Phillipines on a Shoestring Budget

Tripoto
1st Dec 2013

Paul and Peter Church

Photo of Phillipines on a Shoestring Budget by Bob Bales

Palawan

Photo of Phillipines on a Shoestring Budget by Bob Bales

Bohol

Photo of Phillipines on a Shoestring Budget by Bob Bales

Fort Santiago

Photo of Phillipines on a Shoestring Budget by Bob Bales

Bohol

Photo of Phillipines on a Shoestring Budget by Bob Bales

Bantyan

Photo of Phillipines on a Shoestring Budget by Bob Bales

If you have never been to the Philippines I would suggest you make time for a trip to this archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean. With great people, delectable food (minus the Balut!), and stellar scenery, Philippines has no dearth of things that make an amazing travel destination.  Every time I visit I try to venture into another island and with so many islands it will be a lot of time before I run out of new things to see.

Asia and the Pacific islands have some great beaches and islands and the Philippines are no different. Spend a week or more and you will fall in love with this place. Just like I did. With everything from backpacker digs to upscale resorts on White Beach, Alona Beach and the other popular beaches there are accommodation options to suit everyone's budget and liking.

Bohol, in the Central Visayas, is a great island because of what it has on offer. There are endangered species such as the Philippine Tarsier, a little primate that has a tendency to commit suicide when it gets stressed, The Chocolate Hills, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dolphin watching, scuba and snorkeling, zip lining and adventure trekking and the Bohol Bee Farm an organic farm, hotel and restaurant.

I love the Philippines and once you get outside Manila the country is beautiful with great beaches and lots of things to see. Don’t get me wrong, Manila has a lot going for it also but as with any big city the prices are more expensive, the traffic sucks and it’s crowded. One thing Manila has in its favor is the many places to get your grub on. There is everything from local food chains to restaurants found in the US, German restaurants, Middle Eastern food, Korean and Japanese food and more.

I have traveled around a lot in the Philippines and have been to some pretty neat places but when I decided to visit Bantayan Island off the coast of Cebu I found a real gem. Bantayan is a great island to explore or just relax on the beach while thinking about fresh fish. 

Some involved in the Philippine tourism industry feel that the Tourism Department needs to concentrate more on the safety and security of visitors. I have never felt unsafe while traveling there. However, like anywhere else there are dangers and you should be careful. The Philippines does have its problems, from kidnappings to the ongoing battles with Islāmic separatists in the Southern part of Mindanao. But a little situational awareness can go a long way.  In other words don’t put yourself in a bad situation by backpacking in rebel territory and don’t be flashing money in Manila’s China Town.

Having said that, I truly enjoy the Philippines and all it has to offer. The people, culture, food and beautiful beaches have me returning over and over. People in the Philippines are some of the friendliest I have encountered. I am always warned by locals in Manila to be careful because of the crime but I have always felt safe. The only people I have ever found to be rude or obnoxious were some of the foreigners!

Manila, lying on the eastern shore of Manila Bay, is a modern city with modern conveniences, hard-working people and a rich history. It is also the most densely populated city in the world. Located inside the walled city of Intramuros in Manila lies Fort Santiago, the oldest Spanish fortress in the Philippines. Strategically located near the mouth of the Pasig River just off Manila Bay, Fort Santiago was built in 1571. Originally the site of a Muslim kingdom headed by Rajah Sulaiman the area was destroyed by Spaniards and the fort was built and soon became the main defense fortress during the spice trade with the Americas. The original earthen and log fort was destroyed by invading Chinese Pirates and was reconstructed with volcanic rock. The fort served as a Spanish Fortress, Headquarters of the US Army during the American colonial period and WW2 and was captured by the Japanese during WW2 and used as a prison. Most of the fort was destroyed during the Battle of Manila in February 1945 and is now a historical park administered by the Philippine National Parks Development Committee. Used by the Japanese military, after they captured Manila, numerous Filipino and American prisoners were tortured and executed in the infamous dungeons. Some reports estimate that as many as 2500-3000 Filipinos were executed in Intramuros and Fort Santiago during the last days of Japanese occupation. A cross bearing an inscription and denoting the final resting place of approximately 600 Filipino and American prisoners is located on the grounds. Today the dungeons are closed to the public along with the underground chambers. Visitors are allowed in some parts and can walk the grounds.
Photo of Manila, Philippines by Bob Bales
Every once in while you find a place a little off the tourist radar. Bantayan Island is one such place. I have traveled around a lot in the Philippines and have been to some pretty neat places but when I decided to visit Bantayan Island I could not have known that I would chance upon a place of such serenity. There isn’t much here. Not a lot of tourists, no malls, no people asking you to buy condos or discos blaring dance music. There are only a couple of towns worth any size on the island, one being Bantayan town and the other Sante Fe. Bantayan city has the only ATM where foreign transactions are allowed and they only take a Visa card. They have a nice market, a fabulous old church with lots of history, a few local restaurants and a couple of cock fighting arenas. I experienced my first cock fight in Bantayan and will post more on that later. What you won’t find are McDonalds, Jollibee, Dunkin Donuts or any other fast food joint. However the people are some of the friendliest I have ever encountered. The Philippines in general is very hospitable but the people on Bantayan Island seem to be more friendly than most. And this a place where you can experience true island life. Compared to Filipino standards I am a bug dude and stand tall at 6'1" and sometimes stand out and get a lot of looks when I am here. I get stares when I walk down the streets in Manila or anywhere else. On Bantayan island there are a lot of tricycle drivers, the non-motorized kind. So imagine their concern when I squeeze my big ass into a trike and tell them to peddle me to town. They sweat their ass off and I get lots of looks and giggles along the way. I also get people waving and saying hello and greeting me everywhere I go. At least 4 times while walking around I have been asked to sit and have a drink. I walked past an older woman picking up coconuts in her yard the other day and when I waved she dropped everything, smiled and waved back. Little kids say hello and so far wit
Photo of Bantayan, Central Visayas, Philippines by Bob Bales
The island of Palawan and city of Puerto Princesa are some of the Philippines major tourist spots. People from all over the world come to visit this island paradise. The island is also the site of the Palawan Military Museum, officially known as the Palawan Special Battalion WW2 Memorial Museum. In 1944 the area was controlled, as were the rest of the Philippines, by the Imperial Japanese Army which had captured the country and held the people along with US Military prisoners under brutal conditions. In Palawan American POWs were being held to construct a Japanese airfield. The prisoners were held under harsh conditions with little to eat and a lack of medical care. The Palawan Special Battalion WW-2 Museum is located close to the airport at Rizal Avenue Extension, Baragay Bancao-Bancao, 5300 Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, Philippines and gives interesting insights into this specific period of the Philippines' history.
Photo of Palawan, MIMAROPA, Philippines by Bob Bales
Bohol has a lot of sights to see and some great beaches but, it also gave me the opportunity to take a step back and just relax in the beauty of the Island. The Bohol Bee Farm is one place you need to put on your list when visiting the Island of Bohol. When I first heard about it I expected the obligatory tour of a bunch of bees and how honey is extracted. I was pleasantly surprised at all the place has to offer. Located on Panglao Island Bohol, the farm is a working resort dedicated to organic farming.
Photo of Bohol Island, Bohol, Central Visayas, Philippines by Bob Bales
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