Occupation/Location: Blog manager at FlightNetwork.com and outdoors and travel writer and photographer at Matt-Gibson.org and the About.com Snowboarding guide.
How did you find about the Philippines?
I lived in Taiwan working as an English teacher for nearly six years. The Philippines is, of course, one of the closest countries to Taiwan.
There are a lot of migrant filipino workers in Taiwan working in the factories. My friends and I would often go and hang out at filipino bars because everyone was friendly and spoke English well. So, we got to know a lot of Filipinos. That, along with the extremely cheap flights to the Philippines (you could fly round-trip from Taiwan sometimes for around $60 USD), made the Philippines an attractive destination for us when we had holidays. As result, I (and most of my friends) visited the Philippines several times.
What Philippine locations have you visited?
I’ve been to the Manila and trekked in the Banaue Rice Terraces on Luzon. I’ve also Cebu City on Cebu and dove with thresher sharks on Malapasuca Island, just north of Cebu. I’ve been to Alona Beach, the Chocolate Hills, and the main village of the Eskaya Tribe on Bohol, as well as Cabilao Island, just west of Bohol. I’ve swum with whale sharks on Leyte, and also have been island hopping in the islands between Busuanga and Palawan.
What are your opinions on the following things about the Philippines?
One thing I love about the Philippines is the incredible variety in both geography and culture between the islands. Although they’re all part of one country, visiting a new island is like visiting a new country. The all have unique history and things to offer.
One thing that many of my friends and I have noticed is that restaurant food in the Philippines isn’t very good. There is little variety and the food is simply not as tasty as that you find in restaurants and street stalls in other Asian countries.
Eating a home-cooked meal with local Filipinos, however, is an entirely different story. Home-cooked filipino cuisine is delicious! I have no idea why this hasn’t crossed over into restaurant food. I suspect it’s because outside of the city few Filipinos eat in restaurants.
It’s hard to comment on the culture of the Philippines because it varies so greatly from place to place. If I had to describe it simply, I’d say it’s like the Latin America of Asia. The Spanish influence has left a lot of cultural remounts in both style (a filipino jeepney looks remarkably similar to a Guatemalan chicken bus) and personality (Filipinos tend to be more passionate than other Asians and have a latino-like love of music and dance).
Filipinos are among the friendliest people I’ve ever met, which makes traveling alone in the Philippines very easy. You’ll never have to look farther than the nearest stranger for a friendly conversation.
What do you dislike about the Philippines?
Although villages and rural areas are quite safe, the big cities have a lot of crime, so I avoid them.
What do you like about the Philippines?
Other than the things I mentioned above? Tanduay Rum, of course. It tastes so good that you’ll buy a bottle of Coke to mix with it, and wake up in the morning hungover and still have a full bottle of Coke.
Your favorite place/s in the Philippines.