Saturday, October 02, 2010

2 Years and counting - Philippines, the unpublished paradise

It's been more than 2 years since I got to this lovely paradise of a country - Philippines. And its about time I got started writing this piece. It's long crossed my mind that I should share my thoughts about this country with others......

Years ago, I just new that there was a country called Philippines. Frankly speaking, I didn't know where it was on the map. I just knew that it was somewhere in Asia! Well, look at where I am now... And I intend to let others who are as ignorant as me understand that there is one more beautiful location in South East Asia to add to their travel itineraries.

When I first got to the Philippines, I wondered how people could be so laid back, how non-productive the country was, how there were always 3 people hired to do the job of one person in all the malls, how people here could eat such bland or even sweet food, how people could afford to live with the high costs of basic necessities, how this country had so many beautiful beaches and most of the world didn't know about it, how people could smile all the time, how people were polite all the time, how people could spend so much all the time, how so few people could have so much of the wealth of the country, how people could use already 20 times in a 20 minute conversation, how people said "go" instead of "come", how the bank still minted 1 peso coins when you couldn't get anything for 1 peso, how government collaborated with the industry to create monopolies, how the country lived and grew because most of its citizens worked out of the country... the hows are endless.......

Today, when I look back, I still wonder.... The Philippines in its endless beauty will always keep you wondering! But a lot of the sarcasm and skepticism had disappeared. Today, I do feel that life ain't that bad if you just learn to let go a teeny weeny bit. We Indians have the habit of hyping up every little action that we perform in our lives and our minds think faster than the words that come out of our mouth. But we've been on that everlasting rat race with the billion+ folks that we have in India! When you let go a little, and sit back to watch all that's around you, you are truly able to savour the life that you're living. Filipinos have thought me that its never pays to live in the past and worry about the future and forget about the present. I have learned to balance my mind to look beyond the numerous sales and avenues to damage one's wallet and find middle ground. I have learnt to work with Filipinos and enjoy to do so... I have learned to tone down my voice, reduce the speed at which I talk and be more polite in all my actions. I have learnt to thank people more often, apologize more often, greet people more often and even smile more often! 

I've got the opportunity to travel quite a bit over the past few months and that has also showed me that there's more to the Philippines that just Boracay and Palawan (I still haven't been to Palawan and am planning a trip there). I however have managed to travel to Davao, Iloilo, Guimaras, Camarines Sur, Legaspi, Clark, Antipolo, Tarlac and Carmona. That's a decent amount of travel and the interesting part of this travel is that most of these places were visited in just about a month! Isn't that amazing. I'm still at Camarines Sur though and have a trip planned to Mt. Mayon tomorrow. 

Davao - I really didn't get to spend too much time here. Was here for just two days and just managed to sample some of the delicious food and fruits from this place. For those who don't know, Davao city is in the Mindanao province which is usually prohibited for travel. There's a muslim extremist group here and kidnappings are very common. The irony here is that Davao which is in the eastern part of the Mindanao province and is one of the safest cities in Asia (not just the Philippines). The reason is that the mayor here holds a very strong grip on this city and keeps it well in control. Crime rate is abysmally low and I actually felt very safe in this place. It is considered to be the "fruit basket" of the Philippines and fruits are available in plenty and at very affordable rates. Mangosteen, Pommella (a version of orange), bananas, pineapple and what not! So many fruits... so many different types of fruit salads.... I do regret however that I didn't get the opportunity to go to any of the beaches here. I've heard that they are so beautiful and untouched. Will upload pictures in a separate post on Davao.

Iloilo - I got to spend about 3 days here and enjoyed this place very much. I really thought that there would be nothing much to do at Iloilo and boy... was I wrong. Iloilo is considered as one of the best places to live in the Philippines. This was the homestead of the mammoth Lopez family . The Lopez family would be among the top 3 richest families in the Philippines with interests in media, publishing, real estate, power, utilities, Telecommunication and what not! I had the great opportunity of being hosted by the Lopez family here in Iloilo. It was a wonderful experience having access to the colonial style houses owned by the family. Most of the houses I visited were over 75 years old. Will post some pictures soon. I even got to sleep in one of these old palatial houses for a day. Anyhow, after a few yummy meals in Iloilo, we set of for Guimaras which is an island province located of the coast of Iloilo. I had never heard of this place before I got to Iloilo. It was a shocker. So beautiful.... with roads winding in a hilly terrain. I felt like I was back in Ooty or Yercaud. So much greenery and so much fresh air. A welcome change from the pollution of Manila and Makati. We were hosted at an almost private resort here in Guimaras and I got the opportunity to spend the night in the quietest of places. There was absolutely no one there and our cottage was just 5 steps away from the beach there. Such clear and peaceful water... The calmness of this place almost spooked me out! He he... But it was wonderful... we gotta dive into crystal clear water and spend the evening hearing no one else but our voices, the sound of the ocean, some birds... and some lizards! Will post pictures along with a separate section on Iloilo

Camarines Sur - this is a province located at the Bicol region which is known for its spices. Supposed to the spiciest of provinces in the Philippines. We did get a taste of that today when we ordered Buffalo chicken wings and found it to be so spicy (Mind you, I'm indian and can handle loads of spice). Was a pleasant surprise though. I am currently in Cam sur and am filling in this update. Will be going to Mount Mayon tomorrow and will fill in more details of that. About CamSur, most of the activities happen in the city of Naga which is pretty much like a smaller town in India. However, there are a number of nice restaurants, there's even a huge SM mall here! Very exciting however, is the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex (CWC) which is a complex built for wake boarding. I tried it today and had loads of fun! Landed up falling into the water so many times though.... Was a wonderful experience since its the first time i've tried this sport in my life! Wish I had more time to practice and master this sport though... Looks like something I would love doing more often. Will post pictures in a separate section soon...

Anyhow, I have a lot of posting to do - especially on my recent travels. Guys and girls out there who are in the Philippines, do know that there's so much to do in this country beyond Boracay, Tagaytay, Palawan and Puerto Galera. So many beautiful beaches that aren't even covered in Lonely Planet - for example, Anawangin Cove details of which I had posted months ago on my blog.

And for those of you reading my blog from out of the Philippines, this country is a wonderful country to travel to in Asia. With its 7107 islands, I promise you it has enough to satisfy what any person is looking for - be it beaches, be it diving, be it hiking, be it biking, be it wake-boarding, be it water sports, be it exotic food, be it fine dining, be it clubbing, be it fancy resorts, be it cheap and good massages, be it whatever!

For the indians reading my blog, imagine a country filled with 1000s of Goa(s) except all of them being much

Will post more pictures soon... Until then, I do have to remember that these years in Philippines... the Philippine chapter of my life has thought me so much and also has made me love travelling even more. I have had the opportunity to meet and mingle with people who are so polite, courteous and welcoming.... Get a taste of Filipino hospitality in the Philippines and you will miss the country all your life.

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