This past December, Jack and I went on a 3 week island hopping trip throughout the Philippines. This was about my 5th time going back to the islands, and Jack’s first. During this trip, we went to a total of 3 islands and stayed a bit longer at each one. The islands we went to were Siquijor, Bohol, and Negros (where Dumaguete City is – basically the place we flew into from Manila). The Philippines is unlike any other country, but in the best way possible. Each island is very unique and is known for certain things. Siquijor is known as the island of fire AKA a “magical” island where locals are known for their mystic traditions. This is actually the island where my father is from! Bohol is known for its white sand beaches, dives spots, chocolate hills and Tarsier monkeys. Dumaguete is where most of my father’s international business is and where one of the main universities is – Silliman University.
Although the Philippines is third-world country, the people are the happiest folks I have ever come across in my life. The saying “less is more” truly applies there. The islands are preserved and still have their natural beauty without a ton of tourist developments. The first time I traveled to the Philippines I was 9 years old. I definitely had a different perspective on life back then! Throughout my youth and adult life, I have found that I take away something different each time I go back. I’ll be honest – it’s not all glitz and glamour. That being said, the only thing I dislike about traveling there is getting there. It’s a long flight, and you will likely have to take a few planes (or boats) to get to your final destination. If the Philippines is on your bucket list or you have a trip booked already, there are a few things you should know in advance. Before Jack and I booked this trip, I told him: “I’m going to prepare you for the worst so you will be pleasantly surprised when you get the best.” The rest of this blog post will follow the exact same format, I’ll walk you through the worst, and surprise you with the best.
THE WORST (depending on who you ask): The weather is a thing. It’s muggy, hot and humid. Think Miami, but 10x worse. I personally love humid weather, so for me it’s not an issue. I love not wearing makeup and wearing my hair in a bun and minimal / light clothing. However, for most people, humid weather isn’t their fav. I suggest bringing light clothing, and things you can easily hand wash because YOU. WILL. SWEAT. You will also want to travel light. I usually check a bag because I stay for at least 14 days, but I also bring a duffle bag I can easily take it back-and-forth on boats and between islands while my large suitcase is left at my family’s house. If you don’t have a place to store your large luggage the entire time, then I highly suggest traveling light and bringing only a duffle bag IF you are going back-and-forth between islands. If you’re staying in one place for a long time, then it won’t matter if you have your large suitcase. However, keep in mind this is a third world country and not like LA. Leave your “nice” clothes, wedges, and going-out outfits at home, because frankly, no one cares. Your Instagram might care if you’re wearing Rainbow sandals at a bar, but no one else will. Don’t forget to pack your travel size Tide, you’ll thank me later for this.
As a lover of humid weather, sweat doesn’t bug me but bugs do. With this weather also comes a lot of weird bugs and mosquitos. Definitely stop at Target or your local drug store and buy all the OFF you can get. I’m serious. Bring like 3 bottles of it with you so you never run out. Why? Because it doesn’t really exist in the Philippines if you run out, and the bugs are everywhere. Also be sure to bring Aloe Vera (also doesn’t really exist unless it’s au natural from a plant you have to cut yourself) and hydrocortisone (itch relief cream) for the bug bites you are likely to have.
I also always make a point to travel with a roll of toilet paper & hand sanitizer in my carry on luggage. Say goodbye to properly stocked restrooms when you leave the States, and hello to restrooms that only have a toilet (no toilet paper, no sink, nada). If you’re at the main, large airport, you won’t have this issue. However, if you’re at a small, island airport or local restroom at a restaurant, they may not always be properly stocked. I always keep travel size tissues and hand sanitizer in my purse, as well as a roll of toilet paper in my carry on bag for this exact reason.
THE BEST: The weather. Like I said, I love humid & hot weather. I love not having to do my hair, wear makeup or get dressed up. I’m also all about bikini & barefoot life and love hanging out at the beach. This is definitely the place to do this! When I travel to the Philippines, I truly feel I am my best self, and the weather plays a big role in my mood. I feel refreshed, stress-free and just like I finished a week-long juice cleanse without having to drink anything green. You will really “sweat it out” the first few days you are there, but then your body adapts. My skin has never glowed like it has while I have been in this country. Science? Maybe.
I touched on this before, but the people are my favorite part of this trip. With so little, they have so much. They are happy, they are stress-free, and they are kind. It really puts things in perspective as to how we have so much at our fingertips here in the States, yet so many of us are unhappy, unfulfilled, and unsatisfied. Filipinos also have the best manners and sense of humor. Everywhere you go, you will likely be greeted as “Sir” or “Ma’am”. Don’t take anything personal, either. Joking is a form of camaraderie, and it’s never meant to be anything but fun. I highly encourage you to learn from the people and learn their way of life in this sense.
The Philippines is full of thousands of islands. Many are still probably undiscovered! That being said, there is still so much natural beauty to be seen there. I fear that soon tourists will takeover and will develop those “tourist trap” type of things, but for now, soak in all the natural beauty the islands have to offer. When I say natural beauty, I mean natural hot springs in the mountains, waterfalls that are not man-made, crystal clear beach water, palm trees that actually grew there and weren’t planted there for aesthetic, and so-on. Think Hawaii before it turned into America’s #1 hot travel spot.
Last but not least, the food. The food is so tasteful and highly affordable. Everything is also very fresh. If you’re a fruit lover, then you will LOVE the mangos here. I’ve never had a sweeter, juicier mango in my life. I totally scared Jack when preparing him about the food situation because I am a really picky eater and told him the only thing I find myself eating while in the Philippines are mangos. He thought this meant that the food was so bad, that was all I could eat, lol. I was like, it’s quite the opposite! Chicken Adobo (chicken & rice), Lumpia (pork spring rolls), Halo Halo (the best dessert ever), Buko (coconut juice/water out of a fresh real coconut), are all some of my favorites and go-tos.
Overall, there are so many things I love about this country that there is no way I could possibly get it out in one blog post! If you want to learn more about my travel to the Philippines, comment below!