Ever since we left the Philippines it has been haunting us; we just can’t shake the nagging feeling that we have unfinished business there – that we simply left too soon. We may have only spent three short weeks there but the wildness and the beauty of this incredible country, the challenges it presented us with and the adventures we had there have stuck with us in a big way. Of all the countries we’ve visited so far, I find the urge to return to the Philippines is the strongest – but why?
What we Loved about the Philippines
I have to admit that I’d been dreading our trip to the Philippines. We’d heard from other bloggers that the food there was difficult to stomach, that getting from place to place was often a challenge and that the living conditions were more of a return to what we had experienced in Indonesia. At the time I was feeling pretty comfy in Kuala Lumpur and almost wished we could skip our visit entirely, but I’m so glad we didn’t.
Yes, it’s true that travelling in the Philippines was challenging at times; it doesn’t have the established tourist infrastructure or attract the amount of visitors that nearby countries like Thailand or Malaysia do. The country isn’t well connected and getting around can be long-winded and laborious, there isn’t a well-trodden tourist path to follow, nor are there hundreds of hostels or tour operators around. However, this actually made our journey more enjoyable. We could use local transport, we weren’t hassled or conned and we could walk into a village and hire a local person to be our tour guide. In comparison to Thailand, where we are now, the Philippines felt relatively untouched and we can’t help hoping it stays that way.
There were things we found hard to stomach about the Philippines though; the poverty we encountered in parts of Manila, the starving and abused dogs wandering the streets and the number of middle-aged Western men we saw walking around with Filipino boys. I was also sick for almost half of our trip and the physical trials we put ourselves through during the last week of our journey left my body aching everyday in a way I cannot remember it ever aching before.
Despite all this I reached new levels of happiness by the time we left the Philippines. I was physically exhausted after taking on the toughest treks of my life and pushing my body further than I thought possible but oddly, I also felt mentally rejuvenated and at peace with myself and with travelling. I’m not sure why; maybe it was the kind, polite people we encountered or the extreme beauty of the country that made me fall for the Philippines. Perhaps it was the fact that travelling there feels wilder, the path less tamed, or maybe it was realising that I love being up in the cool of the mountains so much. Whatever it was, my love for the Philippines, although far from instant, crept up on me and has left a lasting impact.
I’ve got so much to write about our adventures in the Philippines over the next few weeks; from exploring the jungles and Chocolate Hills in Bohol to visiting ancient caves in Sagada, trekking through the beautiful rice paddies of Batad and finding peace in our mountain retreat – I can’t wait to relive our time in the Philippines here on the blog.