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10 Interesting Facts You Need to Know Before Visiting the Philippines

Updated on February 29, 2020
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Jenny is a woman who is too matured for her age. She loves traveling and she is crazy for food. She has a deep understanding of life.

Coral Garden, Loon, Bohol
Coral Garden, Loon, Bohol | Source

1. The Philippines is the most eccentric South-East Asian Country

Whenever people talk or are asked about Southeast Asia, they always mention their trips to Thailand, Bali, Kuala Lumpur or Cambodia. Very rarely do we hear them talk or even mention the Philippines. The truth is, the Philippines is considered as the eccentric one in the region. It is the least Asian in terms of food which is a conglomeration of numerous different cuisines (Spanish, American, Chinese, Japanese and Malayan) and other cultural aspects like religion (predominantly Catholic) and language (biggest English-speaking nation in the region).

In terms of tourism, it is not as popular as its tourism-giant neighbors like Thailand and Indonesia. It doesn't mean however, that it is not as beautiful. In fact, when it comes to off-the-beaten destinations, the Philippines has more to offer than Thailand, for example.

So why is it lagging behind its neighbors in terms of tourist influx?

The infrastructure in the Philippines is less developed, that's why. Connections to and from different popular places are limited and not highly organized. Roads are not completely laid out in more remote areas making it more difficult (but more exciting and thrilling) to explore. Some places lack a functional or efficient airport or pier. Bus connections are either limited or non-existent and no railway connections anywhere. The Philippines is also not connected to the Southeast Asian mainland making it all the more difficult to include it in a typical Southeast Asian tourist route.


2. Filipinos' Concept of Time Is In a Whole Different Level

When I say whole different level, it means, it is out of this world. If you have Filipino friends, you'd have known by now that they are always late for appointments. When you agree to meet at 10am, expect that they will arrive 30 minutes to an hour later. It is mainly due to traffic in the metro (if you are in Manila). It is not because they don't value your time but it is the fact that even if their house is only 10km away from your meeting place, they would still have to leave at least 2 hours before your agreed meeting time and they would still be late. Traffic is really that terrible in the city.

If you are in the province, Filipinos would still be late (Sorry if you thought it would be different). Now, it is not because of traffic but it is just the general laidback lifestyle of people in rural areas. Some people may still be working in the fields and lost track of time, or your friends still have to do some errands at home before their parents gave them permission to go and leave, or they just know that others will be late and so they would take their time.

Now, when it comes to formal meetings, Filipinos will definitely strive to be there on time - but most of them still end up coming late. :) In the Philippines, Filipino time is always running behind standard time.

Filipinos have a different orientation of time
Filipinos have a different orientation of time

3. Filipinos Party Like There's No Tomorrow

I am now living in the Netherlands and as a Filipino, I always get underwhelmed whenever I attend Dutch parties. You see, party in a Filipino context is a real feast or fiesta in our local term. I remember my first time attending a Dutch party. I skipped lunch and was looking forward to dinner party. When I got to the place, we were served with wine/beer/juice/water and some finger foods like tiny sandwiches filled with aioli/salmon/tuna/mayo/mustard, or garlic bread, or cubed cheese with sausage slices and olives. I was so happy with the overflowing amount of appetizers, I thought. It turned out, that's all we were getting. The booze kept flowing though.

In Filipino parties however, you will find the entire dinner table (plus 2 more tables on the side) filled with everything you can eat. There are no appetizers (only in formal and affluent parties normally) and you can jump into the main-course menu right away. It is served buffet-style and you can go back for as much as you can. Beer is also overflowing and the party continues until the next days until the food is gone. You also don't need an invitation to come and eat. People (even the ones who are not related to the host) will just invite you and give you a plate. How awesome is that? Filipinos are great hosts and they party like it's your last party you will ever attend to.

Lechon (whole roasted pig) is a highlight of every Filipino party. Boodle feast is where everyone eats from a table covered with banana leaves w/ their hands and all the foods (except sauce, soup and desserts) are all laid out on the table altogether
Lechon (whole roasted pig) is a highlight of every Filipino party. Boodle feast is where everyone eats from a table covered with banana leaves w/ their hands and all the foods (except sauce, soup and desserts) are all laid out on the table altogether | Source

4. Mindanao and Manila Are A Part of the Philippines But It Is Not The Entire Country

Safety is of paramount importance whenever we travel to different places. Sometimes though, negative media attention sets the whole country in a whole different light and most often than not, one bad news equates to an entire country being viewed as completely bad. If you are a foreign tourist, rest assured that the Philippines is still generally a safe country to visit just like its neighbors. Whatever bad news happening in Mindanao normally stays in Mindanao. In fact, terrorism is less likely to spread in the Philippines than say, in Thailand or any other landlocked countries.

For so many years now, the conflicts and terrorist rebels stayed in Mindanao, thanks to the geographical situation in the country. Mindanao is isolated and because of the numerous islands scattered in between, the problems in Mindanao stayed in Mindanao all these years (and likely to end soon with peace talks being organized and initiated by the government). It is important to note though that not all parts of Mindanao are dangerous areas. Some areas to avoid are: Basilan, Tawi-tawi, Marawi City, Jolo province, and Cotabato. The rest of Mindanao are extremely beautiful and safe; but of course, you need to be mindful and respectful because Muslims in Mindanao can be less tolerating than the Christians in Luzon.

Badjaos in the Philippines live in small huts on stilts. The waters are incredibly clear in Tawi-tawi and Sulu (Mindanao) where the Badjaos live primarily...
Badjaos in the Philippines live in small huts on stilts. The waters are incredibly clear in Tawi-tawi and Sulu (Mindanao) where the Badjaos live primarily... | Source

5. Filipinos Are Big on Beauty Pageants

The Filipinos have graced the biggest international beauty pageants in the world. In fact, the Philippines is considered as one of the power houses when it comes to the biggest beauty pageants ever along with USA, Venezuela and Brazil. To be considered a powerhouse, a country needs to win in all 4 major beauty pageants (known as the big 4) like Miss Universe, Miss World, Miss International and Miss Earth. As of this writing (2019), the Philippines is holding the Miss Universe Title and the country currently holds the record for the longest streak of winning in the Big 4 pageants with 1 title in a year starting in 2013.

The Filipino women are beautiful and the people in general love to celebrate beauty, talent, wit and grace through numerous beauty pageants held in every corner of the country. Where there is a basketball court, there will be a beauty pageant to be hosted there at least once a year. Women are not the only ones who celebrate though, gays also have their own beauty pageant as well as men.

Miss Universe Catriona Gray from the Philippines...
Miss Universe Catriona Gray from the Philippines... | Source

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6. Filipinism (Filipinoism) Is A Result Of Bi-Lingualism In the Philippines

The Philippines is the 5th largest English-speaking nation in the world. English is used in schools, businesses, all formal correspondences, media, music and even on the streets. English is a second language after Filipino. This reason alone gives the country an edge against its neighbors who cannot speak good English especially in matters of tourism. Educated Filipinos are mostly bi-lingual and as a result this multilingual culture setting gave birth to a unique kind of Philippine English which can be confusing to native English speakers but totally understandable to fellow educated Filipinos.

Filipinism is a term used to define words or phrases that are commonly used and understood by Filipinos but actually grammatically incorrect or plain confusing to native English-speakers. This is usually a result of transliteration where a Filipino term/phrase is literally translated in English. Some examples of these are: Open/close the lights instead of turn on/off; come again instead of I'm sorry, can you repeat that or can you say that one more time please?; It's traffic today instead of traffic is heavy; salvaged for Filipinos means assassinated instead of saved; bottomless instead of refillable; and many more funny instances resulting fromsuch Filipinism.


7. Filipinos Love to Sing Even If They Are Terrible At It

Filipinos are great singers and they love karaoke. In fact, it was a Filipino who first patented a karaoke even though a Japanese actually invented it. Filipino music is not popular worldwide but Filipino singers/musicians are everywhere. If you are on a cruise ship, you will likely hear Filipino singers/entertainers singing to popular western classic music. There are also Filipino singers in hotels and bars in other countries.

In the Philippines however, it is a whole different story. You can sing even if you cannot. There are videokes (similar to karaoke but with videos like an MTV on TV with lyrics) and karaoke machines everywhere and if you are drunk and brave or just don't care, you can take the microphone and sing your heart out to the tune of My Way and nobody will boo at you. Most Filipino household will have this Magic Sing Karaoke set and they sure use it as regularly as they can. Filipinos love singing...period. Filipinos understand that singing is not just for the talented but also for the brave ones. So, if you happen to get an invitation to sing, be brave and just give it a go. Filipinos are not easily disappointed. They are also too polite to tell you off or they just really don't care how you sing. In fact, you will be delighted to hear them singing with you even if they are so out of relax and have fun...

Karaoke is a favorite Filipino past time. They just love disturbing their neighbors...although there is a law now that limits karaoke until 10pm
Karaoke is a favorite Filipino past time. They just love disturbing their neighbors...although there is a law now that limits karaoke until 10pm | Source

8. The Country Is Humid So Prepare Against Getting Sweaty and Smelly

As a tropical paradise, the Philippines is very humid and if you are a foreigner who is not used to this kind of weather, you will surely be perspiring excessively (at least compared to Filipinos who still miraculously manage to look fresh and smell fresh even underneath their long sleeves and sweatshirts).

Humid weather is very uncomfortable even for Filipinos. So what they usually do is they go to great lengths in order to smell fresh or just plain inoffensive to other people especially considering that most have to commute everyday in heavy traffic with skin-to-skin contact all the time inside the metro and buses. Filipinos normally take a shower 2 or 3 times a day and it is not just because we think it is hygienic but because we don't want to smell bad as it is always frowned upon. Those who smell and look sticky from sweat are generally avoided so make sure to bring face towels, loose powder, bottled water, umbrellas/hats, and don't forget to spray deodorant before leaving the hotel. If you don't have any deodorant, try the Filipino trusted brand, Axe and Rexona. Filipinos are very polite but they are generally turned off by smelly armpits.

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Tree to Tub Lavender Dry Hair Shampoo for Sensitive Scalp - Gentle Hydrating Dry Scalp Shampoo for Women & Men, Moisturizing Sulfate Free Shampoo w/Organic Argan Oil, Chamomile, All Natural Aloe Vera
It is very frustrating to have dry scalp and dandruff and when you travel to the Philippines and commute like a local, it is embarrassing when you have flakes all over your collar or shoulders. I find this Organic Argan Oil shampoo to be very effective and I noticed my hair still smelled fresh and nice even after a whole day of being outside under the sun...

9. Pasalubong Is Almost Always A Must Before Coming To the Country

If you are visiting some friends in the Philippines, it is almost always imperative to bring something from where you are coming from to be given away to them. In local terms "pasalubong" is like a present or souvenir. Whenever I visit my family in Manila, I always bring a suitcase full of presents for them. Chocolates, sausages, cheese, wine, clothing, make-up, whatever I could find actually. Filipinos love their families and friends and so it is like an inherent trait for everyone to bring "pasalubong" for their loved ones and friends whenever they go back to their families after traveling (even if it is just from the neighboring town). If you didn't bring any, that is fine of course they will still be cordial but when you do bring them something, they will be yours forever, so to say.

This national attitude/mentality is best shown by Filipinos working abroad. They love to send boxes to their families in the Philippines every year containing anything and everything they could find in the stores that they can afford (mostly chocolates, shoes, perfume, soap, coffee, canned good like spam, etc.). Now that you know it, don't forget to bring cheese or sausage or even a simple keychain for your friends in the Philippines.

Typical content of a balikbayan box sent by Filipinos overseas to their loved ones in the Philippines
Typical content of a balikbayan box sent by Filipinos overseas to their loved ones in the Philippines | Source

10. The Philippines Is Home To Some Of the Best and Most Selfless People In The World

Filipinos are mostly known for their subservient attitude (blame it on the Spanish for ruling over us for 377 years) and because of this, you will naturally find Filipinos working in the service and health care sectors around the world. In my opinion, Filipinos are one of the most selfless people out there. They leave their family in order to take care of someone else's family. They care for the elderly who would otherwise be left alone and abandoned by their families who are busy living their own lives and only visiting when things get rough or when they have time.

Filipinos are caring and they are not afraid to leave their families behind knowing that their family can have a better future if they make that sacrifice. Call them nannies or caregivers but they are, in my opinion, some of the best and selfless people this world can ever have.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Jennifer Gonzales


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