, all of you were happy to share your time with us and made a great effort to have a conversation.
You guys can play with anything!
We might have been staring at you too much when you were playing with your flip-flops or with bottle lids. No need for expensive toys here!
You do your best to preserve hidden islands
In some areas, you follow strict ‘carrying capacity’ rules in order to preserve the natural treasures of waterfalls and forests. You restrict the number of tourists who can enter areas during a certain period of time and we think that’s an amazing approach! But we feel you must become more active in keeping trash out of your forest and rivers.
Oh, your jeepney!
What makes them so special is the way you paint them and how you pass the money to a driver via other passengers!
You love to pose for pictures
Pointing a camera in your direction flatters you!
You always keep a positive spirit
When we saw your destroyed schools, huts and boats from typhoon Yolanda that hit you in November 2013, we had only one thought: the God you believe in so much could allow this to happen only to a people who have tremendous power to cope with tragedy. You remember exactly what you were doing that day, where you ran to hide and how long the hell lasted in your barangay.
Now, almost six months later, when you’re still waiting for your shelter to be repaired or build from the scratch, you smile! You smile and you help those who have less than you.
“Bahala na,” you say. You really live the moment, not caring about tomorrow or the past. Even if this might prevent you from planning for the future, you live your life fully, with love, open hearts and a willingness to help those who need it.
The things we learned about other cultures so far have been precious for us. But the things you have taught us are crucial for our self-development, too. People of the Philippines, you have helped us to realize that humanity is something that connects this world. We must remember that we are all the same, no matter which corner of the earth we were born in.
If you plan a visit to the Philippines and you’re looking for a hotel in Manila, on the Panay island or any other destination you have in mind to explore in the Philippines, you can do it via HotelsCombined search which is an easy way to check the prices, availability and do your booking, too. Also, if you book your hotel in the Philippines through our website, we’ll get a small commission from it that will help us to maintain this website.
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