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Viewing the Philippines in a Different Light

Posted by on Oct 7th, 2009
Filed Under: Walkabout Pinas

Tourism Philippines Walkabout Pinas ColumnistIf you live outside of the Philippines and you watch or read the news you may feel very justified in believing that the Philippines is a very dangerous country. Savaged by typhoons, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, and terrorist attacks. You may also be assured in your belief that it is a poor country with images of children picking through garbage, slums, and corruption scandals broadcast in most international news reports. I am not going to deny that these things are true, however, they are not all that the country contains. Not every person in the Philippines is poor, a terrorist, or a victim of terror. In fact other countries around the world suffer from these same problems yet they do not become iconic images of those nations.

The common view of the Philippines

A few months ago I was at a roof-top birthday party in Makati filled with socialites and expats. Whilst there I was introduced to a German ‘journalist’, and my friend asked him why the Philippines is portrayed in such a negative light in the foreign media. His response was in two parts; Firstly because in his experience he could not sell stories about the Philippines in Germany if they were not about poverty, violence, or corruption. Secondly, he said that because there is so much poverty, violence, and corruption there is nothing else to report on. After saying this he sipped his glass of red wine and was whisked away into a group of Filipino socialites.

Philippines Makati

Makati City. No slums or garbage dumps here.
Photo by Scott M.Allford

Perhaps the red wine was ‘poor’ in taste, or the fact that that particular roof-top was one of the few in Makati which doesn’t have a swimming pool made him focus on the poverty in the Philippines, or maybe the sounds of merrymaking were ‘violent’ on his ears. I think that it was none of these things. Germany, a developed country, has slums. But if the focus can be moved away from the poverty in the developed countries and put on some islands way out in the Pacific Ocean, then people in developed countries can feel a little bit better.

I remember growing up in Australia, taking garbage out to the dump after cleaning up the garden. I would see Aboriginals picking through the garbage for food. Yet that has never been an iconic image of Australia. I went to ‘water villages’ in Malaysia and Brunei and thought how similar they look to slums in Manila. Yet ‘water villages’ are tourist attractions and the slums here are not. I lived in South Korea a few hundred kilometres away from the DMZ, with jets and helicopters flying overhead all the time it felt like a war zone. In the spring I would have 40 tanks facing in the direction of my apartment. Yet South Korea is generally not viewed or branded as a dangerous country. And South Korea has slums too. Perhaps the time will come when people outside the Philippines will come to realise that the branded image of the Philippines portrayed in the media is only a small piece of the full picture of this country.

A Different View

Since the Philippines was settled by people 30,000 years ago this country has blossomed into a mix of over 180 indigenous ethnic groups, over half of which also represent unique linguistic groups. This array of cultures, languages, and cultural artifacts cannot be matched by most nations of the world. From the Ilocano, Pangasinense, Kapampangan, Tagalog, Bicolano, and Visayans to the Binukid, Moros, Ati, Igorot, and the T’boli, just to name a few. These cultures are rich, strong and proud and in most cases the people that make up these cultures are very friendly and welcoming to outsiders. On a trip to Sagada I was welcomed into a very warm and friendly Kankanaey family. They showed us around Sagada and told us stories of Kankanaey cultural practices. They even taught me how to wear a traditional bahag (a hand-loomed loin cloth or G-string).

Neighbouring Sagada is Ifugao, with vast rice terraces that shape the mountains of the region. The oldest rice terraces are 6,000 years old, which is 1,000 years older than the oldest pyramid in Egypt. If put end to end the rice terraces dwarf the Great Wall of China and the rice terraces were not made by using slave labor like most other ancient wonders of the world.

Philippines, Ifugao Rice Terraces

Banaue Rice Terraces. Also known as the 8th Wonder of the World
Photo by Ecogarden

The Banaue Rice Terraces are a UNESCO World Heritage site. But they are not alone. The Philippines have numerous UNESCO world heritage sites including the Baroque churches of San Agustin Church in Manila, Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur, San Agustin Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte, and Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church in Miag-ao, Iloilo. There is also the beautiful and historic town of Vigan in Ilocos Sur. Furthermore, there are the natural UNESCO World Heritage sites of the Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park and the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.

Philippines Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River

Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River
Photo by ididj0emama

Lastly the Philippines consists of 7,107 beautiful islands. These islands contain remote beaches and amazing rock formations as well as other natural wonders like the Chocolate Hills in Bohol, the perfectly conical Mt. Mayon volcano or the stunning Bacuit Bay in El Nido, Palwan. But also on these islands is a range of biodiversity not seen in most other places on the planet. In Romblon, Sibuyan Island is known as the Galapagos of Asia as it contains such a diverse range of species which can be found nowhere else on the planet. If you get off these islands and dive into the cool blue-turquoise waters of the Philippines, you may also see some of the richest biodiversity in the world’s seas. The Verde Island Passage has been named as the ‘centre of the centre’ of marine biodiversity in the world. It has over 300 species of corals as well as vast numbers of fish that you will not find anywhere else.

Philippines Tubbataha Reef

Tubbataha Reef
Photo by Raymond

With all that this country has to offer I am baffled as to why it has been branded in such a negative way by the International media. However, I think that more and more people are starting to discover that there is a different side to the Philippines to the one they have been bombarded with for the past few decades. Those who come to the Philippines to seek out the beauty of this country will not be disappointed. However, first time travellers to the Philippines should beware, just like me and many other foreigners, this amazing country may compel you to stay quite a bit longer than you initially planned.

Editor addon

PKTan: Scott’s article ‘Viewing the Philippines in a Different Light’ had been mentioned on several other websites. Here are some of the responses to the article: Our own worst enemy (Manila Standard Today) & The Kindle works (Manila Bulletin).

Editor addon

Scott: Check out the follow up article: Philippines 101 – Origin of Myth, which was posted a few months after this article.

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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!

77 Responses to “Viewing the Philippines in a Different Light”

  1. ROYJEN says:

    Great article! Shed’s new light on the Philippines. What the country needs most is a strong new President to turn the cities “green” and to help develop more eco-tourism throughout the islands.

    • Scott says:

      Hi ROYJEN,
      I agree that eco-tourism is the way to go. Travelling around the Philippines I have actually encountered quite a bit of eco-tourism going on already. In Sagada, Hundred Islands, Pinatubo, Camarines Norte, Bohol, Aklan, Mapawa in CDO are just a few of the eco-tourism sites I’ve come across. I would also love to see the government green the cities as you said. They have started plans to clean up the Pasig, but this is only a small step.

  2. Gali Valiente says:

    Hi Scott,

    Thank you for painting a more complete Philippines and sharing your appreciation of our culture.

    There is one place in the Philippines which is a bit different than the rest of the country – the northern most province – Batanes. If you like nature, a little peace and quiet, this is the place to be.

    Enjoy your stay in our humble country.


    Gali Valiente :-)

    • Scott says:

      Hi Gali,

      Yes, I’m actually going to Batanes next month. I’ve heard it’s very beautiful with a very unique culture. I’ve been looking forward to seeing Batanes for quite a while now.

  3. Trish says:

    I really enjoyed reading your article. The Philippines does get a bad wrap and often I speak to people from Western/developed countries who have this very tarnished image of our country and I am constantly defending it.
    I was born in the Philippines but grew up in Australia and also lived in the UK. Apart from the routine visits every few years to visit family, I felt a bit distant from my Filipino heritage for a long time until I had the opportunity to spend about 6 months there last year. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel around and see some of the places you mentioned (Hundred islands, chocolate hills, baguio and MORE!) and as a result I felt a stronger connection to the motherland and absorbed much of her history.
    There should be more articles like yours that offer positive and real insights of the raw and untouched beauty that the Philippines has to offer.
    Trish C

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Trish,

      Use the power of blogging and the rest of social media to write and talk about the beauty of the Philippines. Let us correct this too much negative perception because most of it is untrue and unfair. I think as Filipinos, first and foremost, it is our responsibility to defend the honor of our country. Great job about taking your time rediscovering the Philippines. Take heaps of pictures! Talk about the Philippines to your friends. Show Filipino Pride. :)

      Cheers kababayan,


      • cris says:

        hi ryan,

        may your positive attitude and fervor in promoting and changing your countrymen’s outlook towards the Philippines be emulated by those who read your blogs.

        i look forward to hearing more from and of you.

        • Ryan says:

          Thanks Cris,

          It’s about time to balance the news and views. We have subjected ourselves from too much criticism. When National Geographic named the Philippines as one of the top 25 best new destinations around the world for 2010, they practically said on their first sentence that the Philippines has a really bad PR. What we just wanted to do is balance that image which is way too biased towards the negative. I hope you join us in our advocacy in showing the world a more complete picture of the Philippines.



  4. Scott says:

    Hi Trish,

    Thanks for your comments. I too wish there were more articles and news on the good things the Philippines has to offer.

  5. Mayumi says:

    Thanks for this positive article and for your heart for the Philippines. I can sense that these years we Filipinos are sensing an improved and complete picture of who we are as a nation and as a people. I don’t get offended reading about our country being highlighted for its poverty, corruption or criminality for they are true and we need these truths to realize where we are as compared to our other Asian neighbors. I’m hopeful for there are more patriotic youth who desire excellence, honor and pride for the whole Filipino race and not just individually. This could be the start of a better Philippines.

  6. pEDo says:

    Great web site Scott. I’ll bookmark this website of yours when I have already put up my travel blogsite.

    You may want to visit some islands in Region 5 like Bicol, famous for its perfectly cone-shaped “Mayon” Volcano, and nearby neighboring ilsand is Masbate which is also famous for its Rodeo, Coconut products, and undiscovered beaches.

    • Scott says:

      Hi pEDo,

      I’ve actually been to Bicol (Cam Sur & Norte) already, but I’m heading to Albay and Sorsogon next year. I have so many places to see in this country so I don’t know if I’m going to make it to Masbate because being an Australian, rodeos are not new to me. But if you can send some more information on Masbate’s ‘undiscovered beaches’ it would be appreciated.

  7. eva_Makati City says:

    Hi Scott,

    What a refreshing article! I can feel your sincerity and you did truly enjoy your stay here in our beautiful country. Thank you for this wonderful blog. I hope one day the world will see the real beauty of Philippines as you did.

    Despite all those negative view of the world, I am a proud Filipina!

  8. Carsten says:

    I believe that the German ‘journalist’ you referring to is me. First of all, dude, ever heard about sarcasm. If you quote something or somebody put it into context. I was talking about editors in my country not sharing my enthusiasm about the country I fell in love with and decided to live in certainly not because of the ‘horrors’. In fact I was complaining about the filthy media business. Despite that – if you want good news: read a book or a travel guide, buy a postcard not a newspaper. Man, you are insulting my intelligence. Tourism or travel writing is not biased? Do you really believe everyone thinks that the Philippines is just about poverty and corruption? Ever though about it that it might be because its true? Probably not. Besides that,despite all the beauty the Philippines offers – the country does have considerable problems. Look at the website of transparency international, reports from UNDP, UNICEF or WFP or Human Righs Watch and get your facts. Makati has no poverty? Where do you live, dude? Open your eyes. But being a travel ‘writer’ you probably prefer not to see. I would agree Makati has less poverty, mainly because its the financial district and inhabited by the wealthy. The Philippines is a country where poverty and corruption is rampant. 55 per cent of Metro Manila live in poverty. The country can’t solve the conflict with the MILF because some greedy corrupt bastards in the peace process would lose their benefits. A lot of Filipinos like to believe they live in an enchanted kingdom. Peace of cake if you live behind walled communities with small militias guarding the gates. If you close your eyes it does not mean the problems do not exist. But there is a solution – change the system, get rid of poverty and corruption, elect people who actually serve the people and not themselves. But why would they. The country is run by a small elite and a handful of super rich families – and they have better things to do than biting the hand which feeds them.

    And here comes a little surprise: Afghanistan has incredible landscapes and unique hospitable people. the Congo has cute Gorillas and sensational rain forest, Somalia has got a beautiful pristine coastline with some of the best lobsters in the world and the Sudan has some of the best diving in the world. People like you would probably not see the need to report about their problems too – as long as there is something to justify the need for selfish travel desire.

    Hey, another place you might want to ‘explore’ – sugar beach in Negros. So beautiful – and poor people are not allowed to go there. Seems just like your place.

    But I say, as long as children have to beg, women need to sell their bodies, hundred of thousand rather dwell in self imposed slavery in the middle east or Hong Kong to feed their families back home, people die of simple diseases like flu in Mindanao because there is just one doctor for every 50.000 people. As long as people live under bridges and on cemeteries. As long as the organ mafia kills children to sell their organs, not to mention death squads or extrajudicial killings – lets report about that and spread the word on a roof top party with a glass of red wine and let yourself being whisked away by some socialites. There is no need not to enjoy life and celebrate the fact that you have been lucky enough to be born on the right side – but this also comes with a responsibility: Not to close your eyes.

    Btw, as a German I am curious where we have slums. We have poverty, certainly and a rising gap between rich and poor, also a minor issue with a handful of idiots who call themselves neo nazis- but no slums. Again, get your facts straight.

    Well, go enjoy the beaches, mate!

    • Ryan says:


      Come on dude, what intelligence are you talking about? We know your kind of journalism, the brand that’s just unoriginal and exhibits and HIGHLIGHTS the direst things to entertain your perfumed audience for your Poverty Porn exhibit. Yes, we know about poverty, but yeah, aside from opening your eyes, did you ever do anything to alleviate it? Poverty Porn exhibition eh? What a laugh! Schadenfreude much?

      The fact that this article was actually talked about in this week’s issues of Manila Bulletin, Manila Standard and Malaya and gets printed on many websites and passed around as emails meaning that there is truth in these articles. You can even ask Rico Hizon of BBC who posted it at his Good News Pilipinas website.

      Don’t insult the fact that we have traveled and met the people in this country more than you will ever have. Sugar Beach? Are you kidding me? One can open a Lonely Planet old edition and pick that one out. We know people in Sipalay. Puhleeze.

      As a Filipino, I am appalled from what you just said and just confirms the type of journalism you espouse. I grew up having to contend with national self-flagellation and with foreign journalists who come here, live here, sleep around, wine and dine around and still end up cussing the very country that was hospitable to them. Sounds like first-class bullshit to me. You know what, enough is enough. We have had enough from people like you who pass around sweeping judgement calls on a people and a country you barely know. I have walked, worked, lived around with people who you call poor. Instead of peddling hope and pride, you only see this country through imperialist lenses.

      Please do not patronize us Filipinos with your gesticulations about how UN, WFP and other international agencies speak about our poverty. We know about that, we lived with that. We have read those reports dude.

      Please do not insult our intelligence. Did the article deny there was any poverty? No. Maybe next time you should read it again more carefully.

      Have fun in the Philippines- your poverty-stricken little brown man country host.

    • Scott says:

      Hi Carsten,

      Well the German journalist I wrote about only liked to focus on the negatives. But wait, your reply (or rather rant) spoke about poverty, corruption, conflict with the MILF, prostitution, slavery, extrajudicial killings, and death squads. It seems you only like to speak about the negatives too. Funny that…..

      You seemed to have missed the introduction of my article where I said, “I am not going to deny that these things are true, however, they are not all that the country contains.” Which leads me to think that you seem to be a person who only sees what suits your narrow view of things.

      On German slums: Where do you think your refugees, illegals, and homeless live? The Ritz Hotel? Maybe you should take a trip to the outskirts of Berlin and Hamburg sometime. Every country has its slums and ghettos, don’t be ashamed of it, do something to fix it.

      You’re right, I am a travel writer and this is a tourism page, we don’t over-emphasize the negatives of the country here. The point of my article was that the international media already does that to the extent of it being overkill. This year I have seen one positive report about the Philippines on CNN, it was about a town near a spring in Luzon where everyone who drinks the water seems to have twins. Did you know the Philippines is a world leader in renewable energy, and number 6 in the world in taking action to address climate change? Or that the Philippines ranks with the Scandinavian countries in having the most empowered women (meaning having a substantial number of women in policy and decision making positions)? Or the fact that the country plays host to the most diverse ecosystem in the world? What about how the first bloodless revolution on EDSA in 1986 inspired pro-democracy movements around the world which precipitated the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989? The list of positive news stories about this country is endless yet they are not mentioned in the international media. Maybe, as an international journalist you could report on stories like these for a change….

      You spoke of Afghanistan, Congo, and Sudan. You realise these are all countries that have had or have been experiencing major wars for the past few decades. The Philippines is not a war zone so I don’t get the connection. But since you bring up these countries, I have seen positive stories in the international media on all of them recently. Government and NGO efforts to protect the rainforest and gorillas in Congo, Women’s rights, movements towards democracy and ending opium farming in Afghanistan and Sudan. Why don’t we hear about The National Movement for Free Elections in the Philippines or the efforts to protect this country’s marine ecosystems and the Philippine Eagle? Or the raging community and volunteer spirit shown by the Filipinos during the recent killer typhoons in Luzon?

      What I was questioning in this article was why the media is so one sided when it comes to the Philippines. You seem to have completely missed this and I feel dumber for having read your reply.

      Happy travels.

    • cris says:

      The PI (or any country for that matter) is both the negative and the positive. It’s really up to the reader/writer what they want to believe/impart…

      I am a Filipino, a frustrated one given all the poverty and corruption. I admire what Scott’s article is trying to achieve, however Carsten’s insight is something we should not set aside. indifference to the injustices committed to our country, to our people by looking away would only result to these atrocities to creep their way to whatever beauty is left.

      Carsten, the German who fell in love with the Philippines and decided to stay
      Scott, the Australian who fell in love and decided to cover and promote our island’s beauty

      To you – two foreigners who fell in love with my country, I thank you for your passion.

  9. eva_Makati City says:

    Wow! can’t help but comment Way to go Ryan!!! It’s sickening to see those negative articles about our country everywhere in the net and sometimes we Pinoy tend just not to say anything.

    Well its high time to show the world we have more to offer, too bad for those who are prejudice. We never denied we are poor nor are we hypocrites.

    Sometimes media disappoint me cause they exaggerate everything just to get a high rating or sell the paper. Oh well I know nothing personal, its business. But its personal for us.

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Eva,

      One of the reasons I started writing again after many years, is that I want to inspire other Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike how it is great to be born and raised in this country. I have seen the beauty of this country in so many forms and size and never has I been prouder to be Filipino. I hope no one mistake me for being all-talk. All the people who knows me and Scott personally knows how passionate we are about this country, we walk our own talk.

      This is my country, it may not be the perfect little country in a lot of minds, but I am damn proud to be a Filipino.

      Magandang Gabi po!

  10. carlos says:

    Hmm. Don’t pay Carsten any mind. He is just one of many journalists out there covering the world and it’s ways.

    Truth be told, the Philippines can be seen in many different ways and his way is just one of them. You and ryan like to highlight the positive, he likes to highlight the negative. Both ways are perfectly legitimate and Carsten should be given the right to walk his walk and talk his talk no matter how much any of us disagree with him. The Philippines is a democracy, not a perfect one but a democracy nevertheless and the man should be given his right to say what he wants to say whether we agree with him or not.

    Personally, I don’t like his writing, photographs, nor am I quite sure if I even like the man himself and for no other reason than he rubs me completely the wrong way with his points of view and I think he is a condescending jerk. But even then, that is no reason to me to try and silence him. He has a point as well as you and Scott do. I just feel sad that he isn’t as enthusiastic about our positives about our negatives but that is his choice and we should all live and let live.

    You think you are doing a great favor to the Philippines by highlighting our “pretty sides” and he thinks he is doing a great favor to the Philippines by highlighting our “ugly sides”. Each of you are doing an excellent job either way.

    And that is all I have to say. Peace to you all.

  11. Gabrielle says:

    I am a proud Filipino and I love my country beyond compare. I will not contradict that the country and its people are beautiful because it is true. But just because we want the rest of the world to look at us in a positive way does not mean that we should turn our backs on the darker side of the country. You said that not everyone in the Philippines is poor. You’re right! Ten percent of the population is not poor while the rest live in poverty.

    And yes, we all know that there is poverty but it is just not enough to know. We as part of the more fortunate citizens have the responsibility to take care of our less fortunate brothers, which means that our knowledge should be transformed into action.

    Everybody knows about Smokey Mountain, but how many of the educated class have gone or have the willingness to go and experience the suffering that others go through every day. How many people have had looked the other way when a beggar comes up to their car windows?

    There is a Filipino saying that goes, “you give them your hand, they want your arm. You give them your arm, they want your head. So might as well not give your hand at all.” This reflects the apathy that we Filipinos have towards our less fortunate brothers. If the poor want more it only shows how much they are in need.

    This is the reason why we need to write about it. The knowledge of poverty that we have all grown up with has made us inured and complacent to the fact that suffering exists in our country. We take it as normal when our fellow Filipinos die in the war in Mindanao because it has been happening for years. I have heard other Filipinos reply to the fate of our countrymen with “same old, same old.” We take it as a given when a “taong grasa” (greasy man) lives malnourished and hungry (possibly even dying) on a newspaper by the sidewalk. I do not think this mentality is right.

    The negative perception is neither untrue nor unfair for the simple reason that it is a part of the Philippines reality the same way that the beauty is another part of its reality. If we choose not to get a negative perception then it is our duty to act within our own personal capabilities to make right what is wrong in the country.
    To write about these truths, is not poverty porn but is a necessity to motivate action within our community. It saddens and frustrates me that a lot of my countrymen’s reactions to “poverty porn” is only to complain about how it hurts their vanity as Filipinos.

    Maybe poverty is our iconic image because 90% of the population is poor. If we Filipinos want positive perception, then we should do a People’s Power against poverty and corruption, and I can assure you the world will look at the Filipino positively and with respect. But unless, our eyes are opened and our minds understand the suffering around us, then sadly, we will continue to have this negative perception regardless of how much we promote and sell our beautiful locations, our hospitality and our warm smiles.

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Gabrielle,

      Thanks for your response. If I have to do the nitty gritty, not 90% of the country is poor mind you and statistics would contradict you on that comment. The point is that it is not about whether poverty exists in the Philippines or not, the point is whether we can see through these poverty and the negative look that Filipinos like yourself and and like the journalist in question force upon our throats every single time.

      We try to work with the positives, because there is a dearth about it. The issue of poverty is real and valid. With that said, poverty in varying degrees exists in almost all countries in the worlds but that has never been an iconic image of each country. Slums exists in far more modernised countries mind you. The wretched favelas of Brazil is far more sinister and daunting than the slums in Manila but are these favelas the image of Brazil? No. The people in New Orleans kill each other for food during Katrina, but was that the iconic image of America? No. South Korea deals with a seemingly endless war brinkmanship with its northern neighbor and virtually at war since the 1950s, was that the image of South Korea we see on CNN lately? No. South Korea paid big sums of money to CNN to do the Eye on South Korea series. Sadly, we do not have that kind of money to pay journalists like Carsten to talk about us in glowing reviews.

      What we demand is FAIR reportage. We did not ask for anything less than that.

  12. carlos says:

    Um. Gabrielle. The Philippines does not have a ninety percent poverty level. Where on earth did you get that number?

  13. Gabrielle says:

    Thank you for replying. and yes, you are right the 90% is an exaggeration.

    As per the UN, 33% are income poor while 13.8% are in extreme poverty while IBON says that 7 out of 10 filipinos consider themselves poor because of their inability to meet basic needs.

    I’m not trying to prove or disprove the existence of poverty nor am I saying that’s the issue of my post. I will have to disagree on your statement that looking at poverty straight on is negative. There is nothing to be negative about it because it’s reality.

    It is because of my positive view of the Filipino and my strong conviction on the strength and capability of every single citizen, that I know if the filipinos put their minds to it, they can solve the problems of poverty and corruption.

    We were able to unite and oust a dictator peacefully. We have the capacity to solve our problems. We just need to see and realize it.

    As the article said, and as far as I am concerned, the country is one, if not, the most beautiful country in the world. As in the article, it is so easy to fall in love with my country. Filipinos love their country and can see the beauty of it. Why can’t this beauty and our love for country inspire us all to try and solve the problems of our country within our personal capabilities? The potential to make it an “enchanted kingdom” is there.

    Is that really looking at my country and my countrymen negatively?

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Gabrielle,

      I am glad that you corrected yourself about that 90% poverty claim. We can throw around statistics (and personally, I do not subscribe to IBON figures – militants back in UP used to use those figures which I always find inaccurate and very misleading in the first place). I am not going to give anyone statistics lessons because any statistics can be read anyway you want it read and accuracy (the survey questions, data, sample size, etc etc) will always be debated.

      To tell you honestly, we have been debating and ranting this issue of poverty (among many other negative topics that usually international and national media cover) for a long time. It has been highlighted in every report about the Philippines and instead of having something come out positive about this, nothing’s really changed. It’s nothing original nor groundbreaking – instead it has contributed to a lot of national self-doubt and dispair we became our own worst enemies. Filipinos hated themselves more, because the world through the eyes of the media has traditionally relegated them to something worthless. I could go on and on about this, and I can even possibly write an entire library about this topic.

      Now this is the reason why we were inspired to write about this country. We have traveled this country quite extensively in almost all fronts and I am proud to say that perhaps we are one of the best and most comprehensive travel websites dedicated to the Philippines. We have seen the beauty of this country and the beauty of this people – but the question that nags us, why does international media never ever cover this? Where is their sense of fairness? We are sounding a broken record here, but that’s what we demand and nothing less. Why do we let ourselves portrayed this way all the time and solely like this?

      Most journalists probably would like to inspire pity at the very least, we would like to inspire hope. It’s not because that I am travel writer, I gloss over the flaws. If you tried reading some of my articles here, I call out people and communities with no apparent respect to the environment. This site actively supports environment friendly and sustainable tourism. We know that tourism will help communities regain their pride of place, sense of patriotism and help them help themselves. Tourism creates jobs, a lot of jobs. We help the country that way.

      By focusing solely on the negative aspects (remember the operative word here is “solely”), people tend to forget that there are a lot of things that are good around them. I’d also would like to remind everyone, unlike others, we are not paid writing and promoting the country. We write these articles for free, we pay for our own travels (unless someone offers us a free ride). The only way that our efforts ever repay us by the fact that we have inspired Filipinos and the world to look at the Philippines in a better perspective and make them put on those travel shoes and pack their luggage or backpacks, explore the country and help local communities along the way.

      Have a great day!

      • Friday says:

        Let me clarify that I’m not siding with anyone here. I believe in a balanced view of the world. Both writers–one who emphasized poverty, and the other who emphasized tourism potential could both do the Philippines good. Though I agree that local media–in particular news reports–have been powerful enough to portray a too negative image of the country. I believe this country deserves to be recognized as a beautiful and awe-inspiring tourist destination in South East Asia, and not just Thailand, for example.

        With that said, I just wanted to add some data, to possibly confirm what Gabrielle said about 90% of the country being poor:

        In 2006, the official poverty incidence of the Philippines is 32.9 (or 33) percent of the population. But take note that, this means that 33% of the population is living below the poverty line of about P35 per day per person. (And what kind of life can P35 a day give?)

        The relevant data, I think, is that a household with 2 working members who earn a total income of about P15,000 a month (gross) is already in the top 10 percent of households.

        So if by “poor” you mean a household earning less than P15,000 a month (roughly, less than P100 per day per person in a family of 5), then I think Gabrielle has the right to say that 90% of Philippine population is poor. And it looks like that most, if not all, who have made comments here, including myself, belong to the top 10%.

        Just wanted to share this piece of information because it certainly startled me when I first knew about this and has shaken me to do something more concrete for the 90%. In line with the theme of this site, I believe that highlighting the positive characteristics of this country, which this article has done, can boost tourism, foreign investments, etc. and thus, can somehow help alleviate poverty. Cheers to Scott, to all those who promote the Philippines and help our less fortunate countrymen! Mabuhay tayong lahat.

        (Data taken from the Family Income and Expenditure Survey 2006 conducted by the National Statistics Office.)

        • Ryan says:

          Hi Friday,

          I think the issue of poverty depends which threshold you are looking at. If you base it through World Bank, the international poverty line is at $1.25 (USD) at 2005 PPP (Purchasing Power Parity), then the figure of people considered poor would be around 30% in the Philippines. If you measure it through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) metrics then it would be around 25.1 % (Check UNDP Human and income poverty: developing countries / Population living below $1.25 a day (%) Human Development Index) for 2009, while CIA calculates that poverty in the Philippines stand at around 32.9%.

          Meanwhile, as recently as this year, I found this report from the Oxford University,

          “With the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) has released the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which noted that only 13 percent or 11.2 million Filipinos are poor.

          The old Human Poverty Index showed that 23 percent of Filipinos live on $1.25 a day and 45 percent on $2 a day, with the national poverty line at 25 percent of 88.7 million Filipinos as of 2009.”

          I think, Oxford University and UNDP are more competent sources of information, IMHO. The poverty figures in the Philippines are obviously inflated to cater to some people and groups’ need to receive additional overseas funding/donations for their, uhm, “projects” and of course, poverty makes great headlines and entertainment for everyone. Sick, sick, sick – Schadenfreude.



  14. Carina says:

    Hey Ryan and Scott! Just keep doing what you’re doing. I’m proud of you guys.

    Is this Carsten from Burgos? Hiiiii!

    You guys are best in what you do.
    Though it contradicts in what you do both.

    I’m proud to be Filipino.
    Great job Scott!

  15. oliver says:


    If you are going to bicol, try my province Catanduanes. Its an island accessible through plane and passenger boat. I can promise you wonderful surfing experience. The waves are great for new and professional surfers.

    Check Puraran beach. Just take a careful journey. Its also cheap.


    • Ryan says:


      Don’t worry, Catanduanes is on our list and we know about Puraran…So bookmark our site and we might be heading to your island soon! cheers!


  16. eva_Makati City says:

    Yes, Bring back the nationalistic pride. Loving our country and being proud of our diverse culture is not turning a blind eye of the bad things. We should embrace the ugly truth but as well as the beauty of our country. Why just see the bad side? Why not see the beauty as well? How come we only hear the negative things? Don’t we have anything to be proud of?Besides poverty does not exist only in Philippines.We did not invent the word corruption. LOL

    Let’s not lose hope for our country. Most of all lets not be ashamed of our culture.I notice some Filipino’s who work abroad tend to discriminate his/her own people and country once he/she became American Citizen. Sadly, other nationalities impression is we don’t love our country.

    Take pride of who we are and where we came from, our culture and country are unique, we should nurture it. Wherever we go, let’s not forget who we are and be proud of it. Hold up your head Pinoy.

    Keep up the good work Ryan! Proud Pinoy.I love this site very much.

  17. Loren says:

    Hello Scott and Ryan,

    Try to explore the beauty of Lanao Lake area in Mindanao, it is marvelous but reaching there you should disguise yourselves to be poor to avoid kidnapping attraction with the moro bandits.

    Well, just to share something about one of the beautiful spots in the Philippines.

    Maraming salamat po!

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Loren,

      We were close to Lake Lanao last September, but we dint have time to swing by Marawi unfortunately. We will definitely go there, don’t worry we have great contacts in Iligan, Tubod and Marawi we will be alright.. Please check out Lanao del Norte article which is currently featured!



  18. Li-ann says:

    Dear Scott:

    Thank you very much for the positive note, re. Igorots. We (Igorots) rarely are spoken of in favorable light in popular media, except maybe in romanticized stories of headhunting/primitive days gone by.

    I am sharing your story with other Igorots. Matagotago ka (May you live long!)

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Li-ann

      I am glad that you liked our articles. Scott and I fell in love with your culture and your people. As a Filipino, I understand totally where you are coming from – local media often portrays your people in a really bad light, plus the fact that discrimination is a very real everyday reality. Not only for our Igorot brothers and sisters, but for all indigenous peoples of the Philippines. This is very sad and very unfair. As a lowlander, I would like to say I’m sorry for these discriminations. I am very proud of your culture, your people and the beauty of your place. We cant wait to come back there!



  19. katlin says:

    Good one! Just a minor correction. SAGADA is not IFUGAO. Sagada, is in Mountain Province. Would appreciate if this could be corrected. Thank you.

    Katlin from SAGADA

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Kaitlin,

      The article says – “Neighboring Sagada is Ifugao.” Meaning next to Sagada is Ifugao in other words. Hope that clears that up!

      Scott and I visited Sagada last May. Beautiful place. We will go up Ifugao this January and head out to Batad. :)



  20. katlin says:

    Bonjour Ryan,

    Uh, oh well, ok…

    Bon voyage to all your travels and I look forward to future posts.


    • Ryan says:

      Thanks Kaitlin – we were suppose to come back to Sagada end of October, but as the weather was really fickle we had to cancel it. We really LOVE Sagada and we encourage everyone to visit the place.. Food, scenery, people – you’ve got it all!


  21. cris says:

    reading through the (lengthy) debates in this post, all good points, all with good intentions.

    there’s a place and time for everything…

    1. this site is about tourism. if you can afford to take a trip to the beach, you don’t need to apologize for it.

    2. if we want to stare poverty in the face, we can go to the slums, by the railroad tracks or check out

    3. if want to do something about it, go volunteer. we have GK, donate to Jeepney, start your own cause in facebook.

    there are different opinions out there, different ways of living, different ways of helping. follow your passion.


  22. michael duane says:

    this article gave me goosebumps. i hope people outside the Philippines read this and realize that my country is not all gloomy sunday.

  23. Stephen Michael says:

    Truly there is much beauty here. We as a nation need to work as well to protect and enhance what is good and eliminate or at least effectively battle the evils that plague us.

    Thank you very much for shedding a different light to my country. As we continue with our struggles, we are happy to hear nuggets of hope and sources of pride. Recently, we celebrated with our countryman Efren Peñaflorida for being recognized as a CNN hero of the year. He and his group have been working to elevate children from slums, poverty and the violence of gangs via “pushcart education.” He is a source of inspiration, hope and pride. Likewise, your article is another source of inspiration, hope and pride. Thank you for that.

  24. juanito says:

    Rich and developed countries would not publish or bad things about them, instead they hide them eventhough they have more worst crimes, heinous activities, and ugly places than the Philippines and other poor countries. Why, they can dominate and manipulate stories because they owned the largest news media so they will have to say only the best things about them, so you can travel or work to their country, and that is business. Poor countries, like the Philippines, are victims of these degrading influential stories. It is becoming a good thing nowadays because more and more people from other countries are dipping their toes in the Philippines and are discovering its beauty and hospitality. Thanks to the government’s worldwide tourism promotion. Thanks Scott, I hope there are lots of people who think the way you do.

  25. Jhung LATINO says:

    HEHEHE. . Just wana endors zambo city’s main tourist attraction. .

    have the most delicious sardines in the world here at Asian’s Latin City. .

    muchisimas queros y caballos y kabritos y puercos tiene cuerno!!

  26. Gary Verderamo says:


    You and I have worked together so you know I have lived here almost 5 years. I have lived both like a Filipino and like an expat during my time here. This has given me a unique perspective on the people.

    I agree this is a beautiful country with some wonderful people. Like all countries the Philippines has it good points and its bad points.

    I think the best answer to your question is the reason why the Philippines is viewed in such a bad light is many Filipinos paint their country in that bad light.

    I have been here almost 5 years as I said. I have heard a lot of Filipinos saying many bad things about their country. This is no different than an American talking badly about their government leaders or another issue. But the divergence comes when Filipinos go overseas and continue to say bad things about their country to people from other nations.

    When was the last time you saw an American saying, “The USA sucks! I hate it there!” I would bet you would be hard pressed to name more than one incident of that occurring in a long time.

    As I said I have lived here a while and when people ask me if I like it here I simply say, “Sometimes.” There are things about here I love and things I hate. Meralco (power company) being one of them. I hate seeing men urinate anyplace they want and I hate watching people (of all classes) ignore their children as they run into a busy street or around a crowded mall unsupervised.

    I love how hospitable and respectful MOST Filipinos are. I love how ingenuitous and persistent they are. I love how gorgeous the women are and how friendly most of them are.

    I hate to see the street kids and I feel bad but I love how they never give up.

    Filipinos are probably one of the greatest people in Asia but they have their bad points just like everyone else.

    There are times I want to strangle them and there are times I marvel at their strength and perseverance.

  27. Anton says:

    Just want to thank you for saying nice things about the land of my birth. I am a chinese filipino but I feel more affinity to this country than to China as I grew up in the Philippines. Although I am presently away from the country, my wife and I plan to retire there when we are done with the rat race.

  28. Oliver says:

    Hey guys,

    Try this one this is awesome and really rare.

    Pink Beach in Bicol Sorsogon.

    Must visit place.

  29. Oliver says:

    Exactly Ryan.

    The area is really nice. Nature is well preserved and pristine enough to satisfy your taste of yearly getaway-dose from nosy and noisy manila.

    Thats PINK BEACH in bicol. Just google it.

  30. ty says:

    Most of these Germans and Euros in the Philippines live there to avoid taxes in their home countries. They buy prime properties and price out the regular Filipinos then they sell them for 100 times the market price. If the Philippines are so bad, why do they live and or even visit the place? I’d like to see these douchebags work in the Philippines and earn pesos. I bet they are outta there in no time.

  31. ty says:

    It’s natural for some people to put down a country and people to make themselves feel better and to say their country is the best. Just like some Canadians, Americans or Australians etc put down certain countries like Germany, England, Netherlands or Slovenia. Which I tend to agree. The latter countries just don’t have much to offer against the former.

  32. ty says:

    Carsten: “A lot of Filipinos like to believe they live in an enchanted kingdom. Peace of cake if you live behind walled communities with small militias guarding the gates. If you close your eyes it does not mean the problems do not exist”

    WTF? You mentioned earlier that The Philippines’ poverty is rampant. Now you claim Filipinos believe they live in enchanted kingdom? You don’t make sense.

    The majority of Filipinos know they are poor for a very long time…perhaps centuries. You have only lived in the Philippines for a couple of years from a wealthy country. You do the math. So don’t tell Filipinos to open their eyes. They live it.

    Perhaps next time, along with your camera, bring some school supplies, medicine, or do someting about it not just take pictures and sell them and tell the world about it. People know, we don’t need to see your pictures.

  33. gretchen says:

    hey carsten,

    why dont you try to go here in gensan,Mindanao and see some peacefull living of people even though we live w/ MILF.

    i as a student here in gensan,my fellow classmates and countrymen try to help how to get rid of those words of being critize people like you insted of giving us a bad words to our country,try to help other people on earth,maybe its a big break for you.goodluck on you.

    have a great travel everyone!

    peace on earth!

  34. Glenn says:

    Thanks scott fro the insight.. it was a very iinteresting article…

  35. eseltee says:

    When I was 19 I was sent to Vietnam and saw for the first time “those poor starving children overseas”, as my mom used to say to me when I didn’t want to finish the greenpeas on my plate…
    I was in my 30’s when I travelled to Dominican Republic and watched kids come up to the taxi windows with their faces pressed against the glass and hands out begging for money/food….
    During my first trip to the Philippines I watched Katrina wipe out New Orleans on all the TV channels, and listened as people around me remarked “how could this happen in USA?” My answer was why not?
    I don’t know why people critisize the Philippines – I agree that there are poor people (here, there, everywhere) but I bet a lot don’t know how poor they are. You can only be poor if you desire the things you are aware of and don’t have them, and if you aren’t aware of them, you make do with what you do have. I’m not including, of course, basic health care, an education and other similar necessities…
    I wish I could do more than just take pictures Ty – you are right about that, Filipinos know what their country looks like. But I haven’t and won’t put the country down, Lord knows the problems the Filipinos have is not limited to just their country. It’s everywhere – just turn on the TV or read a newspaper.
    I plan to retire there – and not behind some walled fortress.

    • garry says:

      eseltee. loved ur comment. its up to all to b human and try to walk with jesus. im not a practising christian . but am human and believe in the truth.

  36. ms philippines says:

    I had a german bf before with a German dad.I felt I was being discriminated then when his dad told me that i am just after his son’s money. This is just a sharing of how tiny these people see us.No matter how long they would stay in the Philippines, no matter how experienced they are in their field but still they dont know how to eat using hands, bless the elders hand, say po and opo, do bayanihan, take care of our parents when they get old instead of dumping them in home for the aged.I believe that YOU NEED to be A FILIPINO before you can actually feel how it is to be a FILIPINO.I dont give a damn on how poor we are as a country and how progressive other countries are as everything else in this world will fade but sure there is one thing that we wont die.OUR DIGNITY and if that is the only one thing that we have left, I promise you no foreigner will ever get that.

  37. ms philippines says:

    PS eto pa pala para sa mga ALEMAN – they can’t talk, they followed an austrian and tried to take of the world!

  38. Joel says:

    Hi Scott! Great article! I’m a filipino living in Manhattan NY. I don’t know why the international media are picking on my home country? Crimes are everywhere! They should not just report and highlight the violence in the Philippines and not do the same to other countries. Here in NY there are many crazy people inside the subways and if you turn your local NY1 channel you will just scratch your head to hear almost everyday there are killings in the neighborhood. Do they report the crimes here to other countries? There should be balance in reporting news to other nations and not just because Philippines is a small country that they can pick on and exploit bad news to sell.

    • ellen says:

      Hi Joel,
      Being also US based (Northen California) I totallly agree with you.The international press especially US based are bias with the Philippines. Is it because it is just a little dot on the map.? Or just plain discrimination? I believe if we Filipinos start respecting our country , instead of putting it down, then we can gain respect.

  39. Will says:

    Hey, I’m here in the U.S. (until October when I become an expat in the Philippines)..and I can most assuredly confirm that every country is guilty of over-amplifying their positives. Everything you see in the media about the US has spacious skies and plentiful fields with the flag in the background. Homemade apple pie and baseball everywhere. They don’t show the homeless living in cardboard boxes and under bridges. They don’t show the entire families living in broken down cars and going to soup kitchens. They don’t show the prostitution and drugs and gang violence in every town and city. BUT…every citizen here loves the country and would defend their way of life with their lives. As it’s been said….you find hope where you want to find it. You take your dreams and try to make them real in the place where you feel you belong. For me, it’s with my Filipina wife who loves me more than any woman I’ve met in my life. Everything else is just details to experience and work with.

  40. Will says:

    Oh, there is ONE thing I wish would change in the Philippines….that being the lack of divorce laws. I think it would solve a LOT of problems if people were given the freedom to move on and away from those that mistreat and abuse them and find a new life of happiness with someone new. The Philippines is one of only two countries that have no provisions for divorce (annulment is costly, takes forever, and is often difficult to prove grounds for). Allowing for divorce would provide much more economic stability for the country, as content households flourish. Flourishing households improve the economy and reduce poverty and violence. Services such as schools and tourism that cater to families would thrive, improving the economy even more.

  41. grace g. says:

    I love this article very much! I never thought that there will be a person who will make an article talking about the positive side of the Philippines. Indeed, many foreigners talked badly about how poor our country is. Not just them, but there are Filipinos think that way too. I am disappointed hearing those stuffs about my country. Why can’t just they think of positive things rather than sticking their noses on the negative side? Nobody and nothing is perfect, I am sure we are all aware of that. Everyone and everything has both the good and bad sides, but it would be unfair just to focus on the bad side, right? Well, anyway, I am very grateful that I’ve read this article knowing that there are still people out there like you who still love Philippines no matter what other people say about my country. Thank you so much! :)

  42. Gatch says:

    Such a great and open minded way of seeing things in a very different perspective for the Philippines! Really great!

  43. I love you philippines. People put a good word for our country. Thank u Scott.

  44. Gbair says:

    I AGREE. i think Filipinos should start to really appreciate and bear in mind the positive light of the country.. sometimes, it is the PERSPECTIVE that gives meaning to everything that we ACT and we SHOW to others.. if we believe we are poor and miserable, that is also what we live up and it shows.. that is what outsiders see in us..

    there are a LOT of things I am proud BEING a Filipino. I live in a country where VALUES are emphasized, like a little courtesy when we speak to elders, speaking softly when talking to others. I don’t want to be a racist so to speak, but I don’t see these to western countries, which boast their riches and abundance..

    I pray Goodness and peace to the Philippines.. Wonderful people and wonderful COUNTRY…

  45. Angel Lim says:

    Everything that was said by Scott M. Allford is very true I have been in many places in the Philippines and have read and browsed about the other places that he has mentioned. I’ts very questionable why the Philippines is Seen in such a bad view. It is also true that the Filipinos are very welcoming to the strangers. Someday I wish and hope that everyone would see the Philippines as a good nation and I do pray that the Filipinos will not be seen as low case citezens because they are not.

  46. Rommie Pacana says:

    Most foreigners who speak badly on the Philippines and its people are those who haven’t been to the country or had spent only a few days in a few places of the archipelago or only hear the bad news about it. The Philippines is a beautiful country incomparable to any other country on this planet…and the Filipinos are one of the most hospitable, friendly and bubbly people on Earth. But this Paradise of tropical islands and wonderful brown, smiling people, is threatened with environmental degradation due to irresponsible, unsustainable anthropogenic activities like mining, deforestation, mono-plantations and uncontrolled rapid population growth further aggravating poverty. But CORRUPTION, which has become endemic in the Philippines and inefficency in the provision of basic social services has further impoverished the gentle Filipino people…Further aggravating the economic condition of the Filipinos is the exploitation of labor, low wages, rising cost of living, lack of security of tenure, etc.

  47. Edward! says:

    How you see My Country “the Philippines” depends on which shoes are you walking into…wanna talk poverty? then walk poverty live like one of the majority wanna talk corruption? work in the government start from the bottom then ladder your way up. You wanna talk about the beauty of our environment then explore beaches, mountains,lakes, enjoy sunsets sunrises, breathe fresh air…. Anyone is entitled to speak out his experiences… It is up to the readers to decipher which one is credible…. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion and there is no need to discredit one another.

    As for me, I thank everyone for writing be it good or bad it goes to show that you care about “the Philippines” and that’s good enough. YOU CARE! Im taking the Bad with the Good so is the Good with the BAd… LOVE YOUR OWN!…..LOVE THE PHILIPPINES…

  48. Robert Benjamin says:

    I agree, the Philippines is a beautiful country and it’s rich in natural resources. We cannot play blind to the fact that the Filipinos are the ones that the media sees, not the country itself. Unfortunately the media is right, the Philippines ia a poor and corrupt nation. The Filipino needs to wake up and take a good look at himself. The Filipino needs to change, the way he thinks, the way he does things, and most importantly, he needs to change the way he treats his fellow Filipino. Then and only then will the world see the real beauty of the Filipino and the Philippines.

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