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.
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.
Like it? Pin it!
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.
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.
If you travel to the Philippines and need to book your hotel, we highly recommend to check out the latest rates on Agoda. We’ve been using the site for many years, and were very happy to find some fantastic deals through the website during our trip to the Philippines. Also you can use now Uber in Manila to save money while moving around the city.
Here are our suggestions:
Pearl Garden Hotel Manila
Elegant and comfortable rooms with aircon, private bathroom and wifi access.
Pandan Beach Resort, Pandan
The resort features a private beach, comfortable accommodation and a restaurant.
Circle Inn Iloilo City Center
A 3 star accommodation in the city center. Rooms with private bathroom and free wifi.
The Beauty of the Philippines and its Wonderful People
Your smiles are charming
A happy girl on the Olotayan Island.
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
A basketball match in Tibiao.
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 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.
Heading to South-East Asia? Read more of our articles.
Your wild nature is a magnificent experience
Green rice fields in Tibiao.
Lush, wild forests, saturated, green rice fields like those in Banaue, 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!
Travelling to Banaue or Tibiao? Check the best hotels in the area!
Read more about Philippines in this guide of Boracay.
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
Church mass in Pandan.
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
Kaylen, 14 years old girl selling fish in Roxas.
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.
Need a hotel in Manila? Check out Makati Riverside Inn or find more hotels in Manila.
You are great storytellers
Mrs. Victoria talking to Gianni at the street market in Roxas.
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!
Kids having fun in the port in Iloilo.
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!
A jeepney in Manila.
What makes them so special is the way you paint them and how you pass the money to a driver via other passengers!
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.
Like it? Pin it!
How To Start a Travel Blog and Make Money - FREE 7 day course
Join the FREE 7 day email course and you'll learn how to start your travel blog easily, how to monetize and grow your traffic and social media. Start now!
Thank you! We'll send you the first email soon.
FOR LOVE OF COUNTRY
by Ma. Cielito Reyno
Jose Rizal is said to have first expressed his sense of nation, and of the Philippines as a nation separate from Spain, as a young student in Manila. Proof of this, it is said, can be found in two of his writings. In his poem “To the Philippine Youth”, which he wrote in 1879, when he was 18 years old (and which won a prize from the literary group), Rizal speaks of the Filipino youth as the “Fair hope of my Motherland”, and of the “Indian land” whose “son” is offered “a shining crown”, by the “Spaniard… with wise and merciful hand”. Still in this poem, Rizal considered Spain as a loving and concerned mother to her daughter Filipinas.
In his memoirs as a student, later published as Reminiscences, he spoke of the time spent in his sophomore year at the Ateneo as being essentially the same as his first year, except that this year, he felt within himself the stirrings of “patriotic sentiments” and of an “exquisite sensibility”1. He might have been only referring to the sense that the Philippines, was a colony of Spain, and as such, the Philippines was a part of Spain. If this were the case, his patriotism was therefore directed toward Spain for being the Philippines’ mother country. Seen in another light, these words may have evidenced Rizal’s moment of epiphany, his own portent of a future time when he would awake to the tragedies that were the lot of his fellow indios, the rightful heirs of the Filipinas their motherland.
Some cite Rizal’s verse-play “Beside the Pasig” (written in 1880, when was 19), as his allegory of the Filipinos’ bondage under Spain2; however, the play’s protagonists are a young boy named Leonido, who defends the Christians, and Satan, who speaks against Spain for bringing Christianity to the Philippines.
As fate had it, Rizal ultimately awoke to the real state of the Philippines under the hands, not of a loving Mother Spain, but of an exploitative despot represented by the colonial government in Manila and the friars who held great influence over the government. His awakening may have come by way of his own experiences at the university, his family’s experience at the hands of the religious group that owned their farmland; and perhaps, from the stories about the reformist movement and the sacrifice of the three priests, collectively known as Gomburza, of ten years before. This last most likely were from his older brother Paciano, who had been close to Fr. Jose Burgos, and had been an outspoken critic of abuses during his years in college at the Colegio de San Jose.
Rizal saw the many injustices suffered by his fellow Filipinos: they depended on the religious corporations or on big landowners, for land to till, or for their living; people were afraid of airing their grievances or of talking or protesting against the friars or the government, in short, there was no real freedom of the press or speech. Most Filipinos lacked the privilege of education, and its resultant benefits, or if they did have education, this was the obscurantist kind generally propagated by the colonialist policy, which not only kept Filipinos in the dark about their rights, but worse, had molded them into an abject, submissive people ignorant or worse, ashamed of their own proud heritage, a heritage that existed even before the arrival of the Spaniards. Finally, Rizal realized that the Philippines had not been consistently represented in the Spanish parliament. For Rizal, this was the root of the absence of justice in the country, or of their being deprived of basic rights.
His essay “Love of Country” which he wrote in June 1882 (but appeared in the newspaper Diariong Tagalog Manila in August)3, when he was already in Spain, and he was 21 years old. In it he talks of “love of country” which “is never effaced once it has penetrated the heart, because it carries with it a divine stamp..;” that it is “the most powerful force behind the most sublime actions” and for that reason, love of country “of all loves…is the greatest, the most heroic and the most disinterested”.4 He speaks of the Motherland for whom “some have sacrificed their youth, their pleasures…others their blood; all have died bequeathing to their Motherland…Liberty and glory.”5
It can be inferred from his words that at this point Rizal’s sense of nation was now fully-formed and complete, and perhaps not by happenstance, its expression coincides with his departure from his country. While there is still no outright and open criticism of the friars, or the colonial government, or even of Spain for he may have only been being careful, Rizal by this time had become a nationalist and had gone abroad for the cause of his countrymen. This is confirmed by a line from a letter written to him by his friend Vicente Gella, in the same month he wrote “Love of Country”, (June 1882):
“If the absence of a son from the bosom of his esteemed family is sad, no less will be that of a friend who, being very dear to all of us …his friends and comrades, now is away from us seeking the welfare that we all desire. Had it not been for that, the separation would have been more painful for the distance that separates us. May God help you for the good that you do to your fellow countrymen.”
Another letter written by his friend Jose M. Cecilio, dated August 28, 1882, also corroborates this:
“I’m very glad that you will go to Madrid where you can do many things in favor of this country jointly with the other Filipinos..so long as they will not give us freedom of the press, abuses, arbitrariness, and injustices will prevail more than in other parts of the world.”6
Ultimately, it does not matter when or even how Rizal’s politicization came, or why he went abroad: to complete his medical studies there; or, to expand his opportunities for establishing himself as a writer7; or to embark on a career as an activist-writer who would use his pen to secure long-needed reforms in the social and political fabric of his country. And because the space for agitating for changes in the country was getting smaller by the day, it was time for him to leave. Under his leadership, together with the other Filipino youth, the Reform- or Propaganda movement– as it became known, flourished and triumphed. It triumphed not in the sense that it attained its main goals of obtaining parliamentary representation for the Filipinos, and freedom of the press, for these did not come to pass, but in the after- effects of its campaign, despite its apparent failure: other youths followed in their footsteps and took the next step- to begin the campaign for separation and independence. This was carried out by Bonifacio and the Katipunan, which launched the Revolution that, in turn, led to the birth of the Filipino nation.
And so Rizal became a crusader for his country’s freedom. He decided that love of country should supplant all other considerations, even that of his family or his own, or even of the woman he loved. From his correspondence with friends and family, he remained constant to his Muse and his cause: the Motherland and her freedom.
When he had completed his education, and his formation as a son deserving of the Motherland, Rizal felt it was time to return to her. Friends and family stopped him from returning, but he was determined to do so, for he believed that the true arena for the fight was his country itself, not some foreign land. In a letter dated October 1891, Rizal wrote,
“If our countrymen are counting on us here in Europe, they are very much mistaken…The battlefield is the Philippines: There is where we should meet…there we will help one another, there together we will suffer or triumph perhaps. The majority of our compatriots in Europe are afraid, they flee from the fire, and they are brave only so long as they are in a peaceful country! The Philippines should not count on them; she should depend on her own strength.”8
Rizal returned to the land of his birth knowing that its liberty cannot be “obtained…without pain or merit… nor is it granted gratis et amore.”9 He was prepared to return despite the risk of death, as he had written in June 1892 days before his arrival in Manila: “I offer my life gladly… Let those who deny us patriotism see that we know how to die for our duty and convictions…What does it matter to die, if one dies for what one loves, for the Native Land?” Rizal returned and offered up his life for his nation’s freedom four years later. Would that the nation born out of the ashes of his sacrifice continue to look up to him and live up to the legacy he left behind.
1 Reminiscences and Travels of Jose Rizal [Manila: National Historical Institute, 1977] p. 21. See also Austin Coates, Rizal Filipino Nationalist & Patriot [Manila: Solidaridad Publishing House,] p. 36; and Leon Ma. Guerrero, The First Filipino [National Historical Institute, 2006] p. 53.
2 Rizal’s Poems [Manila: National Historical Institute, 2002] p. 115; Guerrero, p. 79
3 Rizal’s Correspondence with Fellow Reformists [Manila: National Historical Institute, 1992] p. 2.
4 Rizal’s Prose [Manila: Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission, 1962], p. 18
5 Ibid., p. 19.
6 Rizal’s Correspondence, op.cit., p. 4
7 Guerrero, p. 101-102.
8 Rizal’s Correspondence, pp. 629-630.
9 Ibid., p. 314.