It’s More Fun in the Philippines: 10 First Impressions of Summer in the Visayas

It’s More Fun in the Philippines: 10 First Impressions of Summer in the Visayas

The Philippines is an island nation made up of over 7,000 islands– yes, you read that right, seven thousand. 7,107 islands to be exact, and only around 2,000 of them are inhabited.

At over 22,500 miles, it’s ranked 4th in the world for the length of its coastline, and all that coastline can only mean one thing– beaches. It’s not difficult at all to find a beautiful beach to relax on there, so I knew we wanted to visit during summer to enjoy them.

Summer in the Philippines lasts from March until May. The weather during this time is usually hot, humid but thankfully free of heavy rain and typhoons. With children on vacation from school, most people enjoy spending this time traveling around their home country, cooling down at shopping malls, or of course, lounging on the beach.

It was the perfect time of year to visit, and even though we only had a few days to spend there, we still did a lot and had a great introduction to this amazing country. So before I talk all about what we got up to while we were there, I wanted to give you my first impressions of the Visayas:

Days begin early and end late

Whether we were heading out to explore at 5am, heading to the airport at 3am or returning to our resort at 10pm, people were always out and about.

People often wake up early to do all their household chores before it gets too hot so that they can rest and siesta in the afternoon. Small market stands and local shops never seemed to close no matter what time of day we passed by.

Groups of friends were still standing around hanging out and the nightlife at local bars was still going strong even at 3am.

We wondered when people actually slept around here, because it seems they don’t. It’s no wonder why they call the Philippines the country that never sleeps!

Life is lived outside

Philippines - Apr 2014

The Philippines is hot in summer. Like, really hot. Yet most people seem to spend most of their time outside.

Most Filipinos don’t have air conditioning, so I guess it doesn’t really matter if you stay inside or out, especially since outside has plenty of shade from all the lush palm trees and flora.

People were always outside playing games, at the beach or even just taking a nap on their tricycles.

Of course, if you really need a break from the heat most people will pay a visit to one of the many air-conditioned malls downtown Cebu City.

God is number one

Philippines - Apr 2014

90% of Filipinos are Christian, with 85% being Roman Catholic in particular, and it shows. Religion can be seen everywhere throughout the country.

Almost every calendar we saw hanging on the walls featured depictions of Jesus, even in government offices and airports. Shops and homes often had religious figures decorating both the inside and outside, and the tricycles roaming the streets had Bible scriptures printed on the backs of them.

We were especially surprised upon boarding our ferry to Bohol, that before leaving port they played a prayer over the intercom with accompanying video on the TVs.

Life is simple, but pleasant

Philippines - Apr 2014

We stayed outside the city, so every time we were driving back to our hotel we would pass through areas where people literally slept on the dirt floor in shacks made from bamboo and leaves. Goats, chickens and oxen roamed the roads, and children were often out playing with them or playing with sticks.

The Philippines is certainly a developing country and things many people in western countries take for granted, like clean running water or education, are a luxury there. Honestly, at first it was a bit of a shock but you really grow to appreciate how they are living and still so full of joy. The life there is certainly not a bad one, just a simpler one.

I think our guide said it best when she said that Filipinos know their country is poor, they know people endure hard times, but everyone still knows how to smile.

People are incredibly kind and friendly 

Philippines - Apr 2014

The hospitality we experienced from the Filipinos is incomparable to anywhere else I’ve traveled so far.

Everyone was incredibly kind, and welcoming. They were often curious and wanted to talk with us, but always in a respectful way.

It certainly isn’t like other places in Southeast Asia where as a tourist you are being constantly harassed by touts as you walk down the street. We encountered a few people near our resort asking if we’d like to take a tour, but as soon as we said ‘no’, they smiled and continued onward. Instead, walking down the street, if I had my DSLR out, people would continually stop us and ask if we could take their picture.

Not to mention, everything is “ma’am” and “sir”. Like, literally, every sentence.

Typical encounters often went something like this:

Oh, hi, ma’am, how are you, ma’am? Is there anything I can do for you, ma’am? I hope you’re enjoying your time in the Philippines, ma’am. Please come back to visit us, ma’am.

Their politeness just blew my mind. I tried to count how many times they’d say “ma’am” in conversation, but I couldn’t even keep up.

English is everywhere

Unlike most places in Asia, there is no language barrier in the Philippines, as 90% of Filipinos speak English. It’s used as the main language in schools, for the government, and even in newspapers.

While of course there are many other languages and dialects spoken in the Philippines, for the most part it was easy to communicate with everyone we encountered.

I also found it interesting to learn that many Koreans and even Japanese often travel to the Philippines for a few months with the sole purpose to learn English!

Transportation can be a little tough for foreigners

Philippines - Apr 2014

As a developing country, the Philippines just doesn’t have the same high standards for transportation that is found in the rest of Asia. Getting from one major city to another is quite easy with cheap airlines like Cebu Pacific and PAL or by using ferries, but traveling around those cities is a different story.

There are no trains to help get you, so unless you want to pay high taxi fees, you’re pretty much limited to figuring out the local transportation.

The most common forms of transportation are jeepneys, smaller jeepneys called “multicabs” and tricycles (which are basically their version of a tuk-tuk or rickshaw). The tricycles are easy to figure out, but the jeepneys and multicabs are a bit confusing. You need to know the different routes, where to transfer, and how far you’ll be traveling, as the fare is charged by kilometers (and there’s no meter telling you how much you owe– you just hand over cash).

Once you do figure it out, it can be quite fun as you’ll meet many talkative locals. Plus all the jeepneys are just so colorful and uniquely designed, so who wouldn’t want to ride in one?

The scenery is some of the best in the world

Philippines - Apr 2014

Driving from one side of the island to the other, we passed almost every type of scenery you could imagine.

From white sand beaches, untouched lush jungles, colorful coral reefs, majestic waterfalls, active volcanoes, you name it, they have it. Not to mention the unique landscapes like the strange Chocolate Hills in Bohol or the rice terraces of Banaue, the scenery is just stunning.

I was constantly impressed, looking out the window as we were driving around, and couldn’t look away. Absolutely beautiful.

The wildlife is equally impressive

Philippines - Apr 2014

Nestled inside all of that flora and fauna is a diverse range of wildlife. There are nearly 200 different mammal species in the Philippines with even more species of birds, reptiles and fish. Around the world there are about 500 different coral species and the Philippines has over 400 of them making it heaven for snorkelers and divers.

Two highlights of our trip were getting to seek out the cute, yet freaky tarsiers and snorkeling with giant whale sharks the size of a bus. Although next time I want to see the crazy monkey-eating eagles!

Filipinos love their food

Philippines - Apr 2014
…And with good reason!

If I hadn’t grown up with many Filipino friends, I probably would not have had a clue about their cuisine. Even living in Asia, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Filipino restaurant anywhere outside of the Philippines (apart from Jollibee but that doesn’t count!), but boy how I wish there were.

The food deserves a post of its own, but just know, it’s cheap, it’s delicious and I’m missing it already!

It’s definitely more fun in the Philippines and I can’t wait to go back to explore even more since we only got to experience three islands! 

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Whether you’ve traveled there before or not, what’s your impression of the Philippines?

A huge thank you to the Philippines Department of Tourism and Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort for hosting our stay in this wonderful country. As always, all opinions and first impressions are entirely our own.

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80 Comments

  1. jem
    June 10, 2014 / 12:16 am

    The Philippines is really blessed with amazing places, people, and good food! I had the opportunity to

    travel all over the country- in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, and it’s incomparable. The islands are

    just so gorgeous! What makes it more enjoyable, and safe, is that the people are friendly and helpful

    to the max! Their hospitality shows anywhere, everywhere, anytime, everytime. November- February

    maybe the better time to be there… it’s not so warm, and experience the longest Christmas, only in

    the Philippines! And where else can you get 3 meals and 3 snacks a day for just about USD 10.00?

    It’s not the fast food kind, there are good places to dine, cooked fresh and just the right amount of

    spices! Now that’s simple, healthy living. Try it, you’ll be glad you did!

    • Beth Williams
      June 25, 2014 / 5:53 am

      I agree. It’s such a wonderful country and I think it’s finally putting itself on the map. I’m glad more people are finally traveling there to experience the greatness of the country. I’d love to go back and explore as much as you did!

  2. Kaye
    June 7, 2014 / 2:32 am

    thanks for giving our country a good review. i’m glad you enjoyed your trip here.

    • Beth Williams
      September 28, 2014 / 10:54 am

      It was a beautiful country, I can’t wait to go back!

  3. June 6, 2014 / 8:59 am

    I was chuckling when I read that portion on politeness.
    I don’t know if you already heard “mamser?”

    It’s like this:
    Oh, hi, ma’am-ser, how are you, ma’amser? Is there anything I can do for you, ma’am? I hope you’re enjoying your time in the Philippines, ma’amser. Please come back to visit us, ma’amser.

    Ma’amser is the contracted version of “ma’am and sir,” and is oftentimes used as a welcome greetings in big urban cities. Because of the continuous flow of people, “ma’am” and “sir” isn’t distinguished anymore. So the greet goes:

    “Good morning ma’amser! Welcome to Jollibee!” :D

    Glad you’ve enjoyed our home. :)

    • Beth Williams
      September 28, 2014 / 10:53 am

      Haha, we did hear ma’amser, especially when in Jollibee! Gotta love the politeness though!

  4. Lorna
    June 5, 2014 / 8:39 pm

    I am a Filipino and I guarantee you will have an adventure of lifetime…visit Taal Volcano in Tagaytay City and you will never forget it….

    • Beth Williams
      June 7, 2014 / 12:24 pm

      I just look up Taal and it looks absolutely stunning! I can’t wait to make it back to the Philippines.

  5. June 5, 2014 / 5:46 pm

    Thank you for visiting the Philippines!

    • Beth Williams
      June 7, 2014 / 12:25 pm

      Of course! It was an amazing country, with even more amazing people.

  6. June 5, 2014 / 5:40 pm

    Beware of the Philippines!!!! You may find yourself never leaving. Such a beautiful country and people, I came here on holiday and now I live and work here

    • Beth Williams
      June 7, 2014 / 12:25 pm

      I can definitely see how that could easily happen!

  7. May 28, 2014 / 1:17 am

    Nice first impressions. Quite accurate. Hope you go visit the Philippines again. There’s so much to see and write about. Happy travels!

    • Beth Williams
      May 28, 2014 / 8:45 pm

      I really want to! I am trying to plan a return trip for this fall to explore other areas.

  8. May 8, 2014 / 4:58 am

    Gosh I love the Philippines! I haven’t been there before (even though I tried to make it during my last trip to Asia) but it’s very high on my bucket list! The people, food, culture, scenery, wildlife, beaches…it all seems amazing! :-D

    • Beth Williams
      May 10, 2014 / 4:09 pm

      Everything about the Philippines is amazing! Sorry you didn’t make it on your last trip, but maybe the next one! ;)

  9. Charli
    May 5, 2014 / 11:32 am

    Great intro to the Philippines Beth. I wish I had some experience of travel through these exotic lands, they look so appealing, as does the local cuisine!

    • Beth Williams
      May 10, 2014 / 3:56 pm

      From the looks of it, you’ve been to plenty exotic locations yourself!

  10. May 2, 2014 / 11:38 pm

    I would love to visit the Philippines, the rice terraces are high on my list! The tarsiers look so cute, too (although I agree, a bit freaky) :) Can’t wait to read more about your time there!

    • Beth Williams
      May 10, 2014 / 10:01 am

      Freaky in the cute, weird kind of way :)

  11. Megan Claire
    May 2, 2014 / 8:59 am

    I guess I know where my next trip will be! I’m starting to really appreciate countries which embrace the simple life. Will have to book a detour on our way back to Australia next. Thanks!

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:59 pm

      If you can get a good deal, I really recommend stopping by!

  12. May 1, 2014 / 5:21 pm

    Oh, that looks just amazing! Now I really would like to visit this country one day. And especially because of kind people, many islands and beautiful landscapes! Just amazing!

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:53 pm

      It certainly was amazing! :)

  13. May 1, 2014 / 1:12 am

    I would love to travel to the Philippines one day. It’s true, I think, the less you have the happier you are. Even if we see it as poverty, and they’re happy… y’know….?

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:53 pm

      I was recently reading an article on how children who live in poverty are actually happier than most– so I agree! They’re at least very appreciative for what they have.

  14. May 1, 2014 / 12:51 am

    Every Filipino person I’ve met, no matter where in the world, had been extremely friendly and polite.

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:52 pm

      I completely agree! Also very proud of their country and heritage.

  15. April 29, 2014 / 5:56 am

    You had me at ‘locals are friendly’ and ‘the scenery is some of the best in the world’, then I got to ‘Filipinos love their food’, and now I know I have to visit! Thanks for this, great overview!

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:52 pm

      Do visit! You won’t regret it :)

  16. April 29, 2014 / 3:45 am

    We’re still trying to figure out where to take our big family trip in November. After reading this post, I am going to immediately start researching the weather in the Philippines at that time of year. My kids would love the wildlife, my husband would love to go to mass there, and I would love to meet those friendly faces and try all of the food. It looks like there is something for everyone to love!

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:51 pm

      There really is something for everyone! I’m also planning to return in November. It could be rainy, but it’s also generally a few nice time of year to visit. :)

    • Kaye
      June 7, 2014 / 1:52 am

      November can be a little rainy..

  17. April 29, 2014 / 2:13 am

    Thanks for this. I can’t wait to go. I’m especially encouraged to hear of the extremely pleasant demeanor of the Filipino people. I love to travel to meet the people as much as anything and am very put off when I find I have landed in a place that is filled with rude or indifferent behavior. Cheers.

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:50 pm

      I love meeting people as well, and it was incredibly easy in the Philippines to do so. People often approached us and were very friendly (plus curious).

  18. April 28, 2014 / 11:23 pm

    Sounds like an interesting experience! Can’t wait to read about the food :)

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:50 pm

      If you’ve never had Filipino food, do try it if given the chance. It’s such a mix of influences from around the world, and it’s amazing.

      • Kaye
        June 7, 2014 / 2:08 am

        Glad to know you liked our food. one blogger would rather go hungry than eat our streetfood.
        you have not mentioned the different indigenous people of the philipppines. you’ll be surprised to discover how this little group of islands is composed of different cultures – with different type of houses, and way of life. food is different in each region. festivals are fun where you can do crazy things and get away with it. religious rituals are also good way to know people and understand our culture a little deeper.

        • Beth Williams
          September 28, 2014 / 11:01 am

          I’d love to spend more time in the Philippines to learn about the different cultures … and yes, the food was amazing! I can’t wait to get back to eat more of it!

  19. I love your report about the country, so true! Only missing the photos of those white sand beaches and crystal blue waters that inspired Alex Garland to write his famous book..

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:49 pm

      The beaches were simply amazing. I’ll be posting some photos later, although a few have already been up on my Facebook page.

      I can’t wait to go back and explore more of them!

  20. April 28, 2014 / 7:21 pm

    Very interesting article. It reminds me a little bit about Laos. It´s always interesting to see how friendly and joyful people are altough they don´t have lots of luxury sometimes not even electricity or running water.

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:48 pm

      Laos is another country I really want to visit. I’m hoping I’ll make it out there this fall when I come back to Asia. It’ll be interesting to see if it reminds me of the Philippines.

  21. April 28, 2014 / 9:42 am

    I really want to go to the Philippines, and this has just made me want to visit even more! Fingers crossed for next year :)

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:46 pm

      Crossing my fingers for you! :)

  22. April 28, 2014 / 6:51 am

    Great post. I serious dont know whats been holding me from travelling to Philippines considering its one of a few countries my Zambia passport doesnt need a visa to visit. I am hoping next year as I would love to combine it with a trip to maybe Malaysia or Singapore.

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:46 pm

      It’s not too far from both Malaysia and Singapore. There are plenty of budget flights going there with Cebu Pacific and Air Asia, so do look into it!

  23. April 28, 2014 / 2:46 am

    Food, scenery and wildlife – three of my favourite things! I’ll have to get to the Philippines sometime.

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:45 pm

      The country really has it all. It’s so underrated when it comes to tourism.

  24. April 27, 2014 / 11:57 pm

    Anytime your first impression of a place has you finding the locals welcoming, is great. It can really make or break your trip.

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:45 pm

      I agree! I’ve been to a few countries where the locals were anything but welcoming– and I’m not in any hurry to return to them!

  25. April 27, 2014 / 11:48 pm

    What a beautiful overview of first impressions. I consider visiting the Philippines in the Summer and I must say… you pretty much convinced me :)!

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:44 pm

      I hope you get a chance to go! I previously didn’t have much desire to visit, but now I’m hooked!

  26. April 27, 2014 / 11:42 pm

    Philippines seems like a quiet and modest, yet a beautiful destination. Thanks for sharing the insights. :)

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:43 pm

      It is, although with tourism increasing, I’m not sure how long it’ll stay that way!

  27. April 27, 2014 / 11:40 pm

    That plate of food looks very tasty. I’d love to learn more about the local cuisine (from your blog). Thanks for sharing the photos and stories.

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:43 pm

      Thanks Dave! The food was amazing, and I’ll be talking all about the best dishes next week!

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:42 pm

      There are certainly a lot of things to love!

  28. April 27, 2014 / 7:46 am

    I’m impressed about your observations of the Philippines, the fact that you said you only a few days to stay there. Everything you wrote is true. I, myself, come from Davao, Philippines but it’s probably still quiet there in the evening. I didn’t know Visayas had busy nights, thought it’s only in Manila. I feel homesick while and after reading your post. I’d love to hear your say about the Filipino cuisine :)

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:42 pm

      I’ll be covering the cuisine food… just thinking about it is making me crave it again already! Davao is another place that I am hoping to visit soon. It looks lovely!

    • Kaye
      June 7, 2014 / 2:14 am

      DAvao is on my list, Marlene. It gets very good review from my friends who have lived in DAvao City.

  29. April 27, 2014 / 3:56 am

    It’s always interesting to see foreigners first impressions of the Motherland. I’m glad you had a wonderful experience in the Philippines. I was born in the Visayas region but grew up in the US and haven’t been back since but with a quick stopover this summer. Thanks for taking me back down memory lane. There are quite a number of Filipino restaurants in California (particularly the SoCal region) and some beyond the fast food. Looking forward to your take on Filipino food.

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:41 pm

      Good to know there are some restaurants in Cali! I knew there was a Jollibee there, but didn’t know there were places beyond fast food. I’ll definitely have to check some of those out as I’ll be moving back to the US next month.

      Glad I could help take you down memory lane. I hope you get to return to your home country to visit soon. :)

  30. April 26, 2014 / 6:31 am

    Thanks for sharing with us your wonderful experience in the Philippines. Wish ai could go back and visit the Visayas soon! ;)

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:39 pm

      I’m already planning a return trip for hopefully this fall! I hope you get to return soon as well. :)

  31. April 25, 2014 / 11:27 am

    It looks beautiful there! And I’d love to hear more about the food!

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:39 pm

      I’ll be covering the food shortly! It was so delicious.

      • Kaye
        June 7, 2014 / 2:28 am

        You can only cover a tenth of our cuisine. The vastness of variety is unimaginable being a tiny country. Each region has its own local diet, each province has different way of preparation. I grew up eating cuisine that no one outside my region, or province, know. I have eaten food from other regions I never thought would be food.

        If you come back here, i am inviting you to drop by my father’s house to see how those exotic food are prepared and taste them. don’t worry, they don’t consist of bugs or worms. just seafoods and some fruits. my father is a very good cook. my place is 20 minutes from boracay, the most popular tourist destination in the country, so won’t feel like you’re lost in the far end of the world.

        • Beth Williams
          September 28, 2014 / 11:02 am

          Thank you for such a kind offer! I’d love to even have the privilege of a local showing me around :)

          I will let you know the next time I’m in the Philippines!

  32. April 24, 2014 / 4:18 pm

    It looks really nice. Simple but beautiful and with plenty to see and do. I recently started working with a few people from the Philippines and have slowly been learning more and more about their culture. I’m finding it fascinating.

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:38 pm

      It is fascinating! Such a beautiful country with beautiful people.

  33. ella
    April 24, 2014 / 11:48 am

    I’m glad you enjoyed your stay in the Philippines

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:38 pm

      I had an amazing time and am already planning my return!

  34. April 24, 2014 / 10:10 am

    I’m glad your experience is much better than ours! Lovely pictures :) Have fun and get back to HK soon so we can meet up again ;).

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:37 pm

      I’ve been back in HK, but I’ll only be here another 3 weeks or so, so hurry and visit!

    • Beth Williams
      May 2, 2014 / 2:37 pm

      I’ll be writing about it very soon :)