I love the Philippines! I was born here, and here is where I will breathe my last. There are so many reasons to love my country. One of them is that it is indeed fun to be here, not just because of the sights, but because of the people you meet.
Last year, I had the chance to visit three of the most visited provinces in the country: Aklan, Bacolod, and Palawan. What made my visits even more fun is that I didn’t have to go there for work. After each trip, I went home carrying loads of photos, memories, and new friends that no amount of material pasalubong (take-home gift) can beat.
The people of Kalibo, Aklan are the most fun-loving I have ever met. No amount of rain shower could dampen their spirits for street partying and revelry. You would think that they would be tired of all the annual Ati-atihan festival rituals by now, but no!
They danced, sang, and paraded with local and foreign tourists like they’re tourists themselves. Forget your inhibtions — dance in the middle of the streets with strangers. Chill — bring your beer with you throughout the festivities. The most most important thing about it is that the locals never forget that the Ati-atihan is a celebration of bountiful harvest and thanksgiving for the Holy Child.
Puerto Princesa and El Nido, Palawan
Palawan took my breath away. My heart still beats like a lover’s until now whenever I talk about it. I need only to close my eyes, and I’m back where the majestic limestone walls of El Nido‘s hidden beach momentarily detoxified my city-worn sensitivities. When I look back at the photos I’ve taken inside Puerto Princesa’s Underground River and the dolphins by the bay, the urge to go back overwhelms me.
The residents talk about their native Palawan with so much love and pride. I learned that they have organized themselves in such a way that they are able to police themselves and the tourists against destroying Palawan’s natural resources. Then there’s Mang Edwin, the extremely funny and witty guide who took us through our Underground River tour. People like him are the kind you just need to meet in your lifetime so you can be reminded that our life may be short, but it’s a darn great one if we know how to enjoy it.
Bacolod City, Negros Occidental
Saccharine sweet smiles — that’s what you’ll get from the people of Bacolod City. Their hospitality and generosity will melt your heart. And the food! If you want to die happy with the most delicious food in the planet in your belly, go to Bacolod City. Whether you go to a local restaurant (the authentic chicken inasal is to die for) or eat at a native Bacolodian’s home, you’ll wonder if they were born holding pots and pans.
What amuses me is how crazy driving in Bacolod can get. You have to be a really good driver and brave enough to be able to weave through traffic, intersections, and turns. If you don’t have the courage to cross the street, you’re better off taking a tricycle to get to the other side. I was told that the crime rate is low in Bacolod — it’s road accidents that are high. But hey, this road adventure is nothing compared with the kind of food trip you’ll get.
It’s more fun in the Philippines indeed!
I don’t like this new DOT slogan, but I have to agree with the truth it imparts. I have to admit I have only been to three other countries (Japan, Norway, UK), but there still is nothing like the Philippines. Our beaches, our mountains, our heritage, and most importantly, our people’s hospitality — these are just some of the reasons why it’s really more fun here.