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With 7,100 islands, you can imagine what the Philippines has to offer: from unlimited marine life to its glorious mountains. Being the only Catholic country in South East Asia, let's find out what makes the Philippines unique.

Who would guess that our country is named after King Philip II of Spain? Anyway, I never had much chance to explore the Philippines when I was a child – my parents weren’t travelers themselves, so you can guess what I spent on with my first salary.

Right! A flight ticket! From then on, I vowed to visit as many islands as I can. Here are my Philippines top places that you must include in your checklist:


Do you know that the Philippines is colonized by Spain for 300 years, the USA for 48 years, and Japan for two years? No wonder our language and culture are heavily influenced by these countries, plus, of course, Chinese, Malay, Japanese, and Arabic.

It makes the Philippines so unique that if you want to learn more about our history in such a short time,

Vigan: Established in the 16th century, it is the best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia.

Bataan: Often overlooked, but this province 2.5 hours’ drive from Manila contains World War II artifacts, old churches, coves, falls, and national parks.

There’s so much abundance that 5% of the world’s flora can be found here! Giving you these two examples is just touching the surface.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River: This is an 8.2-kilometer underground river with an enchanting cave system. Only a limited number of people can visit in a day so remember to get your permit in advance!

Batanes: Let the northernmost province take your breath away by the incredible views, from rolling hills to the bluest Pacific Ocean.


Thousands of islands and yet no two islands are alike. Whether you are looking for a lazy lounge, good tan or diving the

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park: Let’s travel to the end of the largest province, Palawan (see the longest stretch you’ll find on the western side of the map). With two huge atolls in the middle of the Sulu sea and extinct underwater volcanoes, there’s 1,000 species of marine life waiting for you!

Boracay: Powdered, clean, white sand beaches? You don’t have to go far nor break the bank. Boracay wins my heart and brought me beautiful memories.

You would often see Filipinos wearing sando (sleeveless undershirt) and slippers in the mall, and it’s nothing close to anything luxury. But all you need to do is dig deeper and find these hideaway gems to discover how we define luxury:

Amanpulo: An undisturbed wildlife accessible only by a private plane, you’re guaranteed to have a good time.

Nay Palad: Ready to go barefoot? Let’s travel south – to Siargao and ride the famous Cloud 9 wave!

Image de Lina Loos

We’ve always been proud to say that Jollibee’s fried chicken is better than McDonald’s or KFC’s, and that there’s nothing like our sweet mango! Our cuisine is often overlooked, but in recent years, it is gaining more attention in the world! Here are other foods you should not miss:

Dinuguan: It’s a savory stew made with bite-sized pork cooked in pig’s blood!

Halu-Halo: Literally means mixed-mixed, the best dessert ever with crushed ice, milk, coconut strips, ube, sago, gulaman, pinipig, taro, fruit slices, ice cream – all the goodness the world has to offer!

Taho: All Filipinos grew up eating taho, made of silken tofu, sweetener and sago pearl. For only PHP 10 (USD 0.20) per cup, it will definitely warm your heart.

Before stepping into the Philippines, I recommend adjusting to our state of mind. Here are some things to remember to avoid frustration.

Mamaya na: Oh, our affair with procrastination. History books state that we learned it from Spain!

Bahala na: Come what may or Whatever happens, happens – our response to challenging situations which can have both positive and negative consequences. We sometimes add Batman into the picture by saying Bahala na si Batman or Batman will save us.

Boxing and Manny Pacquiao: Studies show that whenever Manny Pacquiao has a fight in the ring, our crime rate is lower. Manny Pacquiao is now serving in the Philippine senate!

With such diversity from north to south, the Philippines is not a place to be rushed. Most importantly, look beyond the number, savor every moment and get to know what keeps the Filipino people smiling.

Zorhan Mokoele | TDO local expert from South Africa

If you are to ask what Cindy Wong is made of, the answer’s caffeine and a flight ticket. After working in the travel industry for a decade, and explored all the continents the world has to offer, she now pursues her first love: writing while living the Siberian life in the Altai Mountains. She runs a self-publishing company called 8Letters, where she helps aspiring writer in their self-publishing dreams. Cindy also runs the Coffee and Fly podcast that talks about Passion Hustle on Spotify. After traveling to over 50 countries, no place can beat the Philippines in her heart.

- Cindy, a Mongolia based traveler
Travel Writer & Philippines Travel Designer for TDO

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