Yeah, you read that RIGHT.
The Philippines is a vibrant and beautiful country in Southeast Asia comprising of 7107 islands but only about 2000 islands are inhabited. I had an exciting opportunity to visit the Philippines for work to attend the Global Peace Convention 2017.
Honestly, I did not have any expectations as I was scheduled for a week to attend meetings, forums and seminars in the Marriot Hotel, Manila. After hearing about the untapped beauty of Palawan, exploring the desserts and meeting Filipinos, I decided to extend my stay by 2 weeks 🙂
You will often hear that Philippines is the only country where tourists all over the world visit just for the people. Their hospitality is out of this world and the Filipinos pride themselves on this. The warm welcome I enjoyed from strangers, the hotel staff, shop owners, etc was superlative. They are kind, warm, generous and gregarious.
Being a dark-skinned African girl with braids on, I felt like a celebrity because nearly everyone I met complimented my looks, my hair and wanted to take a picture with me. There is a tiny African presence in the Philippines and throughout my stay, I only saw 2 Africans. Are you looking for a place to get great value for your money?
Although my flight and accommodation for the first week were covered by my organisation, I covered the expenses for the two-week extension. I had a budget of $1000 for transportation (both air and ground), food, drinks, hotel accommodation, tours, and souvenirs. Moving around Manila with Uber or taxi was around $2 -$6 and you can get a good meal for about $4 (get ready to use fork and spoon instead of fork and knife :)). I booked an apartment on Airbnb for $25 a night. Also, there are tonnes of good hotels for less than $100 like Belmont and Remington Hotels.
Nothing is more magical than visiting Palawan.
Palawan is a paradise on earth (take this from someone who lived in Hawaii for almost two years).
Palawan is a rare beauty with amazing rock formations, perfect beaches with white sands and crystal-clear waters.
There are different ways to get to Palawan from Manila but I chose the easiest and fastest way – air. It is also the most expensive way. The cheapest airline is Skyjet which cost $180 round trip but I was careless with my packing, had more than 10kg and ended up paying $50 one way for excess luggage. Do not be like me and expect to find Uber or Taxi on this Island. In Coron, you can walk to most places or take the tricycle for about $0.40 to long distances like the airport. Famous islands in Palawan are Coron, El Nido and Puerto Princesa and you can either fly, take a ferry or hire a van to move from one to the other. I’ll recommend you to stay in Palawan for about 1.5 weeks to get a deeper feel of these three islands and do book your tours ahead.
Because of time and money, I stayed in Coron and took a boat ride to some of the small neighbouring islands. There are many tiny islands surrounding Coron and if you are with your friends or family, you can rent a boat for about P2000 or $40 per day. I travelled alone so I booked my tours with tour companies, which grouped me with other travellers.
Within Coron Island, there are a lot to see and do. You can climb the 700 steps of Mt Tapyas and see the beautiful scenery of Coron especially at sunset. But if you are anything like me, and would rather not climb or hike, you can see the sunset while dining at La Sirenetta Italian Restaurant & Bar. Don’t forget to visit Coron’s popular lakes and lagoons; Kayangan Lake (nicknamed the cleanest lake in Asia), Barracuda Lake and the twin lagoon.
When you are in Coron, island hopping is a regular activity. In the space of four days, I visited 6 other islands. I explored the rich historical sites and the vast collection of artefacts in Culion Island, known as the land of no return due to its long struggle and unique history. While there is no comparison to the wildlife and safari experience in Africa, Calauit Island offered me a slice of that experience. The island was established in 1976 when President Ferdinand Marcos imported animals such as antelopes, giraffes and zebras from Kenya. Though their ancestors were from Africa, the animals at the park presently were born in the Philippines.
As someone who enjoys sleeping at the beach and listening to the sound of the ocean, I had various options of fine beaches with white sand and turquoise water to lounge around. My favourites were the Black Island, Malcapuya Island, Banana Island and Bulog Dos Island.
I Saved the best for the last, DESSERTS. Filipinos take pride in their food and they love everything SWEET. Some of my favourites are Halo Halo, translates mix mix, which combines shaved ice, evaporated milk, coconut, sweet beans and fruits. Others worth trying are rice cakes, banana wraps, and black Sago’t Gulaman. Although Sago’t Gulaman is a drink, I classify it as a dessert because it’s a mix of gulaman (gelatin), sago (tapioca pearls) and vanilla extract.
Just like others who have visited Palawan, I felt sad when leaving the island but I also have to work because my bills won’t pay themselves and I’ll need to save for my next travel! I’ll love to return and visit other islands especially El Nido and Bohol. Until then, I hope you enjoy your read!
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