are safe for us, and all foreigners in general. Most. I was told by
many locals don't venture down to Mindanao, the southern large Province.
Though we did, but to north Mindanao, Cagayan de oro City. A small and
beautiful city, clean, light traffic, good shopping, (and cheap!)
great sight seeing. I'd plan on visiting there again in the future. But
do not venture further South, especially to Zamboanga City. Many many foreigners
have been kidnapped there and held for ransom by, you guessed it, Muslims.
A few have lost their heads. Do not go near there! Don't go to Palawan
island either, a few have been nabbed there and taken to Zamboanga. Its
wise not to travel any farther south then Bohol, just south of Cebu.
You can take
a Supercat, a twin hulled, air conditioned ferry down to Bohol, then hire
a truck or tricycle cabs to take you to Carmen and the Chocolate Hills,
a real sight to see. It is so beautiful. You climb a whole lot of steps
to the top of the tallest one, and you see an endless landscape of hills
that shaped alike, and roughly the same size. No one is sure exactly how
they were formed. "Chocolate Hills," is the name, because during
the dry season, it looks like a huge landscape of chocolate drops, or upside
down Hershey Kisses. Fantastic place.
If a true tropical
paradise is what you want, visit an island called Borocay. We took a small
commuter flight from Cebu to to a small town called Kalibo, then from there,
a van across the island, then finally onto a small boat which took us to
Borocay. No docks, so you have to wade onto the shore. It is a beautiful,
picturesque island, no crowds, no pollution, and no traffic. No cars or
trucks on the island, only tricycles. Small motorcycles, mainly 150cc or
so with sidecars on them. We stayed at Willy's Beach Resort in a deluxe
room for $50 a night, but there are much cheaper places to stay then that;
we splurged. We hired a boat to take us around the island, including a
picnic on a completely deserted beach. The two-man boat crew even prepared
the food while we swam in the cool clean water. The boat tour took just
two hours or so, excluding the picnic and swim stop, that is how small
Borocay is. Worth going to, it is spectacular.
Cebu has good
places, like Kawasan Falls for instance. Hire a van or small Jeepney to
drive you there for the two hour drive, and a mile or so hike to the actual
falls. It is a good swimming place also, plus you can hike up beside the
falls to the source, a natural spring. A beautiful day trip for swimming
and enjoying nature.
Mountain is another good place to go. It's a mountain resort with beautiful
views and you can't starve there. We wandered a little into the forest
as you can everywhere in the Philippines, and pick mangos, papayas, bananas,
and many other fruits. You get hungry exploring the Province; you can just
pick your own lunch from the forest.
In the city,
a must-see is the appropriately named Tops. The top of the mountain overlooking
Cebu City. I proposed to my wife up there, as I'm sure thousands upon thousands
of propsals have taken place up there! The only way to get there is by
taxi, and have the driver wait. Otherwise its a long walk down. No tricycles
or Jeepneys go up to Tops. Only taxies and private cars. But having the
driver wait isn't expensive, and neither is the small fee to get to the
viewing area. Nearly100% of the city can be viewed from Tops, and of course
its best to go at night. But don't worry, even the most nutty maniac taxi
drivers take it slow up the windy narrow road leading to Tops. Some may
try and drive like A.J. Foydt through town, but on those little windy roads,
they all drive like an old granny. Which is good, going splat over a cliff
isn't my idea of a good time. Tops is the perfect romantic spot to take
a nice girl to.
of hotel prices. You can pay $15 a night with AC, or you can pay $100+
per night in Cebu Plaza Hotel, the Marriott at Ayala, or the new Sheritan
next to the SM Mall. On Mactan, directly across the street from Gaisano
Mactan, there is a department store and mall, and next to the mall there's
the Mactan Pension House. (The name for motel, I guess). Approximately
$15 per night with air conditioning, which you will want. A roof top restuarant,
to catch a taxi, just walk out the door, and within probably 20 seconds
you'll be in an air conditioned taxi. Most have AC, its called "air-con"
there. Another is right down the street, the HR Tourist Inn. About $15
or so per night with AC. Though they don't have the nice pool they once
had, my wife informs me they've filled it in. And there are other numerous
places to stay that cost very little. Most are not fancy, but are clean,
Higher on the
scale but still not expensive, is the Philippine Dream. It is an old Japanese
cruise liner turned hotel, casino, disco, and nightclub. Nice place. The
Captain will gladly give you a personalized tour, great guy. He'll also
work with you on rates for an extended stay. You have to walk a little
ways to the highway to hail a taxi. Not too far, but a slight inconvenience
in the rain. Carry an umbrella.
On the far
side of Mactan is the resort area. Most resorts are expensive, Blue Water,
the Shangra-la, etc. One isn't, the EGI. I have no idea what that stands
for, but I don't care; its a nice place. It has a 10-story tower, and bungalows.
We paid about $40 a night in the bungalows; we had our honeymoon there.
We could have had a sixth floor one bedroom condo overlooking the beach
for $200 per month. I was foolish for not taking it. Two restuarants, one
you can eat inside, or outside, and the other is a tiny Italian place,
with out-of-this-world food. Great prices too, by the way.
All in all,
the Philippines is wonderful to visit, and to live. And easy to get
around since most people there speak English. It is the offical language
in fact, and taught in schools. But there are numerous dialects, the main
one being Tagalog spoken in Luzon but understood by nearly everyone. There's
also Iango, Cebuano, Visayan, and I lost track of how many others. But
again, nearly everyone speaks English. And some who do not speak English,
do understand it, such as my father-in-law.
most Filipinos have a high respect for visitors, including us Americans.
They remember what America did for them in World War 2 and are still thankful
for it. Quite a few dislike our current President, but hey, a lot of us
here at home don't like him either! But they don't take project that attitude
onto us. I didn't have a problem while I was there. Even during my first
trip before marrying my wife, I was in Cebu, 2:00, 3:00 in the morning,
not really knowing where I was, but no one bothered me. Several people
said, "hi Joe," as they call us all "Joe", but were friendly. Once in a
while I was approached by someone curious, just wanting to know what State
I was from, etc. Terrific people.
word to the wise; if you live there, discuss money with NO ONE but your
wife, if you're married. Some will try anything to part you with your money.
It isn't that they're truly crooked; its just survival there. Its a dirt
poor country with many living in home-made shacks with no plumbing and
crude wiring. We in the developed countries are spoiled rotten by our standard
of living. Most people here have no idea what real poverty is, until you
visit a country like the Philippines. You see people everywhere, even young
kids, selling bottled water at busy intersections, old women selling home-made
candles on the sidewalks outside of Catholic churches, earning money any
way they can. Some woman are prostitutes simply because they have no other
choice. College educated, but no jobs. Most girls work in retail stores
and factories, or make hand-made items.
And many many
girls remain virgins until they marry, a truly rare thing these days. Often,
when you date a girl there, there's a chaperone present, like an aunt,
sister, brother, cousin, usually a relative. Its awkward, but also a good
sign that you're seeing a "good girl." There are more than enough play
girls to keep a single man happy of course, in the nightclubs, massage
parlors and karoke clubs. But I chased the "good girls," since I was serious
about marrying. And marrying my wife was the smartest thing I've ever done.
She's exceptional even for a Filipino. Wonderful, ideal and loving wives.
And loyal. Most do not cheat, do drugs, drink, smoke, or lie to you. Most,
I say. There are of course some just looking for a ticket to the States.
I met a few bad ones, and a few outright nasty ones, but no matter where
you go you'll meet good people and bad unfortunately. I wish I knew some
nice guys, my wife has a few sisters who are also terrific young ladies,
who would make wonderful loving wives like my wife.
there do not mind "compeition" from us. In most places, the women outnumber
the men by far. In a few locations, its about ten women to one man! So
the men don't mind us coming over hunting for a potential wife, if that's
what you want. And no need to be shy there when it comes to women, just
a smile is all that's needed to strike up a conversation. At home, I'm
invisible to women. In the Philippines, I am Mr Popularity! It is great
being in a giant toy store, like a kid! Even being happily married, I confess
that the smiles and the flirting is still a whole lot of fun, though I
never cheat on my wife. No need to, number one, she keeps me happy, I don't
have the energy to cheat! And no excuse to since she does keep me happy,
as most Filipino women keep their men very happy. Though the men there
still tend to have a girlfriend on the side. Most men, not all of course.
That's another reason women prefer us, we have a reputation of being more
faithful, and of treating our wives better. Many Filipino men also physically
mistreat their wives.
So if you're
looking for a whole different experience, try the beautiful Philippine
Islands, you won't regret it in my opinion. Unique culture, cheaper
prices, and it can be a rewarding place to call home, whether it be for
a few years, or for the rest of your life. Even for the active type, its
great, especially for watersports. American movies are popular, and cost
only about $1 to see in theatres. Our money goes a long ways there, another
great thing. Even more so now, then when I was living there. It was a little
more than 40 pesos to $1 then. Now its around 50 pesos to $1! That is a
huge difference, especially when exchanging a few hundred at a time. Don't
exchange currency at banks, they give a lower rate. Exchange at the small
exchange places located in shopping centers, etc. You'll always get the
current rate shown on MSNBC and other news channels. A few pesos can make
a big difference. Large stores, chain stores, and such are usually not
any problem, as they don't cheat you on prices. But some small family owned
stores have two prices. A "Filipino price," and an "American price," which
can sometimes be double! My wife saw a piece of furniture she liked, and
it cost P500 pesos. When I went in with her, it was then P1,000! There
are many situations like that, look around, then send in a Filipino to
buy it for you later. Taxis are bad, as they are in many, many other countries.
I told a friend of mind from Chicago to remain at the airport, until I
could pick him up. Well, he didn't listen and took a taxi to Cebu
Plaza Hotel, a ride which should have cost no more than P100, even in heavy
traffic. He was charged P800 instead! $20! Before getting into the car,
ask if the taxi driver is going to use the meter. If he says no, shut the
door and hail another taxi, you'll see one in about ten seconds, they're
everywhere. The meter is cheaper.
see some of you during my next trip to my second home. I hope this information
will be of value to someone. I have a lifetime of memories in the Philippines.
I hope you will also, Mabuhay, as they say in the Philippines!