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Philippines 101 – Origin of Myth

Posted by on Apr 19th, 2010
Filed Under: Walkabout Pinas

Tourism Philippines Walkabout Pinas ColumnistWhile writing about the media’s negative portrayal of the Philippines in my article ‘Viewing the Philippines in a Different Light’, I was “baffled as to why [The Philippines] has been branded in such a negative way by the International media.” Since then I have come to realize that a lot of negativity towards this beautiful country comes out of misinformation, uninformed opinions/ideas and perhaps a little prejudice. After months of reading blogs and articles it became clear that these common themes were the root of most ‘anti-Pinoy’ commentary online. So it’s time to look at the facts and examine some of the negative myths that surround this country.

Philippine Geography

Where is BasilanLast night I was online and got a message from a relative in Australia asking if I was okay after the bombing in Basilan. I replied that Basilan is over 1,000 kilometers (well over 600 miles) from Manila and is just off the coast of Malaysia. She then replied that she really needs to get an atlas. Most people around the world need to not only get an atlas, but also read it when it comes to the Philippines.

Just to help those who don’t know -The Philippines is the 12th most populated nation on Earth and is made up of 7,107 islands which stretch over 2,000 kilometers (Well over 1,200 miles) from Batanes in the north to Tawi-tawi in the south. Politically the country is divided into 80 provinces, 17 Regions and 3 Island Groups: Luzon in the north (where Manila is), Visayas in the centre and Mindanao in the south.

The Geography of Danger

It seems that many people overseas think that the whole of the Philippines is constantly experiencing problems with terrorist attacks. However, most of the troubles of this nature in Philippines are in the south western portion of the island of Mindanao which is over 1,000 kilometers to the south of the Philippine capital of Manila. Mindanao is the second largest island in the Philippines and the 19th largest in the world making it just over 1.5 times the size of Tasmania.

Speaking of Tasmania, let’s focus on one problem I have. Back in 1996 in Port Arthur, Tasmania when Martin Bryant went on what was at the time the world’s worst killing spree and shot 35 people who were mostly tourists; massive numbers of people didn’t suddenly cancel their trips to Australia or even the cities of Hobart and Launceston in Tasmania. Yet last year in November when the Maguindanao Massacre happened (57 killed in a politically motivated attack) people suddenly cancelled tours around Manila and jumped on the next plane back to their home countries. Maguindanao is literally on the other side of the country from Manila. It would be like people cancelling tours in New York when the LA riots happened, ridiculous.

This ignorance of Philippine geography is not only prevalent amongst foreign travellers but also amongst some Filipinos and some expats living in the Philippines. Many times I hear from people in Manila that Mindanao is dangerous and a no go zone. I went to Northern Mindanao last year and had a great time. I also met a lot of really friendly locals who helped me as much as they could on my travels. I travelled by taxi, tricycle, ferry, local (non air conditioned) bus, multicab, a friendly stranger’s brother’s van and also just walked. There was no point along the way that I felt like I was in danger. I also hear from foreigners who live in or travel in the more notorious parts of Mindanao, that they had similar experiences to mine. Perhaps it just comes down to having some good old fashioned street smarts when you travel.


Philippines Scott at Mindanao

The family we met in Mindanao who gave us a lift to our hotel. Thanks again guys!

Official Misinformation

Earlier this week, I was looking at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s travel advisory website and was surprised to learn that their level of caution for the Philippines is exactly the same as Thailand. Thailand has bombings in the south just like the Philippines but that’s about where the similarities end. Thailand also has border skirmishes with Cambodia, Bird Flu, the Thai Government has declared a state of Emergency and people are dying on the streets of Bangkok amidst grenade attacks, shootings and the current protests by the Red Shirts. I was also surprised to learn that the site warns about the eruption of the beautiful Mayon Volcano in the Philippines. This volcano did have a small eruption back in December (concerned relatives in Australia asked if I was in danger even though Mayon is about 450 km away from Manila) and tourists actually flocked to Albay Province to take pictures of the streaming lava at night. It has since died down and I took my mother there last month and it really didn’t seem like a “hazardous magmatic eruption” was going to happen, as the DFAT suggests. In fact, PHILVOLCS agrees with my observation stating:

“This is a notice for the lowering of Mayon Volcano’s status from Alert Level 2 (evidence of magmatic intrusion that could eventually lead to an eruption) to Alert Level 1 (no hazardous eruption imminent).”

Even though PHILVOLCS issued this update on March 2, 2010, the DFAT website currently states that their advice on the danger of Mayon erupting “…is current for Friday, 16 April 2010.” It is sites like this which present a dangerous Philippines that just doesn’t seem to exist in reality.

Is it safe?

On our Tourism Philippines Facebook Fanpage (www.facebook.com/TourismPhilippines) the other week an American man asked if it was safe to come to the Philippines. Here is my response in which I quoted http://www.nationmaster.com/index.php :

“For murder per capita (US #24/Philippines not in top 62), rape (US #1/Philippines not in top 84), burglary (US #1/ Philippines not in top 68), executions (US #7/Philippines not on the list) the US is far more dangerous than the Philippines.”


Philippines Mayon Volcano

The beautiful Mayon Volcano back in March 2010
Photo by Dave Ryan

The question of safety in the Philippines has to be one of the most common ones I hear and I believe it is so prevalent due the spread of misinformation and uninformed opinions that have spread across the internet and the media in general.

I have asked many people in the Philippines if they think it is dangerous here and the most common responses are either “No.” or “It’s no more dangerous than any other country, you just need to be a little street smart.” I totally agree with these comments. I wouldn’t walk down a street in a bad area I’m not familiar with at 3am in Manila. I also wouldn’t do the same in London, New York or Sydney for that matter. I’m also not the kind of traveller who arrives in a destination without knowing anything about the place. As travellers we must have some personal responsibility. On landing in Hanoi back in 2006, I hadn’t read up on the best way to get from the airport and was quite sleepy so my internal currency converter wasn’t working well. As a result, I was majorly ripped off by an unlicensed taxi driver. Ultimately, it was my own fault for not being prepared.

Crab Mentality / Tall Poppy Syndrome

After my previous article on the Philippines being portrayed negatively in foreign media was posted on countless blogs, a lot of people had their say about what I wrote. While a lot of the feedback was positive, there were also countless negative responses. One Filipino referred to Manila as a “festering sore” and others focused on corruption in the Philippines or poverty. While I have never stated that the Philippines has never had problems, I do feel that the over promotion of the negative aspects of this country has managed to squash most of the good that comes out of the Philippines. I also view this as a vicious cycle which gradually diminishes the pride of country that Filipinos have and erodes the international image of this nation further. I say this because it is exactly what I witnessed on the blogs. I wrote something good about the Philippines and many Filipinos ignored the positives and went back to saying how terrible the country is.

Our own Worst Enemy

Jojo A. Robles wrote on this in the Manila Standard in response to my article stating that:

“no one can out-criticize Filipinos like the Filipinos themselves, as we do every single day in our own media……. if we are to stop people in other countries from thinking that we live in a hopelessly corrupt, poor and dangerous country, perhaps we should begin by ending our own persistent and oft-stated belief that we do so in the first place.”

Last December when I took a walk through Quiapo in Manila with Carlos Celdran, I saw many of the things that may lead a person to think of Manila as a ‘festering sore’, however, I really enjoyed the experience and actually went back the following month. The culture and history of Quiapo is really quite amazing and all you have to do is walk down Hidalgo Street or around the occult stalls beside Quiapo Church to see it for yourself. I guess that one man’s trash can truly be another’s treasure and to quote Carlos Celdran, “You can’t change the way Manila looks, but you can change the way you look at Manila.” This country really needs a vast number of its citizens to change their perspectives in order to create a better image of The Philippines on the world stage.


Philippines Quiapo- Noise, pollution, chaos and culture. Incredible experience

Quiapo- Noise, pollution, chaos and culture. Incredible experience
Photo by Scott Allford

What it all boils down to in the end is that no country is perfect, but each is unique and beautiful in its own way. Sadly, the image of the Philippines has been under attack from all angles for quite some time. Nevertheless, many Filipinos and foreign visitors are starting to discover that while the Philippines does have many problems, it also has so many amazing experiences to offer if you’re willing to seek them out. As more people experience this country and word gets out, the perceptions of both locals and foreigners are becoming more informed. Ryan Buaron recently posted on our Facebook Fanpage (www.facebook.com/TourismPhilippines): “When we see something amazing in the Philippines, we usually exclaim “Parang hindi sa Pilipinas! (Looks like it’s not in the Philippines!) – WRONG. It should be – “Ang ganda talaga ng Pilipinas!” (The Philippines is really beautiful!).” As a result of this change in thinking, Pinoy Pride is slowly on the rise and the astounding ecological and cultural beauty of the Philippines and the warmth of its people are starting to become more than dull whispers to travelers around the world.

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Scott M. Allford has lived and worked in Australia and South Korea and has travelled extensively throughout Asia- Mongolia, China, Tibet, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and Japan – fell in love with the Philippines and decided to allocate at least two years to comprehensively cover the country. Learn more about me [+]

Tourism Philippines thrives on the knowledge of the community. Got a tip, photo or even a guide on a place you been to in Philippines? We will love to hear from you!

62 Responses to “Philippines 101 – Origin of Myth”

  1. Javie Onglao says:

    Thank you very much for this inspiring article! I couldn’t have said it better. The Philippines indeed is a very wonderful place, and has tremendous potential. I’m happy that I’m not alone in this way of thinking.

    The saying, “Be the change you want to see,” has inspired me to venture to the dangerous seas beyond the Philippines in hopes of contributing back to my motherland.

    Once again, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  2. Amelia C. Solmerin says:

    Thank you Scott, You’ve written very comprehensively about my country. Thank you for loving her and her people.

  3. Tristan Mirasol says:

    Thank you, Scott. You are a gift to our country. May you continue to experience the greatness of Filipinos, may you continue to enjoy the beauty of our country, and may your efforts to put the Philippines in better light find more support and achieve great results. Keep it up!

  4. Ian Macleod says:

    Thanks Scott! Good article. I know that when I did a bit of research before going over to the Philippines in Dec 2009, that the country is pretty much blacklisted as unsafe when you go look at the travel advisory on the Canadian Gov site. Having lived there for 18 years….very little of the advisory bothered or affected me. I’m quite familiar with the Filipino culture and I think that all a person needs to do is be careful and have your wits about you.

    I grew up there as a child, left when I was 18…so going back as an adult was an eyeopener. We first went down to Mindanao….but we were going to a specific place…a missionary base….I went to grade school there and there were never any safety issues. We traveled from Cagayan to Nasuli which is halfway between Malaybalay and Valencia in Bukidnon province. We had a “known” taxi driver take us and….. as are all Filipino’s….he was pleasant, friendly, full of information about all sorts of things. It was interesting to note that he appeared to be more worried about being scammed by the authorities then any sort of violence! In any case, the trip was uneventful…other then the wonderful “wild west” driving and rules of the road!

    We next headed up to Manila…again we had made arrangements to stay at the mission guest house in Quezon City. Familiar territory and a safe place to leave our stuff when we ventured out into the city. We rode the LRT…….we met a number of wonderful young Filipino people at a local bar/restaurant….a couple of them took us over to a nearby Mall and helped us purchase a cell phone for the duration of our stay. Another group of people we met actually invited us to their place for dinner…unfortunately we didn’t have time for that. We never had a minutes trouble while we were in Manila. At one point…..I asked one of the security guards at the guest house if he would take me down to Quiapo…as I wanted to pick up some balisong knives. For me…this is one of the greatest things about having connections there in the Philippines…..he took me over there late one evening and in spite of me wandering around with an expensive camera hanging around my neck (I like to take photos…can’t leave the camera behind!) he took good care of me….never felt like there were any problems….though I’ve heard that Quiapo at night down in the vendors sections is not the place to be by yourself.

    We also went out to the province to visit a place in Aurora province on the Pacific coast where we had also grown up. We were warned by some of our friends that that “NPA” activity was high….but we had grown up in the 60’s and 70’s with “NPA activity”…so I wasn’t particularly concerned. We met up with Filipino friends that we had grown up with as kids…..they looked after us at a resort that we stayed at. Perfect hosts, we stayed in the outside accommodations (little open huts that were right up by the beach…..and I left a lot of my camera equipment laying around…..nothing ever went missing, we were always treated with kindness and respect. After the third day…I said to one of my friends; “Eddie…what’s the scoop with the NPA around here these days?” He chuckled and told me that the NPA commander in the area actually lived about 100 yards away from the resort…across the road! That might have been the house that allowed me to charge all my camera batteries…as the resort didn’t have any electricity while we were there….transformer had been knocked out. In any case…..the particular area we were in was under some sort of peace treaty and there was no conflict in that area.

    I can understand how some Filipino’s could be disgusted with some things that happen in Manila. As a person who has lived in both the Philippines and Canada for extended periods of time…..there is something to be said for the rules and regs that we have here in Canada. Perhaps as the younger generation grows up….more changes will come. I saw vast changes now compared to when I was there in the 60’s and 70’s. Some people complain about all the security everywhere in Manila…I found it to be quite non-intrusive for the most part.

    Anyway…keep up the good work spreading the news about the Philippines. Now to figure out how to get over there to live permanently! ;)

    Ian

  5. John K says:

    While coming to the end of a 6 week assignment here in Manila, I am glad to say that I agree with almost everything that you say. I have never been in a country where I have been so well treated each and every day. I have spent time in taxis, restaurants and riding horses on Taal volcano. The people are uniformly polite and tranquil. That is what amazes me the most. Coming from NY and seeing how people deal with traffic, noise and all the other city problems that Manila has is inspiring.

    I had to make a call back to the states to deal with a state office and in 5 minutes of conversation I missed dealing with filipinos. The US folks got their back up as soon as I asked a question. It was the complete opposite of the polite responses that I get from people here no matter the situation.

    I know that its not a paradise for everyone, but for those coming to visit with an open mind, they will find wonderful helpful people for the most part. I even wandered around in Quiapo on my own and survived it. As an African American, I think that I was a curiosity more than a target for the “snatchers”.

    I would have no problem settling here in the Philippines and I hope to make many visits back here.

  6. Scott says:

    Thanks for your comments.
    Just an update – I was just looking on the DFAT and Thailand is now more dangerous than the Philippines as an Australian was injured in a grenade attack.

  7. Ian Macleod says:

    @John K

    I thought that was a really great description of Filipino people….polite and tranquil. I never appreciated that when I was young and growing up in the culture…but going back as an adult….these are wonderful people who seem to smile and laugh no matter what is happening.

  8. Philip says:

    Great Article, I will agree on the saftey issues very much. Its way to overstated. Philippines for Tourist and Travelers is as safe, if not more safe than many other countries.

    I will 100% agree that The Philippines get’s alot of bad press and reputation it does not deserve, on the other hand they is also alot of bad press and reputation from tourist and travelers that you never see talked about by bloggers or Filipino’s. It’s one of the main TRUE reasons why tourism is failing, and we are not up their with other Countries Such as Thailand. Its the famous NO ONE DOES ANYTHING ABOUT IT……..

    I would love to see you do a article on why the following things have gone on in The Philippines for so long, why no one does anything about it, why it is a big sore and fester to the tourism industry and country itself.

    Taxi Drivers who overcharge, wont run meter’s
    Overcharging of White People for everything
    Bad, Poor Quality service from Hotel’s, Resorts, Restaurants for the lack of knowledge of staffing, or Poor Manintenence, out of stocks, management dont care, screw up in booking, hidden charges, try to trap you inside the resorts, accomidations are poor quality, nasty, restrooms dont work, ac dont work.

    Not replying to emails, websites out of date, need cash up front, cant take credit card, need bank transfer, need full payment up front. No refund policy’s for bad service.

    Constant scams on tourist, gun shops, street vendors, carlasa’s, girly bars, constant need for tipping everywhere, street children hanging on tourist and pulling at them. Local’s hupo-hupo overcharging and giving bad service, again hidden charges.

    These are just a few of the many activity’s that go on daily here to tourist. No one seems to want to talk about them, or DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. This is just some of the problems in which makes a bad light to foreign countries about this Great Republic. The sad part again, is that its done by local’s. They dont realize OR DONT CARE, that they are killing their future. Please do a article on this,
    Why they do it
    Why no one stops it, or why it has not stoped
    What can be done about it
    What makes Filipino’s only care for today and not for how they are affecting the future of tourism and the way others look at the country.
    Last, is the mindset of a Filipino to only look at today, how much MONEY they can get, for and how ever they do it, they is no concern for the country or tourism of tommorrow, they only live for today and what can benefit them with no concern of the future outcome.

    I would hope this is not. If this is truely the mindset, and truely the way of life here, and no one is going to do anything about it, ( afraid to upset or have to critisize a Pinoy for doing wrong, even IF they are poor.) Can we ever really expect change, or tourism to ever get any better ????????

    I will agree that Filipino’s are some of the sweetest, nicest, and great hospitality of any country in the world. They are always smiling, happy, and carefree. BUT, they are also doing the things i mentioned above along with many more, at the same time…..

    To save tourism, to save the country’s tourism industry, these things will have to stop. We can never prosper if we DONT DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT………

    • Scott says:

      Hi Philip,

      While some of the negatives that you mention do occur in the Philippines, they also occur in every other country around the world. You have to put things in perspective. Tourism in the Philippines is a relatively new industry, yet in the two years I have been travelling around this country I have already noticed improvements in services, accommodation and environmentally sustainable practices.

      Just to address some of the issues you raised:
      1. I have encountered taxi drivers who won’t use meters and I just don’t get in their taxi and catch the next one. In Vietnam the taxi driver tried to take money out of my wallet and I had to snatch it back. I’ve never encountered anything like that here.
      2. Overcharging of white people happens everywhere. I got so sick of hearing “Special price for you” everywhere I went in China.
      3. You can’t expect somewhere to be the Ritz hotel if you’re only paying 1000 pesos a night.
      4. If you think children begging are bad here, you’re gonna have a heart attack if you ever go to Cambodia or India.

      As I mentioned in the article a traveller must have some level of personal responsibility wherever they go, as well as some street smarts. Some guy tried to scam us in Malaysia last year, he had an official looking city hall badge and everything. After giving him the slip we reported the incident to the local tourism office.
      If you look online there are sites which talk about accommodations and travel experiences around the world. If they’re good, people write good reviews and if they’re bad people, are told to stay away. That is what travel sites like this are for – getting the word out on what’s good and what’s not.

      As tourism increases in The Philippines these problems will slowly be ironed out. Actually, in my experience the Philippines is doing a lot better than most of it’s South East Asian neighbours when it comes to offering a great experience for travellers. No country I know of has zero complaints from visitors, but I think as time goes on, tourism in the Philippines is only going to improve and more services will be offered by the government and tourism organisations to provide the best experience possible for travellers.

      If you have bad experiences in certain places or with specific establishments then please comment on the appropriate articles on this site. I think this is the best way to cause change in relation to such problems in this country.

      Thanks
      Scott

      • Helen says:

        Thanks Scott you are truly an explorer and an excellent traveller, reading an article like yours from foreign countries makes me more and more proud of my very country, the Philippines.

  9. Ramir says:

    Reading articles from foreign contributor makes me prouder of my country.

  10. Rogelio says:

    Please be reminded that approximately 70% of Filipinos know how to speak and write English as compared to say Thailand which is approximately 1% or less – of the approximate 65 million Thai population. This 1% (approximately 650,000 Thai English speaking population – greater majority of them – plus some help from foreigners – talk highly of Thailand, even during their problems – remember the closing of Suvarnabhumi airport by the yellow shirt and the recent protests by the red shirts that killed closed to a hundred Thais – including foreign journalists and injuring 1,000 plus. Their local media and some foreign media pretty much downplayed what had happened, likewise still focused on the positive side.

    Anyway, this 70% of approximately 90 million Philippines population translates to something like 60 million + Filipinos. Say 1 percent of 60 million + write and complain about the Philippines – in most cases being blown out of proportion by media, sad to say – through traditional media, blogs/social media. One (1) percent is like 600,000 Filipinos who complain and sometimes exaggerate stories – this is a lot.

    In view of this, The Philippines tourism agencies, local and foreign media, and social media should encourage Filipinos and tourists/businessmen (locals and foreigners) to write/talk about positive experiences they have about the Philippines. Forget about writing/talking negative reviews – it is already given. It is about time that we write/talk positive reviews about the Philippines.

    Hopefully, this is one of the many ways which we can help the Philippines’ image.

    This is my personal analogy and suggestion.

    God bless the Philippines!!!

  11. Rogelio says:

    What I meant was if more Filipinos just 50% of the 60 million + (English speakers/writers) will write/talk (even one or two sentences) about the goodness of the Philippines through traditional media and social media – wow imagine 30 million Filipinos writing/talking positive stories about the Philippines -(600,000 will now become a dust) this will be great!!!

    God bless the Philippines!!!

  12. Brian says:

    Me and my friends are going to Singapore and then to the Philippines this coming December. I have heard about the beauty of Port Burton in Palawan, Camsur and Bohol. Sad to say but mostly Filipinos are the ones giving bad impression of their country. Some of them have not been back to the Philippines for years and the stories they tell had happened a decade ago or so. Incidentally, the Philippine media is not doing their part to improve the image of their country and some of them love to glorify horrible stories.

    • Ryan says:

      Totally agree.

      We skipped Port Barton last December, but would love to visit the place next time. El Nido and Coron are one of top two best places in Palawan. Although of course there are more that is just waiting to be discovered.

      As for media perceptions, now, it is our responsibility to correct this image. :)

      We can blame a lot of people, but the best way to refute all of this is to run a positive image campaign for the Philippines like ourselves.

  13. Tony says:

    Thanks for a great article. I first visited Manila in January of this year and fell absolutely in love with the people and the city. Yes, it is crowded, hot, polluted and noisy but the people have a light in their eyes and a warmth in their hearts that I do not find in my affluent country of Australia.
    If anyone wants to complain about the Filipinos don’t come to me!! Sure the taxi drivers rip you off – they also rip me off when I am at home in Sydney!! Make sure the air conditioning and meter are working before you get in the taxi – if not, get another cab. There seems to be a cab every 30 seconds! If you think you are getting ripped off in shops well “suck it up princess” ! These people are on a pittance and work harder than the westerners who complain that they may have had to pay a measly 200 pesos more than something was actually worth. SOME Filipinos see westerners as walking ATM(cashpoint) machines. If I had been raised in poverty I would also think the same. So, display a bit of common sense! Don’t put temptation in the way. I had an American complain to me that someone stole his Rolex in Paranaque City. HELLO!!! What were you doing wearing it????
    I found the people of Manila to be very friendly EVEN when they weren’t trying to get something out of me. For example I was in a Jollibee in Makati and on the counter was a donation tin for Operation Smile. I put in what was, in Filipino terms, a substantial donation in the tin. I did not see the female customer who was waiting in line behind me at first but as I turned I saw tears in her eyes and she said “thank you”.
    I sat with my meal and noticed she was having a long conversation with the boy who was serving. He later came over to thank me saying I honour them with my kindness.
    This has never happened to me anywhere else in the world. I could share a multitude of other positive experiences but it’s better if you go and find out for yourself.
    You are a long time dead! While you have the gift of life go out and explore this amazing planet – take a positive outlook and then even the annoying stuff becomes fun. Yes, even the taxi drivers!! I would move to the Philippines tomorrow if I had the opportunity. Remember diamonds are found in the rough, you just have to know where to look!!!

  14. I couldn’t have phrased things any better. Thank you, Scott. I hope this will start the ball rolling and get us Filipinos into action to show that we are on par with the rest of the world and that there’s more to the Philippines and its people than meets the eye.

  15. Eugene says:

    I was amazed by your review of the Philippines. At one point in my life, I had served as a volunteer in one of the Non-Government project funded by the Australian Agency for International Development. Yes, the Philippines is struggling with an economic battle and everyday living is survival for most families especially those in the streets. Our beneficiaries are the street vendors and some of them might be involved in the petty crimes you mentioned. We find it difficult to change their core values and we help them develop to become better citizens but what is surprising when i review my working paper in community organizing, the most common Filipino values that we try to improve are not actually bad values, to mention some:

    1. serve food to visitors first and the host will eat later or worst: sacrifice their livelihood /chicken, etc. for the one-time meal of the guest.

    2. Use the priced utensils and tableware kept for centuries in their cabinets just to make the guest feel comfortable (sometimes offering their bed for the guest / if room is available (huts don’t have rooms), preference is to offer the best to the visitor.

    3. Loan money to buy food for the guest especially during occasions. Or sometimes do something bad just for this purpose.

    4. Most of them are thrilled to accompany a foreigner and feel they are dominant than them.

    (as a worker directly involve in their daily lives, I am sure that they are doing this)

    I think if you want to consider going to the Philippines, you need to look at the place as an opportunity to experience real hospitality. Not offered even in cozy hotels inclusive of tax. Hospitality that is built-in in every Filipino’s heart.

    Thanks Scott.

  16. Chris S. says:

    Scott, can you stand one more round of applause for so honestly outlining what is good and bad about the Philippines?

    Tony said it really well, “You are a long time dead!”. So, make the most out of life while you are living. As a world traveler who always studies up ahead of time, I had a good idea of what to expect when I got there. Guess what? Things were much worse than I anticipated on a personal note but then again, by total chance, I ran into other complete strangers who treated me with a degree of kindness that was simply humbling.

    My second trip saw me trekking in the Batad rice terraces and that was something I’ll never forget. By chance, my first trip coincided with Manila’s largest ever exposition of Fernando Amorsolo’s works. He is an artist I respect immensely and it was the opportunity of a lifetime. The Ayala museum’s “Gold of Ancestors” exhibit of pre-colonial goldsmithing is a World Class presentation by itself.

    I have “heart friends” in Naga City that I visit every time I go back. As you noted, some things about Manila are simply heartbreaking. They are also in such heavy supply that you can do nothing but suffer the entire time if that’s what you really like doing.

    For myself, chance after chance encounter saw me being given private tours of art collections. A yuletide dinner at high table with an Archbishop. The chance to play a short Christmastime flute concert for Camsur’s entire priesthood. Meeting one of the parol designers at San Fernando’s Giant Lantern Festival. My room there graciously reserved in advance without deposit by a local chamber of commerce member. Meeting an online friend in Manila who brought my Banaue trekking itinerary back to earth such that I ended up staying in an authentically reconstructed “baluy” dwelling in Batad. The list goes on and on.

    If you know how to travel, there are always moments of disturbing beauty to be found everywhere. One only needs to look. Having a child’s eye to see things anew will be the biggest help. Posessing a few street smarts comes in handy, too. As Rogelio noted, a lot of people in the Philippines speak English and this can make for a huge difference in the quality of your adventure as well.

    Again, thank you for such a “tough love” assessment of a place that promises so much for the future. Here’s hoping that Ninoy Aquino can get things sorted out for a change!

  17. alexander says:

    Good day Scott;

    How are you mate?Thank you so much for writing good things about my country-the Philippines.It’s really a tropical paradise-a pearl of the Orient.

    I don’t know if at this moment you are still there in the country.If so,perhaps you had seen in live television footages nor heard on the news about this infamous “hostage crisis” in Manila that unfortunately left 8 Hong Kong tourists dead?By what happened,the Philippines image on the world stage is once again tarnished as it has been tarnished already for quiet a long time now.

    Hong Kong issued a “black” travel warning to all it’s citizens and they are quiet short of declaring war to my country.And,some of the other countries followed by issuing a travel advisory as well.That’s understandable no doubt about that plus the fact that they were very disappointed on how the Philippine police handled the assault and everything during the hostage drama.Me too is very disappointed with them until now.

    After all that’s been said and done on that hostage crisis I don’t know if your views and opinions about my country has suddenly changed?

    • Scott says:

      Hi Alexander,

      I’m not in The Philippines now, but I did hear the news. My opinions about the Philippines and Filipino people have not changed. However, after I saw the way HK residents reacted I cancelled my trip to HK.

  18. Dear Scott,
    Thank you very much for the honest review, praises and good feedback. I have been away from home for ten years now, cos I’ve been working in a 5 star hotel in Doha, Qatar. Your articles really inspired me to re-visit HOME. Yes, I still consider Philippines as my only home, and as I’m planning my annual vacation in December this year. I’ve been checking out tourist spots, reviews and news.
    You made me change my attitude about my country and start visiting palces in my own country, because honestly, i’ve never been to the places that you have. How embarrased I am to find that I still have to “get to know my own country”. Thanks a lot for this, the Filipino nation and its people are very appreciative of your kindness and honesty.. hotelier in doha

  19. Bryan A says:

    Thanks Scott for helping our kababayans realize the obvious – OUR COUNTRY IS BEAUTIFUL!

    I am now in the US and I see poverty, corruption, violence, filth everyday! Although there are still more of these back home, it is not a monopoly of the Filipinos to be “bad”.

    I can’t wait to come back to my home!

  20. Aurora Abude Schaefer says:

    Hi Scott,

    Thanks for describing my homeland sincerely.
    Have you visited Guiuan, Eastern Samar? Aside from the Attractions such as the 16th
    Century Church constructed with Corals and Coral Stones, the Weather Radar with
    Pacific Ocean and Coconut Plantation, the Flags of Australia, New Zealand, U.S.A., China,
    France, and Great Britain are being raised every October to commemorate the liberation
    of the Philippines from Japan in 1945.
    Your personal comment about this will surely be appreciated.

    • Scott says:

      Hi Aurora,

      I haven’t made it to Guiuan yet. I want to go there and see the beach and try surfing. I’ve done a lot of research on Samar and it seems to be a very beautiful and under-promoted island.

      Scott

  21. Kelvin says:

    This is an interesting piece you have written because I’m also perplexed as to why Philippines is seen as a dangerous destination. I have travelled there for many years and have just completed building a house on the Island of Pangalo, province of Bohol.

    My father was at one stage worried that I would be kidnapped by the NPA and held for ransom. I’ve had a number of people ask me about crime and security, yet these same people are happy to go to Bali where a suicide bomber killed a large number of people.

    As for the murder rate, Philippines has a much lower rate than United States, half that of Thailand and much lower than a number of European states.

    Kelvin,

    Melbourne Australia

  22. rachel says:

    Thank you for the great honor you’ve given my country. the Philippines is way beyond from being perfect but it is a very beautiful country and people here are very nice. i just hope that some countries would look under their noses before giving bad comments on other countries like ours. Again Scott thank you very much and you will always be treated warmly by the Filipino nation. Mabuhay ka!

  23. Mai says:

    Most of the “Filipinos” who say nasty stuff about the Philippines have migrated. Good riddance!

  24. Manny says:

    Hey, Scott.

    Thanks so much for such a grand appreciation for Filipinos.

    Let me just share with you a little about my father. He’s a lawyer but not the usual you would imagine one to be. Most of his clients were poor folk, and because of his altruism or what I sometimes like to think of as “messianic complex,” our family didn’t get rich by his law practice.

    For some reason, a Japanese man heard about him and approached him for help. This man was bled dry by his Filipino girlfriend. He asked my father to help him sort his papers so he could go back to his country. And that’s what my father did. Despite our own family’s great need, my father went around his relatives and asked for money to lend to this Japanese man. The man was able to buy a plane ticket and finally go back to Japan. He didn’t come back to Manila for a while, and one would think that it was by far stupid to lend money without the slightest assurance of getting it back. But for some reason, my father was simply happy to know that this Japanese man didn’t continue trodding the path of destruction and was able to safely go home.

    Months later, this Japanese man knocked on our door. My mother was surprised to see him. She and my father had no longer expected to be paid back for the money that was lent to this Japanese man. But the guy was so grateful that when he did return to the Philippines, he made an extra trip to pay my father back. (I did hear that there was a happy ending to his ordeal as he found another Filipino grilfriend who was truly kind to him.) Whatever was lent him was probably negligible, but back during the time when he had been drained to the last yen, the little amount that my father lent him was like air and water.

    I know my father isn’t alone. I’m sure many foreigners here experience daily acts of saving grace from their Filipino hosts or friends.

    I understand that many Filipinos take advantage of foreigners. But the kindness that other Filipinos do far outshines the bad. It’s generally assumed that Filipinos expect their foreigner friends to take care of them. But whether foreigners admit it or not, it’s good to have Filipinos to rely on. I remember my father telling me about some of his friends who served in the Korean War. These guys got really badly hurt and had been amazingly close to getting killed. They fought valiantly and unselfishly for a country which we didn’t have a lot of interaction with back then. But we chose to look at South Korea as our friend and ally. And through the stories I heard about that war, I understood more keenly the extent of what Filipinos are willing to do for their friends.

    Thanks again for your excellent and heartwarming article. I hope more will read it and be inspired by it.

    Yours truly,
    Manny

  25. P. C. Howard says:

    Ryan: Just now “happened” on your website and enjoyed reading your opinions of my favorite foreign country, the PI. So glad you boosted the Pinoys and pooh-poohed all the ridiculous travel warnings regarding that country. I have been to the PI twice this year…once in April and again in November. The night before leaving for my November trip there came these dire warnings from the US State Department, but I really think it made me want to go even more. Spent three weeks in Manila and had a perfect time. Last April I spent a week with dear friends near Legaspi and Mayon, and another week in beautiful Biliran Province. I have never felt one degree of fear anywhere I have been in the Phils, even when traveling in the open countryside late at night, except possibly fear for my life due to the unbelievable driving habits of most Pinoys. Have ridden in trikes, jeepneys, buses, and planes in the PI and enjoyed each ride except for being occasionally terrified. The ironic thing is, I have never personally witnessed a traffic accident anywhere in the Phils, including Manila. To me it is a great country with many precious people, and at age 78 I intend to go back as often as I can. Thanks again for your website. Compared with the other countries I have visited (Mexico, Canada, Jamaica, Malaysia, China, Japan, and South Korea), I feel more at home in the Phils than anywhere I have been.

  26. Andy says:

    Thanks Scott for the beautiful things you mentioned about our Country. God bless

  27. Natalie says:

    First, I would like to thank you very much for appreciating the good side of my country. You are very right to say that all countries have their own bad sides and despite the failings of Philippines, it has so much potential and great beauty that outweighs the bad things.

    Second, you are right on to say that many Filipinos say more bad things about our country than foreigners…we have lived in this country most of our life but haven’t had the chance of really exploring it. Even I am guilty of this until the past 2.5 years. It is not part of Philippine culture to explore and it is looked down to do so for girls esp for those brought up from the provinces like me. Traveling is considered to be a slutty behaviour…hence, most Filipinos are either ignorant of their own country or has been so used to its beauty that it’s already being taken for granted. It is also observable that Filipinos have this erroneous state of mind that anything “foreign” merchandise, people, ideas, etc are superior/better than what we have here…which is why you heard people saying “It’s doesnt look like Philippines” for those who would finally (!) see the beauty of our country. We saw a lot of wars and have been abused (physically, mentally and spiritually) by our conquerors that along those period of almost 400 years of colonization and more wars…we seem to have lost our love for the country as well…It is a very sad reality and I could only hope that this will improve before the once good Filipino character is forever extinct…It is good to know that the young generatyion has the Brown Raise Movement which aims to promote nationalism and that at the northernmost point of Philippines, Batanes, is the last frontier in so many ways which includes preserving the good old character of Filipinos – honesty. You will not experience theft or ripped off in that part of the country..they even have a so-called “Honesty store” which is open and unattended and trusts the customers’ honesty to take what they need and put the correct payment in the box..

    Third and most importantly, I thank you for rekindling my faith to my homeland and its people. After spending some time abroad studying and traveling around Europe, I became aware how beautiful Philippines is. After visiting India, I’ve seen how much much better is our worst condition in Manila is…you are very right..and thank you for your honesty because we (Filipinos) need that. Part of our culture is to be blame for the problem…as Asians, we’re supposed to be humble and at some extreme point, we are already self-deprecating..we have gone overboard from what humility requires..

    I love my country very much and I extend that warm feeling to anyone who would love it as if their own. You are very welcome here and we hope to extend more hospitality to you.

    Warmest regards,

    Nalie

  28. Great article really. I’ve wondered why too. I’ve never been to the Philippines, but we have been tempted to go for a long time now. Other things keep coming in our way unfortunately. Planned and booked a trip in 2005, but got pneumonia and had to cancel. Before that trip we read up about Philippines and I wondered why it was not more popular than it is. We have friends that have gone there every winter now for many, many years. They’re there right now, somewhere near Puerto Galera I think, having a great time and we’re soooo envious of them!

  29. Tripadora says:

    Hi Scott!

    Your piece is very heartwarming and overwhelming! Thank you very much! It’s a refreshing read from a foreigner like you. I agree with your observations. The travel advisories are way overrated.

    I know that the tourism potential of the Philippines is great. It only lacks the proper publicity and promotion that it needs. That’s why, as my way of helping my country, I blog about the places that I’ve visited.

    For my kababayans…”Huwag tayong maging dayuhan sa sarili nating bansa! ” (We should not be strangers in our own country.)

  30. Kelvin says:

    I work in and around Australia and Asia, so see many different places. I now live in Bohol for a number of reasons. It’s convenient in terms of travel to and from Singapore. So I now call Bohol home. Let me say, I love Bohol.

    What the Philippines need is a well organised and conducted tourism promotion program. If you call into any tourism travel center in Australia, almost non have any information on any area’s of the Philippines. I’m sure this would be an issue in many places around the world, there is no information on available travel products.

    One investment that does need to be made by the Philippine Government is improvement in airport infrastructure. Cebu airport is in need of upgrade. Ferry terminals around the country need maintenance and upgrade. They don’t need to spend huge sums of money. Landscaping and painting would go a long way to improve the attractiveness of these facilities. Better transport co-ordination as well. Simple things like a bus that runs from airport to ferry terminals (and in Manila a free bus running between terminals). Also terminal fee’s must be included in ticket prices. Finding cash as your about to leave is backward!

    There is huge potential for tourism. But it needs further investment and a properly coordinated effort from all levels of Government (this includes province Governors and city officials who often only act in selfish self interest).

  31. Jasmine says:

    To Scott,

    Thank you for posting this truthful article about my adopted home country the Philippines. All of the stuff that you said I agree with. I hope that you write another one because I really want to find out more. I have recently been to the Philippines and I loved the people, the shopping opportunities but most of all…THE GLORIOUS FOOD! Truly a recipe for great tourism. Thank you again for your kindness.

    Jasmine

  32. Monette says:

    Heartfelt thanks, Scott, for pointing out what makes the Philippines a wonderful place, and why it gets such bad press (Filipinos are largely to blame, because we are the first to complain about our country. Also, the bad press is easy to pick up internationally because it is in English).

    It is so refreshing to read about the positive experiences you and others have shared here. We have long grappled with the dilemma of changing the negative perception of my country, and believe that social media provides an excellent opportunity to accomplish this. If we can get more people to write about their positive experiences here, then there is hope that the wave will change. After all, good news shared by visitors is more believable than print ads, right?

  33. Lawiet says:

    Nicely Done….
    There are also provinces which has beautiful scenery but are unnoticed by many people
    For example Mariveles Bataan ( my hometown ) has 4 beaches (which includes Camaya Coast a beach much like Boracay) the Death March Marker and the historical Corregidor Island, the last stand against the Japanese (though Corregidor is nearer to Bataan, the island was included in the vicinity of Cavite, from Mariveles to Corrigedor it only takes 20 minutes while from Cavite it takes more than 2 hours).
    To Cavite from Me…..You already have many tourist spots , you are also far more richer, so give Corregidor to Mariveles…..

  34. abi says:

    Indeed a great article! Thanks Scott for seeing the hidden treasure of Philippines. I am a Filipino and I am proud of my country. I would agree with you that every negativity that people say about Philippines is a common thing everywhere. Have you been to Palawan? If you still have time, try to visit the place and you would find it beautiful for sure.

  35. Jay says:

    Mahal ko Pilipinas! While there are problems, the Philippines and its people are beautiful and I’m always sad to leave (even Manila)! Fortunately my work takes me there every month–two weeks until I’m back :)

  36. Audrey says:

    Hi Scott,

    I’m so glad I chanced upon your article and have been reading the rest. So where did fate bring you now?

    Your inputs have been honest and unbiased, and I appreciate the fact that as a foreigner, the negative aspects coming from the media and from my fellow kababayans did not deter you from enjoying my country and putting into words your experiences have all been refreshing to me. A lot of things are usually taken for granted for us locals. Anyhow, I was particularly interested on your take and knowledge on the cultural aspect of the Filipino people, so I was not surprised reading about your background in the social sciences, esp. anthropology.

    I guess I just want to thank you for writing about the Philippines. It would be great to read more of this stuff.

  37. reyna says:

    excellent..two thumbs up from me!!…well thank you very much for the effort that you are doing for the Philippines.actually iam researching for an article im doing for my school, and it struck me learning about your article , and i hope you dont mind me quoting from your article . as a filipino it is really uplifting that some foreigner(s) like you really appreciates my country.Even writing such article that would enlighten each and every one of what a great place we have.to cut it short..again Thank you very much…

  38. Matt says:

    Great blog Scott! I traveled to Manila / Boracay / Tagaytay in 2009 to visit some friends who live there. I am from the U.S. and had never been to Asia before. I stayed with my friends half of the time and hotels the other half. I was truly blown away by the Philippines. Yes, there is poverty and air pollution in some areas, which you will see. That is not really a bad thing because it is a real problem that exists all over the world. But these problems can be found everywhere, so why single the Philippines out. You would have a similar experience in the bad neighborhoods of New York or L.A., but it is not a reason not to visit those places! The Philippines is totally a beautiful country and the Filipino people are the best part. They are so friendly and hospitable and their warmth stays with you long after you leave. The culture is fascinating as it is truly a melting pot of cultures from all over the world. It is such a unique country and I never felt unsafe there. Street smarts are good to have, especially in the old and crowded parts of Manila, but if you want to be left alone, people leave you alone. You are right; no one can criticize the Philippines quite like the Filipinos. Unfortunately, many of them complained to me about things and made very pessimistic and critical comments about their country. To me as an outsider this is a result of the many horrible political things that they have had to deal with in the recent past (Colonialism/Marcos/Corrupt presidents), but things now are getting better and this very young democratic country is just now starting to realize how much potential it truly has and how much it has to share with the rest of the world. I hope everyone goes to the Philippines and sees just how amazing a place it truly is. Thanks again Scott!

    Matt
    Chicago, U.S.A.

  39. Prospero says:

    Mr. Allford,

    If you are interested in adventure tourism/ecotourism, try Region VIII or Eastern Visayas. It is largely unexplored by tourists so the rates there are lower than in neighboring islands such as Cebu, Bohol, or Boracay. Try the picturesque San Juanico Bridge that links Leyte and Samar or the Sohoton Cave National Park in nearby Basey, Samar. They are both accessible by land from Tacloban that has a domestic airport that services several domestic flights per day.

    Local and foreign surfers and skimboarders have discovered Leyte’s beaches, namely Tanauan, as ideal for their sport. Tanauan is just a few kilometers south of Tacloban. There are other potential tourist sites in Region VIII. Please visit Region VIII.

    Thank you.

  40. Angeline says:

    I want to thank you for writing this article, on behalf of every Filipino who still loves his/her country. I’m still crying!:)) I’m crying because I’m happy that somebody (who isn’t even from the Philippines) took the time to research and find out how beautiful our country really is. I do hope that my people would stop bring themselves down. Thank you and may God bless you.:)

  41. postmoker says:

    filipinos arent as accommodating to other filipinos as they might be towards white foreigners. filipinos do not care that there are children starving and living in the streets of cities and trawling through their refuse. filipinos do not care that they have no education and little prospect of a better life. filipinos are vain and care mostly about material goods. the filipinos are a ridiculous and indeed a backward group of people.

  42. Mario A. says:

    Very interesting article, growing-up in southern P.I for 27yrs. and now settled here in Nashville TN. I always made sure to spend 3wks. vac. with my family every 2yrs. there in Mindanao. I have always dealt the negative perception of my fellow Islanders from the north about Mindanao being a war zone and unstable place. I gave-up explaining to them how beautiful and paradise like this place is. Specially the hospitality of the people. I get more “bang” for money there than a week in Hawaii. I started to realize that this negative perception would actually protect and keep this remaining paradise “a paradise”.

  43. Ralf says:

    Scott,

    I know you have been toldmthat your article ismreally good and all but I would like to join these guys in saying thatmit is indeed GOOD and THANK YOU! I feel really embarassed as I haven’t seen my own country as much as you have and because of that I am coming home in a month to explore the beauty of Luzon! Hopefully I will be able to come “home” on a yearly basis to explore the country! Indeed the Philippines has a lot to offer and I believe even more than what our Asian neighbors can.

    ItsmorefuninthePhilippines!

  44. Bobby Reyes says:

    Salamat Scott,

    I guess it takes someone like you to wake up this missing pride and much needed love for our own country. Maraming Salamat.
    Isa akong OFW that have almost seen the world. Negatives come with the Positives at hindi excempted ang Pinas dyan.
    I have come to realize for sometime now, and confirmed after reading your article, na ang dalawang bagay na nawawala sa karamihan ng Pilipino ay ang PRIDE at LOVE sa bansa.
    I pray to God na maraming mga matatanda ang mamulat dito dahil susundan sila ng mga kabataan, what they see they will follow.
    I LOVE the Philippines
    I am PROUD of the Philippines.

    Salamat Ulit Scott,
    Bobby

  45. Scott says:

    Region VIII is actually in the top 5 destinations I still want to see in the Philippines. Looks like there’s excellent spelunking in Samar along with beautiful beaches in both Samar and Leyte.

  46. Neechan says:

    Thank you for the positive comments about my country. ^_^v

  47. Kelvin says:

    postmoker is very very wrong. In fact Filipinos are very aware and concerned about the plight of the poor members of their community. Don’t mistake what appears a negitive attitude toward street beggars and attitude toward the poor. Filipinos find begging an embarrasment. I know the beggars in Tagbilaran turn up on a van behind BQ mall and are well organised, most locals know this and are upset by it, as many people work hard for low wages, yet these people do nothing for money the try and con out of both locals and tourists.

    When it comes to real hardship, Filipinos will give support even when they may suffer hardship themselves in doing so. Look at how quickly many millions of pesos were raised for the people left homeless after the floods. In fact the respond of emergency services, medical help, and other assistance was much quick than the US response to Katrina.

    I am very positive about the future for the Philippines. Yes, its going top take many years, its a complex country with many differnt languages cultures and a very diverse people. But I feel there is a very strong willingness to deal with the hardship many face. It is a beautiful country with wonderful people.

    Kelvin (Melbourne Australia)

  48. Rica says:

    Hi,

    My name is Rica Facundo. I just wanted to share an entry that your blog helped inspire. I’m a Filipina who studied in an international school. I currently attend Ateneo college in the Philippines. My entry is entitled “On being a Foreign Filipina.” Since that was my upbringing, in a way I feel the same way you do. Check it out!:)

    http://senorica.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/being-a-foreign-filipino/

  49. Victor says:

    Bravo…..Scott!

    it is delightful and amazing to read articles written by non-filipinos about the beauty and promise of the philippines despite the numerous negative statements from the filipinos about everything under the sun. if the filipinos would not change their pessimistic and destructive attitude on how they describe the homeland, then in our lifetime i do not believe we will be able to witness her glory! the philippines is far from perfection and those situations are common and visible on every section of the planet.

    i am deeply appreciate of your positive, rich, fair and informative description and all natural beauty and wonders that can only be found in the philippines’ 7,107 islands and islets.

    thank you and please continue to do the wonderful job.

    victor from las vegas

  50. Auraphil says:

    Hi Scott and Readers,
    The facts that the Geographical location and the Filipino multi-cultural heritage make the Philippines incomparable. I think there is no sense in discussing the negative Opinions because these people are comparing the Philippines and Filipinos with the developed Cities/countries like Europe and North America. They do not realize that the Philippines is thousands of years younger, with very young population. Today, the Phil. economic development is improving
    without destroying its Environment, Biodiversity at the same time
    making pace with global technology (BPO) and entertainment industries. Kindly google: Good News Pilipinas
    Pinoy Top Travel Bloggers
    Auraphil
    The Phil. will continue to improve as the young Filipinos grow older.
    Thanks to you Scott and other Phil. Friends.
    For those who criticize instead of supporting the ideals of most (Peace and Love) they can be happier when they stay where they are. God bless!!!

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