A short two hours flight with the laid back Airphilexpress, the only airline whose air hostess receive you wearing shorts and runners, brought us to Cebu, the capital of the Visayas in the Philippines. And, just there, our almost 3 weeks of underwater beauty, friendly Filipinos, meaty barbecues and Philippines’s San Miguels started. Poverty, dirtiness and a bit of insecurity were the first impressions after our first night in Cebu, which after having spent the last few weeks in modern cities like Tokyo, Beijing and Shanghai, made us want to run away. But the the warmth of their friendly people, the authenticity of a country that hasn’t yet changed much due to tourism, the unspoiled scenery and the incredible sealife won us back in no time.
Philippines had been a Spanish colony for over 300 years since Fernando Magallanes claimed it for Spain in 16th century, and the Spanish past is still very present all around the country. Not only on the architecture and on the names of the streets, but also on the endless fiestas, on the vocabulary and on their way of living. Catholicism is also an inheritance from the Spaniards, and nowadays Philippinos are now much more devotes than most people in Spain, some could even say they are fanatics. The 300 years of Spanish colonialism came to an end with the Spanish – American War, when the Philippines came under US control. And, it wasn’t until 1946 when the Philippines attained its independence after the end of World War II. Filipinos eat “merienda”, basketball is the national sport, English is spoken by everybody and they go to “misa” to pray! Undoubtedly, nowadays the Filipino culture reflects the country’s complex history.
Although life in the big cities with many people spending their money socializing and shopping might suggest differently, the Philippines is still a very humble country, and many Filipinos struggle to make a living from the land and the sea. In addition, the many natural disasters that hit the country (specially typhoons and heavy rains) make it even more difficult to move forward for those that are less fortunates. The Philippines is without a doubt a very poor country, but I think that happy and kind character of their people makes them very rich.
The tropical islands, which are part of “The Coral Triangle” (one of the most bio-diverse marine habitat on earth), are a real paradise for divers and outdoors life lovers. The landscape, with its 30 shades of green and the white sand beaches with its crystal clear waters are just beautiful. And as you can imagine, we made the most of it! We became Advanced Open Water divers in the waters of Malapascua island while diving with sharks and we made a dream come true when diving with turtles in Balicasag. I would totally recommend diving in The Visayas to anybody: incredible underwater life, warm waters and cheap!
We were surprised by the unhealthy eating habits of the Filipinos. With McDonalds, Jolibees (a Filipino fast food chain), KFCs at every corner, fast food is very present on their day to day life (maybe another legacy from the Americans? …just thinking out loud). This has really started to have an effect on the health of the population and many people are overweight, even young kids. Aside fast food, the Filipinos are insatiable meat addicts, seriously there are more Lechon Manok (roast chicken) stalls in the Philippines than pubs in Ireland. But, there is no need to say that we didn’t mind this at all as both of us are meat lovers too!
21 days are definitely not enough to visit The Philippines, the 2nd biggest archipelago in the world. With such diverse and rich marine live, such fascinating landscapes… there is an island for everybody in the Philipines. We only experienced just a bit of the Visayas but we will be coming back for more hopefully very soon!
This is more or less the cost of living in the Philippines:
- Exchange rate: 1 € = 55 pesos (approx.)
- Bottle of watter (1.5l): 30 pesos
- Beer (1l): 80 pesos
- In local restaurants: 250 pesos per person
- In food stalls: 100 pesos per person
- Accommodation: 600 pesos per double room
- Laundry: 50 pesos per kilo
- Fun dive: 1375 pesos per dive (including gear in low season)
- Advanced Open Water Course: 11600 pesos per person
- From Cebu city to Moalboal: 107 pesos per person
- From Cebu city to Maya: 163 pesos per person
- From Cebu city to Tagbilaran: 520 pesos per person
- From Tagbilaran to Siquijor: 800 pesos per person
- Average expense per day: 30 € per person (including accommodation, food, transport, dives, laundry… but not advanced open water course)
Visit our flickr gallery to see all the pictures!
We want to say goodbye to the Philippines with the song that accompanied us in all ferries…