For the past year, the Philippines have gained more positive attention, not only in terms of real estate properties but also tourism with its very successful “It’s More Fun” campaign. One international travel magazine even described the country as having “around 7,000 of the most heavenly islands in the world” and one of the top 10 places to visit in 2014 by Rough Guides, a leading travel guide. But what are the things you can do while you’re in the country? Here are 10 must-dos when visiting the archipelago.
1. Ride the Jeepney
When in Manila, make sure you ride the colorful mode of public transportation called jeepney. Passing your fare or “bayad” to a complete stranger (and doing the same for others on the vehicle with you) until it reaches the driver is something very Filipino. Even Vin Diesel was curious and rode one on his own during his last Manila trip to promote Fast and Furious 6.
2. Visit Boracay
Famous for its powdery white sand, this little island in Aklan is the epitome of tropical paradise. With its numerous resorts, hotels, and restaurants along the 4-kilometer stretch, Boracay is divided into three stations. Station 1 has the widest beach front and is where you’ll find upscale accommodations such as Asian-inspired luxury Alta Vista de Boracay of DMCI Homes and Discovery Shores. Most bars and restaurants are located at Station 2 that turn into a big party place at night, but there are other accommodation options here like Boracay Regency Beach Resort and Spa.
3. Go on Walking Tours
A trip to the Philippines would not be complete without visiting the historic capital of Manila, particularly in Intramuros. Stone churches like the San Agustin Church, a slew of museums and restaurants that serve delicious Filipino food are what you will find along the Spanish-sounding streets. There are walking tours such as Carlos Celdran’s Walk This Way that you can join for a small fee. You can also take a tour of Binondo, the oldest Chinatown in the world, via Ivan Man Dy’s Old Manila Walks. You can even take a ride on the kalesa or horse-drawn carriage.
3. See the Famed Rice Terraces
Go up north and visit the 2,000-year old Banaue Rice Terraces, a cultural symbol and a source of pride of the Ifugaos, one of the many indigenous groups in the Philippines. The Ifugaos practice traditional farming and plant rice and vegetables on the terraces to this day, which were built without modern tools while following the natural contour of the mountain.
4. Dive at Tubbataha
If you’re a diving enthusiast, then you mustn’t miss the experience of diving with sharks, turtles, and manta rays at Tubbataha Reef in Palawan. Located at the heart of the Coral Triangle and known as one of the most awe-inspiring coral reefs, it is ranked by CNNGo as among the top eight dive sites in the world. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, more than 350 species of coral and about 500 species of fish can be found here along with a colony of breeding seabirds, one of the last few in the region.
5. Eat Merienda
Filipinos eat “merienda” or a light snack that can be in the morning a couple of hours before lunch and in the early afternoon. There are a lot of local delicacies to choose from like "kakanin" (sweet and sticky treats made of glutinous rice, coconut milk, and sugar), and "pansit" or stir-fried noodles with vegetables and meat that come in many varieties like "pansit canton". You can also try homegrown fastfood brands.
6. Go Surfing
Surfing is becoming one of the hottest things to do in the Philippines and there are more than a few good spots to get acquainted with the Philippine waters. Sabang Beach in Baler, Aurora, Bagasbas Beach in Camarines Norte, and Pundaquit in San Antonio, Zambales are just a few of them. The surfing capital would be San Juan in La Union, known for its consistent quality surf.
7. Go Shopping
Metro Manila has a lot of big malls in the areas of Makati, Taguig, and Ortigas, where you’ll find a good mix of international and local brands. If you’re the thrifty kind, visit Greenhills Shopping Center and Marikina Shoe Expo. There are also weekend markets in Makati where you can buy everything from native bags to organic produce.
8. Sing Your Heart Out
Filipinos love to sing. You will most likely hear people singing karaoke most especially in the provinces. Try it for yourself by going to one of the many KTV places in Manila, and bring a lot of friends along.
9. Experience Traditional Massage
Discover the difference of the traditional Filipino massage called "hilot". There are many hotels and both high-end and smaller spa chains that offer this type of deep tissue massage where banana leaves are used to detect areas of imbalance.
10. Catch the Manila Sunset
Watch the sun set and cast a romantic amber glow on the waters of Manila Bay along Roxas Boulevard. You can park yourself along Baywalk and later grab something to eat at nearby restaurants.
After all, you can still bring the summer spirit in your home and condo, while at the same time travel your way to the archipelago’s must try experiences!