One reasonable flight from Singapore brought us to a country we weren’t originally planning on visiting, the Philippines. According to the US state department, we shouldn’t go there, as there has been some bad press, so to speak. According to fellow travelers, visiting the Philippines is a must. We went with our fellow travelers advice. We’re not rogue travelers or anything, we did do our due diligence and found that violence, kidnappings, Al-Qaeda cells and all other things tourists should avoid are isolated to the southern most portion of Mindinao and the Sulu Archipelago. These are just 2 areas of the 7,000 plus islands of the Philippines. We decided to stick to Luzon and Palawan for about 3 weeks. The more we read, the more places we wanted to visit, as the Philippines have so much to offer, I guess this just gives us a reason to come back. From Singapore, we flew into Manila the country’s capital. To be honest, we didn’t find a lot to see or do in Manila. It is an absolutely massive city and although it’s not on an advisory list, it’s not a place where you just wonder around aimlessly especially with big cameras, hence the very few photos. Within the first few hours we were introduced to one of the world’s most pimped out people carriers, the Jeepney. If you are familiar with buses of Central America, Jeepneys are similar, except they are converted US military jeeps left over from World War II. Like in Guatemala, it seems the more airbrushed graphics, polished chrome and dashboard accessories, the better. Some of our favorite rides include a mural of Rambo slaying a dragon, the space ghost ride with all white interior with matching white rims, and several crazy graphic Catholic scenes depicting heaven and hell. My LEAST favorite was an all LA Lakers ride which had a paint job making it look like Kobe Bryant was driving…. lame. Go Nuggets. It turns out that Filipinos are huge basketball fans, this alone makes the Philippines really cool in my book. Another fun activity in Manila is a visit to the MEGA MALL. This mall is mega big and it’s not a tourist attraction. We were pretty much the only foreigners there, which led to many stares as well as an opportunity to meet many locals. It’s amazing how many friends you can make going to a burrito joint in the mall.A great day trip out of Manila, one which we would absolutely recommend is a drive out to Taal. Taal is a very unique volcano. Meggan said it best when she compared this land formation to a “Turducken.” This is the glutinous main course that John Madden mentions every Thanksgiving during halftime of the Dallas or Detroit football games. The “Turducken” is a chicken stuffed into a duck, which is stuffed into a turkey and then roasted. Taal has a little tiny island in the middle of a crater lake of a volcano, which is an island in a much larger crater lake of a super volcano. Just like a Turducken, except no John Madden and it’s inedible. What make this a really nice day trip is that you can get lunch in Tagatay which is a cool little town that sits on the crest of the super volcano overlooking the lake and the volcano island. After lunch you can hire a boat to drive you to the island. Once on the island, it’s a nice 45 minute hike or so to the crest of the volcano over looking another crater lake and island. You can’t do a day trip like this just anywhere!Our next stop on Luzan was about 6 hours northeast of Manila, the city of Baguio. This city was actually established by Americans as a kind of getaway for the troops in the early 1900s. The appeal of Baguio is that it’s at a high elevation, making it a great place to escape the sweltering heat of summer. This is why it has been designated as the summer capital of the Philippines. We just happened to be there during the summer and also during graduation weekend of the University. It was absolutely swarming with people. We were a bit taken back by all the crowds, for some reason we were expecting a sleepy mountain town. Although the vibe was pretty hectic, Baguio has that young university artsy feel to it. Everyone was super friendly and social. Baguio has a great central park area with a lake. It’s a great place to hangout and be apart of the community. <.jpg.jpgimg class="asset asset-image at-xid-6a00e54fa8abf7883301347fdf5c92970c image-full " style="border: 3px solid black;" title="Baguio, Philippines" src="http://www.theworldeffect.com/images/6a00e54fa8abf7883301347fdf5c92970c-800wi.jpg" border="0" alt="Baguio, Philippines" /><.jpg.jpgimg class="asset asset-image at-xid-6a00e54fa8abf7883301347fdf33af970c image-full " style="border: 3px solid black;" title="Igorot Woman. Baguio, Philippines" src="http://www.theworldeffect.com/images/6a00e54fa8abf7883301347fdf33af970c-800wi.jpg" border="0" alt="Igorot Woman. Baguio, Philippines" />
<.jpg.jpgimg class="asset asset-image at-xid-6a00e54fa8abf7883301347fdf5b9f970c image-full " style="border: 3px solid black;" title="Baguio, Philippines" src="http://www.theworldeffect.com/images/6a00e54fa8abf7883301347fdf5b9f970c-800wi.jpg" border="0" alt="Baguio, Philippines" />
Stay tuned for our Philippines island escape to Palawan!