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Philippines is an island country in Southeast Asia, in an archipelago of more than seven thousand islands.

Over a hundred ethnic groups, a mix of foreign influences and a fusion of cultures have shaped the current Philippines identity.

Of the thousands of islands in the Philippines, the two largest are Luzon in the north and Mindanao in the south, with the smaller islands in between referred to as the Visayas. The major urban centers are Manila (Luzon), Cebu (Visayas) and Davao (Mindanao). The Philippines is largely mountainous, although there are extensive plains in Luzon north of Manila.


When the explorer Magellan set foot in 1521, the inhabitants were mostly animists, with some Muslims and Hindus. Magellan was Portuguese but the expedition was Spanish and the islands were claimed by Spain as a colony. Lapu-Lapu a native chief of Mactan Island was against the Christianization of the natives, he fought Magellan and the latter was killed in battle. The Philippines was named after the heir to the throne, Philip II of Spain, and most of the natives converted to Catholicism. Some Muslims in the south and various animist hill tribes, however, resisted the Spanish conquest.

Revolts against Spanish colonization followed. The flourishing of trade between the Spanish colonies (present-day Mexico, Peru, etc.), affected the country of the archipelago which gradually became “Hispanic”. The Philippines remained a Spanish colony for more than 300 years until 1899 when it was ceded by Spain to the United States after the Spanish-American War.

The struggle continued against the new occupiers and American colonization that manifested barbarities with American soldiers inciting torture and war crimes. In WWII Japan invaded the Philippines and an even more sadistic Japanese occupation was imposed. In 1946, after World War II ended victory of Allies, the Philippines finally gained independence.


The climate is tropical, with the hottest summer months from March to May. The rainy season starts in June and lasts until October with strong typhoons possible. The coolest months are from November to February. Locations directly exposed to the Pacific Ocean have frequent rainfall throughout the year.

The 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Super Typhoon Yolanda, was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded. It is one of the deadliest typhoons in the Philippines, killing at least 6,300 people across the country. According to UN officials, some 11 million people were affected and many were left homeless, while the country faced a humanitarian crisis. Many people are still missing.


Philippines has a rapidly growing population of 93 million. From its long history of Western influence, 377 years under Spanish and 49 years under Americans, its people have evolved into a unique blend of East and West in both appearance and culture. Filipinos are largely Austronesian, however, many residents have admixtures of Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Spanish and American. Many Muslims in the Sulu Archipelago near Borneo have mixtures of Arab, Indian and Chinese races. Filipinos maintain close family ties that are said to have been passed down from the Chinese. The religion comes from the Spanish who introduced Roman Catholicism and managed to convert the vast majority of Filipinos. At least 83% of the total population belongs to the Roman Catholic religion. The Philippines is one of only two countries in Asia with a majority Roman Catholic population (the other being Timor-Leste)

The genuine and pure expression of hospitality is an inherent characteristic of Filipinos, especially the rural people, for which they are famous in Southeast Asia.


Luzon is the northernmost island group, center of government, history and economy and seat of the capital.

The Visayas is a central island complex, with major historical points of interest, rich biodiversity and the best beaches in the Philippines.

Mindanao is the southernmost island complex, which includes the indigenous cultures of the Philippines.

The capital Manila is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with all that entails in terms of pollution, crime, urban poverty and traffic congestion. Manila, unlike other major cities in East Asia, has no particular beauty or major points of interest to display. The everyday life and smiles of its citizens are, however, a good reason for the real traveler to visit.

Cebu is the first city established by the Westerners in the Philippines and is an important center for trade, industry, culture and tourism.

Banaue is a mountainous destination with 2000 year old terraced rice fields. Filipinos call it the 8th wonder of the world and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Boracay is a 10km long island. with white sand and is the most touristic seaside destination.

Coron is the important destination place for diving as well as enchanting islands in the wider area with an impressive coral seabed. Many Japanese ships were sunk here during WWII.

Palawan is perhaps the most beautiful island in the Philippines, with beautiful beaches and coral reef waters that are home to a wide variety of sea species. Here is also the underground river of Puerto Princesa, a cave with impressive stalactite formations.

El Nido is a seaside settlement and major tourist destination on the island of Palawan in the Philippines. Around El Nido are dozens of islands of majestic beauty where limestone cliffs rise, creating a setting similar to Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, Krabi in Thailand and Guilin in China. El Nido is a popular destination for locals as well. Beaches, clear waters, jungle, steep verdant cliffs and stunning coves create wonderful seascapes.

Malapascua Island, like other islands in the Philippines, has a beautiful coastline of white sand and coral reefs and is a major diving destination.

It is estimated that it would take about 20 years to spend a day on every island in the Philippines.



The archipelago of 7000 islands

August 2022

Philippines was a destination I was dreaming of for many years. But the relatively expensive flight tickets, as well as alternative destinations tempting me in the meantime, had postponed the trip to this important part of Southeast Asia. So, as soon as the country restrictions due to the pandemic were lifted, this destination was added to my map and list of remarkable travel experiences. As usual, no particular planning preceded, preferring the freedom of an unscheduled trip.

August is the month when I can have several vacation days, but for the Philippines it’s the most rainy season and an increased chance of typhoons. As it takes a lot of time to explore even a few parts of this huge island country, I finally decided with my travel buddy to take the risk of the weather conditions. An advantage of the rainy season combined with the recent opening of the country since the pandemic, is the minimal number of foreign tourists. Nevertheless, there were plenty of domestic tourists at the main points of interest.

On the large island of Palawan we toured with a rental car, while for the next parts, ships, planes, buses and motorbikes were used. The cost of living in the Philippines is relatively low, accommodation averaged €20 per day, domestic flights from €30 to €60 and the rental car cost around €200 for a week including full insurance and return of the vehicle to a different location. Throughout the country the English language is spoken by almost everyone and only in a few cases there was a struggle in communication. Filipino cuisine turned out to be below my expectations. Although in some places the fish and seafood were excellent, the typical local dishes, despite my great culinary tolerance, were disgusting. For example, American-style fried chicken is common, an even worse dish is pork bellies – disgustingly greasy, even ice creams usually contain marshmelons!

After a few short-day stops in other parts of the world, with another visit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Bangkok, Thailand, I set foot on the territory of the capital Manila, which I had also visited before.

The tour of the capital city will be left for the end of the trip, so another flight will take us to the starting point, Puerto Princessa, on Palawan Island. Fortunately the gap until the flight is long enough to face an unexpected adventure during customs control. While I get easily through the procedures and receive a smile from the nice Muslim clerk, my travel buddy faces a stressful incident. She receives a bunch of annoying questions about the purpose of visiting the country, the professional status, some stamps in the passport. It should be noted that my passport contains visas for Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan, countries that were more likely to raise suspicions, but it is purely a matter of the employee’s displeasure. I try to intervene in the situation but they strictly forbid me from entering the control area. They lead her to a special area to undergo interrogation. Fortunately there is free wifi at the airport so we can communicate with each other. The employees behave rudely and annoying, without giving any explanation. After much pressure they supply some drinking water. We try to keep our temper because any offense in a customs area is known to carry heavy penalties. After 1 hour and 30 minutes, and after I locate the supervisor and invoke the intervention of the Greek embassy, we are allowed to enter the country.



The waters of the South China Sea alternate from deep blue to light turquoise around the scattered islands and islets, viewed from the airplane window. After an hour’s flight, the north coast of Palawan comes into view. The weather looks sunny in most places, calming my stress.



During the layover in Manila airport, we managed to search for a rental car agency, so a nice young Muslim lady greets us with a big Asian Suzuki model SUV. She informs us that the road is good and in some parts has three traffic lanes in each direction, but advises better to drive in the center lane.

As it will turn out, in very few parts the road network has three traffic lanes and this is just for a few meters, then they are interrupted abruptly.

The city of Puerto Princesa is considered a tourist attraction because of the beachside hotel facilities and activities it offers. But the experience I get is of an ugly city which, although it is sparsely populated, has severe traffic jam. After managing to find a currency exchange we leave the city heading north-west towards Sabang, on the other side of the long and narrow island of Palawan. Leaving the main road, we follow a narrow concrete road that cuts through impressively dense jungle, with limestone hills half-hidden in cloud formations. This rampant vegetation easily makes you imagine that some kind of dinosaur will jump out from somewhere. On the road we meet only a few three-wheeled motorcycles with side basket, a typical self-made vehicle that is the most common means of transport in the country, for transporting passengers and goods. In general, private cars are rare and fortunately in Palawan you don’t even meet trucks in large numbers. On the contrary, there are many stray dogs everywhere on the roads that require increased attention when driving. Just before the sun sets, Sabang welcomes us. It is a small seaside village with few accommodations and after a little search we find a basic hut. Next door, a quite luxurious resort is under renovation. The young host wonders why people pay such expensive rooms which they only use for a few hours of sleep! The first swim in the warm tropical waters, under the purple colors of the evening is a nice finale of the first day in the Philippines. Bangka boats, the Philippines’ signature sea transport, are moored off the coast, completing the exotic picture. They are used for fishing, cargo transport and tourist excursions. They are made of wood and carry two extended bamboo floats to support and stabilize the boat. Unlike other canoes, Bangka boats travel faster and sail better in rough waters.

The main reason for the visitor to be in Sabang, but also the wider area in general, is the Subterranean river of Puerto Pricncesa. This UNESCO World Heritage National Park features a spectacular limestone landscape in one of the most important forests in Asia, with an underground river that flows into the sea and is an important habitat for biodiversity conservation.

From Sabang, boats depart every morning that lead to the entrance, where the river end flows in the sea. From there, smaller boats take visitors inside the cave area with impressive stalactites and the 9 endemic bats species.

Port Burton

The coastal towns are not connected by road directly to each other and one has to return back to the main highway. Port Burton is 150 km distance from Sabang and requires about 4 hours of driving in a round route from the west coast of the island, to the east and then northwest again. Descending another road through dense jungle, we hear a noise from the wheel of the car which at first I thought was some gravel. Eventually we find that a nail is stuck into the tire and sounds like  air is released from the hole. Luckily we manage to get in town before needing to replace it and we find an outdoor motorcycle repair shop. Despite my concern, the chirpy mechanic assured me that he had repaired car tires many times, and he used the simple method of sealing the hole with rubber wire.

Port Burton reveals its idyllic vibe along the endless sandy beach, under the palm trees that dance in the breath of the warm wind. Every hour is enchanting, but dusk is shocking. The silhouettes of the children playing in the Bangka boats, the young people walking around and the dozens of dogs, compose a the “choreography” against the background of sunset hues, with the sun dipping into the tropical waters. A beach bar plays reggae music, matched with the excellent local rum served and priced just €1-2. A few days later I discover that the whole bottle costs around €5-6 in the market and I will get supplied along the whole trip.

The main activity in Port Burton, as in most coastal areas of Palawan, is day trips to the surrounding islands. At a cost of around 1200 pesos (€20) including lunch and environmental tax, we cruise on a wooden Bangka with dozens of local tourists in heavenly places, with emerald waters and rich coral seabed. Sea turtles swim in the shallow waters, while at one point they approach people with particular familiarity, since they have learned to receive food from the boatmen. The sun gives me the first sunburns, more will follow.

San Vicente

Despite its close proximity to Port Burton, there is no coastal road here either and a further 2 hour round route is required to the next settlement, San Vicente. We arrive in the evening, the weather is rainy and does not have available accommodation at a reasonable price. The village spreads over a large coastal area from the center located on a cape to the 15 km long Long Beach which, as the name suggests, is the longest in Palawan, the Philippines and the 2nd in all of Southeast Asia. Accommodations are scattered, and at this time of year many of them are closed. After a lot of door-to-door searching, we find a nice room, with the only annoyance the presence of a cockroach. Unfortunately, next day the weather is cloudy as well, the sea is rough and Long Beach does not have the idyllic view I saw from the plane. The resorts are closed and undergoing repairs. Some children indulge in surfing by balancing on a plastic piece. At the end of the beach, a dirt road seems to soon lead to the main road. But on an uphill with deep gullies, the car is unable to climb on the slippery terrain. I try to ask some passing motorcyclists if the road is passable further away and whether it is worth breaking the car, but they do not speak English, nor do they understand sign language. One says no and the other yes, to continue. Finally we decide to go back the way we came, once again making a big circle.


The northern city of Taytay does not belong to the tourist attractions. Enjoying the total absence of tourists, despite this rainy day we enjoy the Spanish castle, as well as the hut village built on stilts above the water. From the surprised looks of the friendly residents I guess that they don’t see tourists quite often.


You’ve probably seen pictures of the stunning limestone formations around El Nido that rise majestically above the turquoise waters. Located on the northern tip of Palawan, it is one of the most popular destinations in the Philippines and for good reason, due to its stunning natural beauty of nearby islands and beaches.


You’ve probably seen pictures of the stunning limestone formations around El Nido that rise majestically above the turquoise waters. Located on the northern tip of Palawan, it is one of the most popular destinations in the Philippines and for good reason, due to its stunning nearby islands and beaches.

We decide to explore for the first two days the area located further north of El Nido, called Nacpan with the same named beach and another double beach that looks impressive in the photos. But it’s raining heavily non-stop, it’s night time the hotels are closed. At one hotel that looks abandoned, we ask the guard about available rooms. He calls the boss but the price is high. We drive on a narrow sandy lane that leads to a dead end by the beach. There are some bungalows that we had spotted on the map. After searching we find the owner in a neighboring house and without a second thought we rent the hut. I have to take care of parking the car that is about to get stuck in the sandy surface that has become a lake. I propose to the landlady to open the gate of a small church across the alley that has space for the car.

The dawn light reveals a picture of heavy winter, in contrast to the heat, humidity and countless mosquitoes. These conditions with the continuous rain do not allow a comfortable walk on the beach and although some people swim, the sea is not quite inviting. In the church where the car is parked, there is a Sunday pray. After attending with the whole neighborhood, I manage to move away the car without getting stuck in the wet sand.

South of El Nido is a series of beaches such as Corong Corong and Las Cabanas. with tourist development and luxury apartments. Among them there are less beautiful beaches with more affordable rooms. In one of them we find a nice room, only drawback is a leakage of the flush switch. I have to switch it off every time after filling, but at one time it breaks in my hand and the water rushes over me. I try to handhold the leak until the owner comes to turn off the master switch and give us another room. The area has many fantastic and relatively expensive by Filipino standards restaurants. There is cuisine for all tastes from pizza to ramen, sushi, Thai food and everything in between. However, what you won’t find much of is Filipino food. Everywhere, hotel owners and shopkeepers offer tour services  in booking day trips, with a standard price, which can get negotiated at 1100 pesos the lowest (€18/person).

There are four island hopping tours to choose from. Each tour includes different destinations, but all the tour boats follow almost the same schedule, with the highlights being the large lagoon on tour A and the small lagoon on tour D. It is expected that there will be about 15 people traveling on the boat and up to that many boats will be crowded at the points of interest. The weather is unpredictable at any time of the year and heavy rain or even a typhoon can break out. Even if one charters a private boat, the points of interest will be roughly the same. For the first day we choose tour D which turns out to be the best choice, since the first stop at the Small Lagoon is one of the most impressive places on earth I have been to. To enjoy this natural wonder it is best to rent one of the few kayaks available from the locals for a non-negotiable fee (₱900), but it is also (less) possible to swim.

The Small Lagoon is hidden. Its entrance is a narrow passage in the rocks, from which you enter a place straight out of a fantasy film. The lagoon is surrounded by steep cliffs, with sharp peaks and dense green vegetation. The place is simply amazing. Towering rock formations, limestone rocks with trees hooked on their vertical slopes, clear waters with emerald bottoms and fancy corals.

Unfortunately, the large number of visitors who misbehave in the ecosystem, threatens this paradise.

The rest of the islands, beaches and lagoons included in the excursion are impressive, but none compares to Small Lagoon. The food on all these tours is better than expected and includes shellfish, fish and other seafood, with plenty of rice and fruit.

The day of the car return has come and in order to move around easily we book a room within the picturesque – albeit touristy settlement of El Nido. Unfortunately, however, all of today’s excursions are canceled due to expected severe weather conditions. Almost all day long, however, the weather is sunny and only in the afternoon a storm breaks out, something we are now used to.


To travel from El Nido to Coron there are few options. Montenegro Lines high-speed boat runs the route 3 times a week (Sun-Tues-Fri) for ₱2800 (€45). Surprisingly the AirSwift flight is cheaper, but there are no seats available. The ship is relatively old, but the comfort is satisfactory. At the port passengers go through a thorough screening under the presence of a drug-detecting dog, so if you have such a thing in mind, forget it. The estimated duration is 3.5 hours, but it finally reaches 5.



Coron town is quite a lot uglier than I expected. It is bigger and more populous than El Nido, without a swimming beach. As there is a ferry connection to Manila, Coron has many local visitors who choose it as a leisure destination. The town is built at the foot of a hill on the large island called Busuanga and not on the island of the same name which is nearby. The hotel we find has a panoramic view over the city and the sunsets are spectacular.

In Coron, similar sea excursions are offered as in Palawan, perhaps even more impressive.

You will swim in blue lagoons, dive a shipwreck and climb an island with an epic view, one of the most iconic images of the Philippines.

Lake Kayangan is one of the most famous locations, not without reason. Here you can dive into a crystal clear freshwater lake, surrounded by beautiful limestone formations both above and below the water. It is one of the most beautiful locations in Southeast Asia. Unfortunately the number of tourists is too much for my taste, the noisy crowds of Asians, none of whom know how to swim, disturb the grandeur of the place. But the view from above compensates me.

The dazzling Double Lagoon is another enchanting swimming spot. A narrow tunnel connects the two lagoons and you can go from one to the other via a small staircase or for the slightly more adventurous via an underwater passage. In the second lagoon he had almost no one but a couple of Italians.

The Skeleton Wreck is another interesting spot to explore. A 25-meter-long Japanese ship that was hit by an air raid during World War II is rusting at the sea bottom. The highest point of the ship is 5 meters below the surface and with a good apnea one can observe it better.

Although the town of Coron is not charming at first sight, it is an opportunity to interact with the local population and their daily life. The weather will be our ally throughout the stay.

Tagbanua tribe

The Tagbanua tribe is one of the most ancient ethnic groups in the Philippines.

They live in remote locations of Coron Island, away from the well-known tourist attractions such as Lake Kayangan and Twin Lagoons.

Until recently, they remained isolated, maintaining little contact with the Spanish conquerors of the Philippines, the Americans or the government, until the 20th century, when Palawan and Coron received a wave of immigration from the rest of the country and tourism development.

With tourism growing in Coron, the government in the late 1990s finally granted the Tagbanua sovereignty over their ancestral lands.

The Tagbanua have an average standard of living by the country’s standards, stemming from leasing their land to tourism companies, which however take the lion’s share of the profit.

Most visitors to Coron will hear little about the Tagbanua. For this tribe, the island with its idyllic coves, steep limestone cliffs and dense jungle-clad lands, emerald lakes and lagoons that attract an ever-increasing number of tourists, is a sacred place shrouded in myth.

We manage to find a boat at a price similar to group tours fee and visit some of their villages on the backside of Coron Island. The reception of these people in the rare presence of visitors, turns out to be particularly friendly and welcoming, one of the most remarkable moments of the trip. Among other things, they serve delicious local coffee, sweet coconut pie and betelnut (which here they call buyo), a herbal combination that is a stimulant and causes characteristic red saliva when you chewed for a while. It is even more common in Papua New Guinea where I have tried it many times.

Returning to the boat we face an unexpected situation. The boatman is either inexperienced, or has fallen asleep and the low tide has caused the heavy boat stuck idle on the muddy bottom. Besides the fact that walking through the black and disgusting slime of the seabed is difficult, detaching the vessel seems impossible. The rudder and propeller are nailed to the bottom and trying to move it on hands of 4 persons is futile. The next high tide is in 5-6 hours, ie late at night. Although I have no sailor experience, I have a simple idea. I suggest we concentrate our forces on the bow which is lighter and less trapped and move it in a rotating direction. Indeed, the ship comes off, we steer on our hands into slightly deeper water, and then with a bamboo stick we push it into the depths. Swimming in solitary beaches is always wonderful, let alone in this paradise. The boatmen have cooked some fresh fish and rice and offering to us as well.


The next leg of the journey is decided based on the cost of the air ticket. The flight to Manila is quite expensive and moreover the weather can prove to be a deterrent at the highlands of Banaue. So a flight to Cebu and from there some islands north, will be next. From the airport of Busuanga we fly to the city of Cebu, the 2nd largest city in the country but maybe first in ugliness. We will not spend time in the city but will head by bus to the north of the island and from there to other smaller islands. To do this we will have to wait in a long cue for a bus to the intercity station. From there, Hagnaya port is a 5-hour night journey. Ferries to Bantayan Island run almost 24 hours a day, cost as little as ₱280 and take about 1.5 hours. On the exterior of the ferry, there are bunk beds that alleviate the sleepness somewhat. We have called from earlier to a rent room housekeeper so that the key will be waiting for us at the door.


For touring around the island we rent a scooter. The road in the southern part is under construction and the mud makes driving look like figure skating. In a stadium we see a crowd gathered. Music and drumming accompany the action. This is a brutal cockfighting betting event, which is particularly popular in the Philippines. The fights of the birds, which carry a blade in their leg, are fought until the death of one opponent. It’s a centuries-old “sport” that’s now a major industry in this Southeast Asian nation, with millions of dollars involved every day.

The island has mainly three settlements. Their small town of Bantayan in the southeast has a cathedral unexpectedly impressive by the island’s standards, with elaborate, imposing frescoes. To the north is the settlement of Madrilejos, with a special park. The few beaches are limited around the town and port of Santa Fe where we stay. The days pass pleasantly in Bantayan but we are looking forward to the last island of the trip, the amazing Malapascua.


We are unable to find a boat to take us directly from Bantayan to Malapascua, so we have to take the ferry back, then mini bus, wait at an intersection for another mini bus that will pass by and end up at the New Maya port. In order for the boat to depart, however, it must be filled with at least 10 passengers, otherwise the remaining passengers are asked to pay the difference, which of course we all refuse.

Malapascua Island, is a tiny island in the northern part of Cebu. With a length of just 5 kilometers and a width of 1 kilometer, you can easily explore the whole island. What makes this small island famous is that it is the only place in the entire world where you can dive with Thresher sharks almost on a daily basis. 



But Malapascua offers much more than diving. Compared to other popular island destinations in the Philippines, it is less developed touristically. This relaxing vibe, excellent white sand beaches and rich seabed make the island welcoming and enjoyable. I am aware of Malapascua for many years, I was dreaming to visit sometime and now my dream is coming true. I have also watched the hard times it has experienced, such as Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 which destroyed everything. But in 2021, another one caused big destructions too.

There are no cars on the island, the streets are narrow and barely fit a scooter. Directly in front of the accommodation is the long southern beach of the island, Bounty beach. The food, although more expensive than elsewhere, is excellent. The small streets in the center of the small village are bustling with the daily activity of the locals, while in the evenings we enjoy the tranquility of this paradise drinking local rum.

We are looking for a scooter to explore the island. A group of middle-aged men offer one but at a high price. After a while the owner comes back, he probably needs the money so he offers at a reasonable price. The winding narrow streets on the island make you lose your orientation and the distances seem longer. In a village, the locals are dancing really drunk and of course I don’t miss such opportunities to participate. The northern beach of the island is called White Sand and naming needs no further explanation. It is perhaps the most beautiful of the trip, and this is helped by the fact that a large part is in front of private lands, so anchorage and fishing activities are not allowed, keeping it spotlessly clean.

There was no chance to visit Malapascua without diving. It has been many years since I last dived and all the dive centers require me to do a reminding dive, which they charge quite high. Also my Open water certificate does not allow a diving depth of more than 18 meters without a dive master accompanying. Finally in a more relaxed diving center I told a little lie about my last dive and for about €50 I will do 2 dives. In the end I fared much more comfortably than those with more experience and degrees and consumed my air tank last, along with the dive master. But to my dismay, we only saw one Thresher Shark and an impressive stingray. Threshers are medium-sized sharks with a characteristically long tail fin. They belong to the Alopiidae family and are found in the temperate and tropical oceans of the world. It is considered an endangered species and is fished for its meat, liver (for shark liver oil), skin and fins for consumption in soups.

Private boat tours are not expensive in Malapascua, so we enjoy a full day exploring underwater “coral gardens”, World War 2 shipwrecks and reefs surrounded by colorful fish and small jellyfish. One of them was probably much bigger and left painful tentacles all over my arm.


The capital of the Philippines, unlike other Asian megacities, is not famous for its charm. Indeed, the picture is of a dingy, dirty, chaotic concrete urban place with a high percentage of homeless and relatively dangerous. Most travelers overlook it on their way to the country’s beautiful island destinations.

Personally, I love to be absorbed by scenes like this, to be carried away by the pulse of countless souls that sometimes look at me strangely and sometimes smile heartily at me.


Manila, where I have been to once again, is a vast city. On this visit we stay in the central area of, overlooking the industrial wharf and next to Rizal Park.

Originally, Ermita and its neighboring district of Malate were neighborhoods for Manila’s high society in the early 20th century, where large, grand mansions were once located. Ermita and its surroundings were bombed and razed during World War II after becoming a battlefield during the Manila Massacre. After the war, Ermita and Malate were rebuilt into an upscale suburb and commercial district. Of course, the contrasts in the city are great, there are many people who live on the street. We travel by metro and tricycles in the wider area of Metro Manila and especially Binondo with the cathedral of the same name, where there is a pilgrim gathering. We “get lost” in local markets and slums. We enjoy delicacies in Chinatown but also in the evenings, equally tasty dishes in the outdoor restaurants on the street.

Philippines is a very special country in Southeast Asia that will reward the visitor with its natural environment of amazing beauty and the friendly and hospitable citizens. I hope someday to visit again and explore even more parts of it.

©Alexandros Tsoutis

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