Cebu Itinerary: 2 Days to One Week of Travel

If you’ve been doing your research into the Philippines, then you will sure have come across Cebu as one of the must visit destinations. Of course you have, that’s why you’re here, right?

Well, did you know Cebu not only consists of one large island but also 167 other islands? Cebu city is the oldest city in the Philippines and the first capital. This sets it apart from many of the other islands as not only does it have the lure of paradise beaches, it is one of the most developed provinces and boasts the second largest metropolitan area. This mix of sun, sand and city is what makes it such a hub for many a nomad and vacationer alike. With so much to see and do, we don’t want you missing out! So let’s dive into our recommended Cebu travel itinerary to make sure you make the most out of your trip.

Cebu Itinerary 2 Days

Getting to Cebu is easy, and both the airport and ferry terminal are found in Cebu City. So unless you’ve floated your way in on a bamboo raft, that’s where our journey begins. 

With just 2 days you’ll want to keep your travel times down to a minimum. This means finding accommodation within the city or on the small island of Mactan and towards Lapu-Lapu city, conveniently where the airport is. This is where you’ll find the beach, and this is a Philippines travel itinerary after all, so this is the first thing you should be doing! 

Pro-tip: if you are traveling on a budget, find cheaper accommodation away from the beachfront, take a cheap tuk-tuk ride and buy a beer at a fancy resort for pool and facility access.

One day can easily be filled living your best beach life.

Following that, you will have time to tick off some more ‘must dos’ of the city. Get your haggle skills on at Colon Street. This is Cebu’s oldest street and is full of small businesses and vendors. This would be the ideal spot for picking up some trinkets and souvenirs. 

For those looking to get their blood pumping, the Sky Experience is the first of its kind in the Philippines. This 126m sky walk will have you testing your nerves as you dangle from the 37th floor of Cebu City’s Crown Regency Hotel. If that’s not enough, there’s even a rollercoaster and a zip line between buildings.

To end your day on a slightly more chilled vibe, head up to Tops Lookout to take in a phenomenal city view during sunset or to take in the night time skyline.

Some other cool spots around the city to check out include the Cebu Heritage Monument, Basilica del Santo Nino – the oldest catholic church in the Philippines and the Taoist Temple. The Taoist Temple was a personal highlight for me due to the vivid colors and stunning hillside design. Be sure to follow correct cultural practices when visiting, such as removing shoes and dressing respectfully.


Best Cebu City Accommodation Options

Budget accommodation:  GardenPod Hostel + Café
Midrange accommodation:  OYO 208 Anika Suites
Upscale accommodation:  Maayo Hotel



Cebu Itinerary 3 Days

With 3 days in Cebu, it is well worth looking into the many island hopping options that are on offer. I would recommend finding one that includes the San Vincente Marine Sanctuary. This sanctuary is very close to Mactan and therefore you are spending less time traveling and more time enjoying. 

The marine sanctuary has been put in place by the local government to protect and promote marine diversity from such things as over harvesting. Marine life is a huge source of income for local people and the longevity of this resource is vital for the future of the local people. 

One of the many projects carried out here is the planting of mangroves. Mangroves are a key part in a healthy marine environment as somewhere for fish to lay eggs, a producer of oxygen and protecting the land from wave erosion. 

It’s also an amazing spot for snorkeling, checking out corals and walking their 500m bamboo bridge.


Best Mactan Accommodation Options

Budget accommodation:  Little Norway Guesthouse
Midrange accommodation:  Mural Mactan
Upscale accommodation:  Abaca Boutique Resort




Cebu Itinerary 4 Days

No list of ‘what to do in Cebu’ would be complete without a mention of Kawasan Falls. This waterfall is renowned in all of the Philippines due to its mesmerizing turquoise waters under the 40m high main falls.

Getting there is fairly simple if you’ve a rented vehicle or scooter, as the trail is well signposted. If you are traveling by bus, you can leave from the South Bus Terminal every 30mins. The bus stop is right outside the entrance path to the falls. It’s around 3-4hours bus ride away, with Moalboal being the nearest town. If you aren’t a fan of a big bus day then overnighting there would be a good idea, but we’ll get to that on Day 5.

The path up to the falls takes about 15minutes, with a restaurant at the end. Even using the tables costs money, so be happy to pay if that’s what you plan on doing. There are also lockers and lifejackets available for rent.

The falls will get busier throughout the day, so the earlier you arrive and go for a swim the better!

A path and staircase to the left leads up to the second and third set of falls. These are slightly quieter and more secluded than the main swimming area at the bottom. 

There is also an option of canyoneering at the falls. This is a guided jungle trek taking you from the top down, with plenty of spots to cliff jump. These tours take about 2-3 hours. They can be arranged upon arrival or pre-booked. Pre-booking could good option if you don’t mind paying more for the inclusion of transport etc.



Cebu Itinerary 5 Days

With an extra day added to your itinerary, I’d suggest breaking up your visit to Kawasan Falls with a stay in Moalboal. This quaint town has one of the coolest natural phenomena for you to experience – the sardine bait ball!

Millions and millions of sardines move seemingly as one gigantic ball as a defense against predators. The fish themselves are totally harmless and will swarm and swim around you. The sheer number is absolutely ridiculous and has to be seen to be believed. 

The best thing about the experience is it is absolutely free. They hang out around an area not far from the beach. All you need is snorkel gear. There will likely be other swimmers in the water to give you a clue of direction, but how hard can it be to find a million sardines? 

There are snorkel tours that include this location plus a few others, with chances of seeing dolphins and turtles. These animals are of course wild, so set your expectations realistically and enjoy what ever you happen to come across.


Best Moalboal Accommodation Options

Budget accommodation:  Darius’ Residences
Midrange accommodation:  Pig Dive Hostel Moalboal
Upscale accommodation:  Dolphin House Resort Moalboal



Cebu Itinerary One Week 

With one week in Cebu, you will be able to hit up all the best spots on offer as well we going slightly further afield. Bohol is just a 2hr ferry ride away; and home to some really incredible experiences. Here you can find the tarsier, the worlds smallest primate. These little guys are about the size of a fist yet their eyes seem to make up for most of that. The Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary is the best place for it, as their sole mission is to save this at risk species. 

Bohol’s Chocolate Hills are also are sight worth seeing. The hills have been rounded from wind and water erosion, making them look like chocolate drops spread out amongst the landscape. Particularly so in dry season when the grass takes a brownish hue. 

These activities can be combined into a single tour via various providers in Cebu. Alternatively you could spend the night in Bohol. This would allow some more time to experience the unique culture and environment on offer.


Traveling Around the Philippines: A How to Guide

The Philippines – long, white sandy beaches; clear, turquoise water and overhanging palm trees. A colorful collection of paradise islands, where the locals are just as welcoming and happy to see you as you are to be there. That’s what comes to my mind when I picture the Philippines – and it’s the reason why travelers from all over the world have it high on their lists ‘must visit’ places.

When you’re not basking in the sun sipping on daiquiri’s, you can venture further inland and conquer jungle hikes, volcanoes or make the most of some of the best scuba diving in the entire world.

With every single island offering their own unique slice of tropical bliss, you’ll be wanting to move between a few of them during your stay. The intricate maze of buses and ferries, flights, tuk tuks and timetables can sometimes be overwhelming, so let me walk you through some of the best ways to get around in the Philippines during your stay.

Traveling to Coron

Part of the province of Palawan (voted ‘The Best Island in the World’, multiple times), it is actually separate to the rest of the island by about 250km of water. Because of this, it is slightly behind on the tourist traffic that some other areas may be experiencing. You’ll be able to explore the mind melting scenery without needing to share. There are lakes, lagoons, bays and underwater mountains. If you’re looking for that quiet island getaway, then this is the place.

Twin Lagoon is a must do. During low tide, a gap appears beneath a limestone wall that usually separates the two. You can then swim to the other side. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you can swim underwater and through it even when it’s not exposed. The lagoons also allow you to experience the meeting of fresh and salt water, creating varying temperature pockets.

A really unique experience that Coron offers are the underwater mountains of Barracuda Lake. After a short hike up some rickety wooden stairs, you can dive in a crystal clear lake and float on by the mountain peaks, much easier than hiking them! This can be done with just a snorkel, but if you really want an otherworldly experience then we’d suggest going scuba.

The best way of getting to Coron would be from El Nido, the last stop off destination on the north end of Palawan. There are ferries leaving every morning from El Nido to Coron, taking between 3.5-4hours depending on conditions. The ride is comfortable and has A/C. Be sure to check the weather forecast. A storm will of course mean no sailing and your departure will keep being moved back until a clear day.

Another option would be to fly. Both El Nido and Coron have airports, so it comes at little inconvenience and saves time overall – this can sometimes be the simplest way when traveling in the Philippines.



Traveling to El Nido

El Nido – the Nest – is located on the northern tip of Palawan. It’s bustling with backpackers and for good reason. A stretch of beach curves along the town, with many bars and restaurants spilling out on to it. It’s a great place for the social traveller, and the countless nearby islands offer an escape for those searching for silence.

If you’ve ever seen a photo of somebody on the nose of a longtail boat or kayak, surrounded by sparkling turquoise water and sheer karst mountains stabbing out the sea and into the sky – then it was probably taken during a boat tour leaving El Nido.

As well as the many island hopping options, the scuba diving out of El Nido is incredible (starting to see a theme here?). The most fascinating spot of all is the Dilumacad underwater tunnel off of Helicopter Island. Referred to as ‘the Tunnel’ by locals, it starts at 12m below the surface and continues for 40m right through to the other side of the island. This is for advanced divers only.

If you’re starting from Coron then you of course have the same options for heading this way – Coron to El Nido flight or ferry. And if you’re heading from Puerto Princesa up then you have the option of traveling overland. Prices vary considerably depending on the level of luxury you would like, or the amount of stops your bus will take. A minivan can get you there from as little as $12, and if you’ve got a decent podcast saved for long journeys then this is a really great option. You’ll be thankful for the amount of extra mango smoothies you can afford!

If you’re not a people person then private transfers are also available, you pay for the vehicle so if you have a large enough group then this option actually works out fairly evenly.


Traveling to the Philippines? Check out our Philippines Travel Itinerary for all the best spots to visit!

Traveling to Puerto Princesa

Officially The City of Puerto Princesa, it is actually the least densely populated city in the Philippines. Being more urbanized than other places on Palawan allows for the comforts that go with it – better wifi, more shopping options and access to electronic stores to replace lost charger cables. There is somewhat of a nightlife scene here, compared to other places, and there are plenty of good eating options for the foodies.

This is the Philippines, so yes of course there are just as many accessible beaches from here on the west coast. Particularly Nagtabon, a beautiful long half moon shaped beach not too far from the city. There are often locals fishing around here who are more than happy to sell you some of their catch, which has travelled no more than 10m from the sea to the BBQ.

Another must do is the Subterranean River National Park, with the optional extra of caving and zip lining. This is underground river tour offers door-to-door options, really creating a hassle free yet adventure filled day of exploring a cave system hundreds of millions of years in the making.

Being a city, and in fact the capital of Palawan, means there are more travel options. Again, if you want to travel from Puerto Princesa to El Nido, then the minivan option would probably be the best bet. Buses in the Philippines can get a little hectic, particularly in the hustle and bustle of the city. Approach all travel days with an open mind, a loose schedule and a ‘go with the flow’ attitude.



Traveling to Bohol

Home of the world’s tiniest primate, the tarsier!

That should be enough to get you over there, but I shall continue anyway. The tarsier is so small it is only about the size of your fist. They have comically large eyes and can rotate their heads 180 degrees without moving their body. You can visit the Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary run by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation. Please note that there are a few mimicking organizations that are just out to profit from the tourism brought in for tarsiers, so please do your research.

Bohol is also famous for its Chocolate Hills, an incredible geological phenomenon and fabulous example of conical karst topography. Over time the limestone karsts have been worn down from ocean, rain and wind to create cone like shapes. In the dry season the grass on them turns brown, hence the name. Bohol boasts the chocolate hills on its regional flag, and they are been put forward to be included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

To get here, there is a ferry from Cebu to Bohol, which would be your best way across. You can either sail in economy or business, with the difference being air-conditioned and slightly more comfortable seats.



Traveling to Cebu

A combination of idyllic islands and modernity provided by Cebu City, it is easy to see why most expats and nomads decide to call this part of the Philippines ‘home’.

There is a rich cultural history on offer in Cebu City, really showing the Spanish influence on the nation. Fort San Pedro and Maggelan’s Cross are worth checking out, as well as the Cebu Taoist Temple for your daily dose of serenity.

Or you can go in completely the other direction and check out the Sky Experience Adventure – an adrenaline fueled 120m+ walk above the city skyline on a glass floor. You can even opt for the ‘extreme’ version, where you are basically dangled off the edge.

If the big city life isn’t your thing, then the many waterfalls of Cebu island may be up your street. Kawasan Falls being the most prominent, you can even book a canyoneering adventure package leaving from the city.

Again, from Bohol to Cebu you have the two ferry options, with or without aircon. If this is the first destination of your trip then there are plenty of flights in from Manila.

One thing to note, if you’re visiting Cebu and want to experience swimming with whale sharks, we’d ask you to read our article and reconsider whether this is an ethical animal interaction. There is a lot of evidence to suggest this is actually damaging the whale shark population in the Philippines. Alternatively you can swim with sea turtles not far from Oslob, which is a much more sustainable animal activity.

This article has been a sponsored collaboration with Bookaway. Bookaway is an easier way to book transportation, keep up to date with timetables and plan your travels around the world. As always, all opinions are our own and we would never recommend a company that we didn’t fully support or use ourselves.

4 Unique Philippines Travel Destinations

From the beautiful beaches to the lush jungle, there are an infinite amount of different trips you could plan for your Philippines travel itinerary. Each trip will take you on a journey through incredible landscapes and amazing hospitality, but depending on what time of year you go, some locations may be crowded with tourists. These four unique places are a bit different from your standard Philippines travel destinations, but you’ll be sure to beat the crowds. From the hanging coffins of Sagada to swimming with sea turtles near Dumaguete City, you won’t be disappointed by these Filipino gems.


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The Philippines has no shortage of beautiful islands (over 7,000 in fact!), but not all of them offer the same range of activities as Siargao. Siargao is still a relatively underrated island, so you won’t face the same influx of tourists as Boracay, although it’s rapidly growing in popularity. The best time to visit Siargao is during the low season for the rest of the Philippines, making it the perfect complement to any itinerary.

Although somewhat challenging to get to, the natural beauty makes it absolutely worth the flight. With its world class waves and laid back vibe, the island has become somewhat of a surfer’s paradise. There are a plethora of surf breaks that will appeal to all levels. But there’s still plenty to do for non-surfers as well. You can go island hopping to off shore islands in the area, check out the lagoon and mangroves, relax on the warm white sand, or grab a board and take a surf lesson. Hey, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!



Puerto Galera

If you’re coming to the Philippines to dive, Puerto Galera is your spot. The island has over 40 dive spots, with some of the country’s best diving.  From the gorgeous Coral Gardens, where you can see vibrantly colored coral reefs, to Shark Cave, where you can see white tipped sharks, there are a variety of dive spots depending on your interests.

Non-divers can enjoy one of the island’s beautiful 30+ beaches, with local favorites being White Beach and Sabang. Puerto Galera is always perfect for families with plenty of resorts and activities to do outside the water, as well. Hiking to beautiful local waterfalls for a picnic is a great afternoon activity. The island also offers a good nightlife scene if you’re looking to have some fun after the sun goes down.



Dumaguete City

Dumaguete City may not be the first choice for things to do in the Philippines, but this university town is a great jumping off point for local sites. The city itself is the bustling little center of the Negros Oriental region and has plenty to see and do. Walk the Rizal Boulevard along the ocean and stop at one of the many seaside cafes and restaurants. Visit one of the city’s churches and museums to learn more about the local culture. Once you’ve had your fill of Dumaguete City, it’s definitely worth exploring some of the local attractions of the region.



One of our favorites is nearby Apo Island where you can snorkel with sea turtles. The waters around the island have been protected as a marine sanctuary and it’s one of the few places you can swim with sea turtles right off shore. There is also excellent diving available in Apo Island. There are plenty of other beaches around Dumaguete City including the very popular Manjuyod white sandbar, as well as plenty of waterfalls in the area.



If you’re looking for something a bit different from the island life, Sagada could be the perfect stop on your Philippines itinerary. Sagada is a remote mountain town and during the months of November to March, it’s a welcome cool relief from the heat of the rest of the country. It’s not easy to get to, but if you can withstand the windy, bumpy roads, you’ll be in for a real treat.


Sagada is famous for its “hanging coffins,” which is a traditional burial method where the dead are placed in coffins that hang off the side of mountains. As morbid as it sounds, visiting these coffins is actually a really interesting glimpse into the local culture. There are also plenty of outdoor activities to do in the area, including hiking, swimming and rappelling through the local caves. Watching the sunrise at Mount Kiltepan is also another local treasure as it boasts incredible views of the sun rising over the Cordillera mountains.

Each of these unique Philippines travel destinations offer something a little different and would be a perfect addition to any travel itinerary. If you’re looking to book a tour package, check out Philippines Travel Package. Yoav, and his team of travel experts, can arrange tours and transportation to all of these destinations and many more!

This post has been sponsored by Philippines Travel Package. However, as always, all thoughts and opinions are our own. We would never recommend a product or service we didn’t trust and believe in. 

*Cover photo via

Philippines Travel Itinerary for 2021: The Ultimate Bucket List

Once an off-the-beaten-path destination for travelers in the know, the Philippines is now becoming a popular stop on the Southeast Asian backpacking route. From lush rainforests to world class beaches, the landscape is one of the most diverse we’ve ever seen. And with over 7,000 islands you really have to choose your Philippines travel itinerary carefully if you want to take in all of this incredible country. Whether you’re a true adventurer ready to take on grueling hikes up an active volcano, or prefer to spend all your time relaxing on the sand, you will not be disappointed in the Philippines!

Although we stayed in the Philippines for over 6 months, most of our time was spent volunteering with typhoon Yolanda relief in Tacloban, so we didn’t get to see as much as we would have liked. What we were able to see during our three week motorcycle trip through the Visayas, two weeks in Palawan and our weekends off from volunteering was incredible. From the famous Chocolate Hills in Bohol to walking one of the country’s longest sandbars on the incredible Kalanggaman Island, we were continually impressed with the Philippines’ natural beauty. There’s no doubt that we’ll return one day (hopefully soon!) to keep exploring.

With all those other locations in mind, to help us craft the best Philippines travel itinerary, we asked our blogging friends to tell us the spots they’d most recommend. And here’s what they said:



Tibiao: Top Ecotourism Spot in the Philippines | Nomad is Beautiful

If you want to experience village life, where locals welcome you with a huge smile and you’re surrounded by lush green forests, then Tibiao won’t disappoint you. Located on the Antique island, not far from the popular Boracay beach, this place has lots to offer to eager ecotourists.

You can learn a lot about local life while walking along the main road. Busy villagers will show you how they build fishing boats, how to produce natural salt on the beach shore or make pottery and bricks, too. If you’re lucky to make some friends in Tibiao, they might introduce you to a local healer, Remedios Maniba, who can show you that miracles are possible. 

Once you’re done with the village experience, we strongly recommend visiting a jungle near Tibiao. There you can try the zipline from above a gorgeous valley with some stunning views! Don’t miss out on jungle trekking to the Bugtong-bato Falls, where you can have a refreshing dip on the top. Tired after hiking? No worries! On the way back there’s a hot kawa bath with some soothing herbs waiting for you. There’s no doubt that Tibiao is a one of the best body and soul retreat in the Philippines.



El Nido’s Secret Beach | Teacake Travels

Far away from the increasing hustle and bustle of El Nido’s main beach there is a way better place that you can escape to! Where the crowds are nowhere in sight and the locals are chilling out in true Filipino style. Apart from one or two tourists who have discovered the secret already, you’ve got this patch of sand to yourself (woohoo!). Tuk tuk drivers are going to try and convince you that to see the best sunset in El Nido you should head to ‘Las Cabanas’. You don’t need to go there.

Skip the ride, use your legs and pop around the corner from the main drag to bid adieu to another amazing day in this tropical paradise. The cheapest beer on the island is also here as well as a lovely table (there’s just one!) where you can pitch your bottom and soak up all the beauty. To find out this location, pop along to Teacake Travels to get the coordinates!


Siargao: A Little Island With A LOT Of Good Vibes | Backpacker Banter

Over the last few years I’ve been island hopping all over the globe – the allure of empty beaches, barefoot living and pumping surf constantly driving my travels. But from the first time I stepped foot on Siargao Island in the South of the Philippines, (about an hours flight East of Cebu) I knew I’d found my ultimate island retreat.

Siargao – and in particular the General Luna are – ticks all the boxes for a traveling surfer or anyone looking to kick back on island time. Enjoy world class waves such as Cloud 9 or start to learn on fun breaks like Jacking Horse or Dacu – my personal favourite. The palm tree fringed beaches are near empty and the lagoon surrounding the island is the ideal place for a high tide swim, kayak or SUP in the clear, warm waters. And the best thing about it all? It doesn’t come with a budget killing price tag!

Dedicated surf camps offer great surf and stay packages, restaurants like Mamas Grill and Kityas serve up a range of local and western dishes and there are a few budget hostels kicking around too if you’re really wanting to live on a dime. One part of me wants to tell everyone about it, the other part wants me to keep this slice of Filipino paradise secret a while longer…

Heading to the Philippines and want to know what to pack? Check out our GIRLS and GUYS packing lists for SOUTHEAST ASIA!


Snorkeling in Moalboal | One Modern Couple

Cebu is an island filled with activity, but between exploring Cebu city and heading north to the beautiful outlying islands, it’s easy to miss out on one of the most amazing experiences the island offers – snorkeling in Moalboal.


Moalboal is a snorkeler’s playground with clear water, a large coral reef and plenty of marine life to be found. By hiring a boat, you can spend several hours in the waters off Moalboal, and around the nearby Pescador Island, observing some incredible underwater life and enjoying island life in the sun. In fact, if you look carefully you’ll most likely see several sea turtles and clown fish up close! The sardine run, one of the most unique and fascinating sights, can also be found in these waters where a huge school of countless sardines swim in one unbelievably large group.

Snorkeling in Moalboal is one of the best experiences to be had while visiting the Philippines. It showcases the natural beauty of the country and its islands, and after a day spent in the water, you can come back to the shore and enjoy some fresh and delicious local cuisine.


Diving in Coron | Travelstache

One of the most unique experiences you can have in the Philippines, and possibly the world, is in Coron. Here you can scuba dive the famous WWII Japanese ship wrecks. These ships have been at the bottom of the sea since a U.S. airstrike back on Sept. 24, 1944. On this day the U.S. sank 24 ships that were part of the Japanese supply fleet, 12 of them are now accessible to diving today.



This is an adventure not for the faint of heart. You’ll be diving down around 100 feet, making your way inside through gaping bombed out holes. Swimming through the narrow passages is like stepping back in time, you get to see the actual supplies still laying as they were. The hundreds of cement bags still intact and ready for delivery and the anchor awaiting deployment. It’s an experience that will send chills through your body and bring you down to the deep dark depths of history.


Off The Grid at Danjugan Island | The Crowded Planet

The highlight of our time in the Philippines was definitely spending three days in Danjugan Island, a tiny island off the coast of Negros Oriental managed by a conservation NGO. We had the chance to meet the president of the foundation, who told us that he purchased Danjugan to save it from overfishing and development. If it wasn’t for them the island would probably be covered in concrete tourist resorts with jet skis buzzing back and forth.



Instead, it’s an Eco paradise. There’s no wifi or electricity and we stayed in a cabana, made with mud from the island, that was powered by solar panels. During the day we walked along the islands trails and visited the ‘bat cave’, or kayaked to a magical lagoon that looked like it was out of Jurassic Park. We watched the sunset every night, in silence, then watched the sky being lit by a million stars. It wasn’t just an amazing holiday and we know that our stay in Danjugan made a difference and helped conserve this fragile environment.


Stand Up Paddling on Loboc River, Bohol | Love and Road

The Philippines is all about pristine beaches and watersports. Within the island life paradise, however, we found a different way to enjoy it! A unique experience we had in Bohol Island was the stand-up paddle on the Loboc River. The river is huge, clean and surrounded by forest, the perfect spot for SUP. We got on the boards and paddled for hours. The water is very calm and you don’t need to be a professional surfer to enjoy it.



It was a perfect afternoon with the birds singing, a few kids playing on the river banks and the sun shining through the green water. The scenery is beautiful, peaceful and you feel like you own the river. We managed to stay dry during the paddling, but afterward Rob decided to overcome his fear of heights and jumped into the river from a swing on the top of the tree. Nothing like an adrenaline rush to end our SUP tour! It was definitely an unmissable experience in Bohol Island. After the SUP, we recommend strolling around the village and trying some local food, especially the malunggay soup and the sweetest mangos you’ll ever eat!


Port Barton, Palawan | Moxie and Epoxy

If you’re looking for some peaceful time away from the crowds, you may want to put Port Barton on your travel list. Located between El Nido and Puerto Princesa, this quiet town is a real escape. While much of the Philippines have been “discovered,” Port Barton sits on the verge, maintaining a rare and sincere charm. I spent more than a couple of nights admiring this appeal with fellow travelers. We wandered down the dark, empty streets finding cozy eateries and commenting on how nice it was to be left alone without tricycle drivers or tour guides hounding us for their next commission.



Boat tours are available daily, and you can find a captain on the beach to negotiate a price – roughly half the price of a tour in El Nido, if done properly. Currently, the town of Port Barton only has electricity from 5pm until midnight, though some of the hotels have generators to supplement. I was told that by the end of 2016 new generators will help to provide the town with electricity 24 hours a day, who knows if that will happen on schedule! Despite the lack of electricity – and therefore wifi – there is plenty of infrastructure to support what is sure to be a growing tourist market in the town. The beach is lined with cool hotels and cafes; I even found this adorable tree house on the beach for $20/night.



Flower Island | Nomadic Boys

We visited the Philippines in 2015 and completely fell in love with it. So so many islands to explore. Our favourite from the ones we visited were the islands just off Palawan, in particular, Flower Island.

Flower Island is a tiny island around 40 minutes speed boat ride from the Tay Tay harbour on Palawan. It is located right in the heart of a pearl farm, which we got to visit during our stay there. The Philippines specialises in producing golden pearls, which is a very complex process taking over 2-3 years to produce the perfect shape and color golden pearl.



There’s only ever a handful of people on the island: a few locals and tourists like us coming to soak up the Robinson Crusoe like feel of the place. The island is surrounded by untouched and very healthy coral, making it a paradise for snorkelling. And the sunsets, every evening…incredible! We loved our time here and definitely want to return.



Under the Waves around Moalboal, Cebu | Art of Scuba Diving

Diving in Moalboal is something you don’t want to miss. I dove in a lot of great locations around the Philippines, but Moalboal possibly had the greatest diversity! From the incredible and famous Sardine Run, to overloads of turtles, and fun little wrecks, there was always something new and exciting to see. On one single dive just off shore from my dive resort, I counted no less than 20 turtles, some small and some enormous.



There’s even a purposely sunk little air plane in one dive site, that makes it a unique dive, and on the same site there are countless nudibranch sightings and other macro critters. When not diving, the beaches around Moalboal offer some great white beaches, nice bars, and tasty restaurants. To get there, it is about a 4 hour bus ride from Cebu City.


Caramoan Peninsula | 365 Travel Dates

These days the Philippines travel buzz is all about Palawan, especially El Nido, but another deserving part of the Philippines archipelago is the Caramoan Peninsula. Camille and I visited Caramoan two years ago, and on a spontaneous trip with our families we ended up back there earlier this year.



The location of the reality show Survivor helps prove its worth as an off-beaten-track destination with a high dose of raw beauty and empty beaches. The active adventurer won’t be left disappointed, as you can go island hopping, snorkeling, rock-climbing, kayaking, caving, and any other water activity you can imagine.  For those looking for less adventure than Survivor you can pop into one of the many home stays in the Caramoan town. Given it’s remote location, tourism shouldn’t negatively affect the area for years to come, but with that said the best time to come is now.


Swimming with Turtles on Apo Island | Don’t Forget To Move

We spent six months in the Philippines so we have a long list of recommendations for travelers heading that way. Our all-time favorite spot, however, would have to be Apo Island in Negros Oriental. On the coast of this small island one of our biggest bucket list items came true – swimming with wild sea turtles! The locals set up a marine sanctuary just off the shore to protect these beautiful sea creatures after the turtle population was decimated by hunting.



We swam side by side with dozens of turtles, watching in awe as they floated around, munching on algae. Although the island itself is tiny (there are no main roads or cars!), it’s a popular day trip for snorkelers and scuba divers. Not as many tourists explore the town on the interior of the island, however, but we highly recommend it. We loved exploring the narrow alleyways, watching the kids fight spiders and chatting with older locals who have been on the island for decades. We couldn’t recommend it more!


Getting a Visa for the Philippines

For the most part travelers visiting the Philippines won’t need to obtain a visa if they intend on visiting the country for 30 days or less. Travelers from Australia, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Western Europe and UAE citizens can enter the Philippines and obtain a 30 day visa on arrival given they have a valid passport with 6 months before expiry, proof of a return flight out, a hotel booked and sufficient funds to sustain their time while in the country.

That said, if you plan on staying in the Philippines for longer than 30 days you will need to get a visa. We recommend researching your specific country to find out the visa requirements before planning a trip. In a lot of cases you might be required to obtain eTA travel permit. For example, the Philippines eTA for UAE citizens is easy enough to obtain, but you’ll need to make sure you organize it before you leave on your trip. Thankfully the wait time is typically only 3 business days.


Don’t forget your swimmers! Check out our GUYS and GIRLS packing list for SOUTH EAST ASIA!

Why We Choose Not to Swim with Whale Sharks in Cebu

I look up from the boat and realize we’re a lot closer to shore than I thought. The gentle rhythm of the boat, combined with an early morning start, must have put me in a sleepy slumber. Christine gives me a gentle nudge and points in the direction of the eager onlookers. All the passengers on board have begun to gather around the left side of the boat, gazing at the masses of wooden paddleboats that are beginning to assemble in the water. We all begin to search the waters, hoping to get our first glimpse of the famous Oslob whale sharks. Most of the passengers on our boat are here to swim with the whale sharks, and in a short moment they too will join the hordes of tourists being shuttled in and out of the waters of Oslob. Unfortunately we will not be part of that group.

Don’t get us wrong, we’d love to be able to experience these majestic animals in their up close and natural habitat. In fact, when we first started planning our Philippines trip swimming with whale sharks was high on our bucket list. And that was a really tough list to make. Coming into this trip we were super excited about planning our list of things to do in the Philippines. We scoured the Internet, pulling apart every Lonely Planet forum and making our way through the masses of blog articles compiled by eager travelers and locals alike. From the thousands of options out there we barely managed to narrow it down into a list of ten. Of those ten choices one that really stood out was the incredible opportunity to swim with whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu.



Years ago Christine was fortunate enough to come across a couple of whale sharks while diving in Honduras, which can be rare, and we’d heard it was pretty easy to replicate those experiences in Cebu. Pictures on the Internet did nothing but fuel our wanderlust. At the time however, little did we know about the potential affects that this could have on the famous whale sharks in Cebu. Like many animal tourist activities, there are always a number of factors to consider regarding animal welfare, sustainability and overall community impact. Having a swim with the whale sharks might sound like a fun idea, but it quickly turns from interesting attraction to animal exploitation if tourist interaction is impacting the species and it’s habitat.


Scene From the Whale Shark Tours in Cebu

When we were taking the boat from Bohol to Cebu we happened to dock at Oslob, so we were able to witness first hand the scene at the beach. Picture an area no bigger than a football pitch, about 50 odd meters from the beach and full to the brim with boats and people snorkelling around. From the surface we couldn’t get a full gauge on what was going on, but do a simple search and amongst the amazing whale shark selfies you’ll see pictures of people touching and holding onto the animals. It’s crowded and you don’t seem to get long in the pit. Tour guides roll you in and out at a rate to keep up with the continual flow of boats arriving, while feeding the animals to keep them attracted. Even seeing this was enough to make us feel confident we made the right decision, with the tour looking more like a zoo than an authentic nature exhibition.



But we didn’t want to make a snap judgement based on our personal experience alone. We’re far from experts in marine biology so we decided to chat with actual marine biologists who could give us the scoop on whether this activity is detrimental to the animals. Here’s what we learned.

Want to find other ethical whale shark experiences while traveling? Check out our full guide to Swimming with Whale Sharks Around the World

The Impact on the Whale Sharks

Many international marine conservation organizations have spoken about the negative affects of the whale shark tours in Oslob. Reef-World, a UK based conservation group focussed in Southeast Asia, and their United Nations Environment Programme initiative Green Fins, have “come out against the tourism activities in Oslob, noting that the practice of feeding wildlife is unsustainable”. There are also many local initiatives in the Philippines that are working on monitoring and researching the whale sharks visiting Oslob. The Large Marine Vertebraes Project Philippines (LAMAVE) in particular is leading the way in research surrounding whale sharks in the Philippines. They also have the difficult task of juggling marine conservation, local community development, education initiatives and Philippine bureaucracy.

The official conservation status for whale sharks is ‘vulnerable and declining’, so now really isn’t the time to take a gamble on how much of an impact this tourist activity is having. A study conducted by marine biologists observing Oslob whale sharks supports this sentiment by stating, “poor and unregulated whale shark tourism can lead to short and potentially long-term impacts, like behavioral change and displacement from critical habitats” (Source). Some of these behavioral and habitat changes include:


Decrease in Nutritional Value

The main reason the whale sharks visit Oslob everyday, and keep returning, is because they’re getting fed. Everyday fishermen attract the sharks to the site by feeding them one type of krill (uyap) that they purchase in bulk. Because of this the whale sharks are now spending up to 6 hours feeing in Oslob, losing out on some of the key nutrients that they gain from foraging naturally. With over a hundred different types of nutrients on offer the whale sharks are only getting a handful because of the lack of quality in their feed. Think of it like a human eating the same thing all day, everyday. One of the concerns is the affect this may have down the line with growth and reproduction.

Migration Patterns of Whale Sharks

Whale sharks are highly mobile animals, so by enticing the whale sharks to stay in one spot it is interfering with their natural movements and migration pattern (Source). One whale shark in particular has been known to stick around for over a year in Oslob. It’s still too early to tell the lasting affects of this, but marine biologists predict it could alter their breeding habits and ultimately their reproduction. Considering they’re a vulnerable species any risks with reproduction should be taken very seriously.



No Touching the Whale Sharks!

Although there are strict rules and regulations prohibiting interaction with the whale sharks, with several hundreds visits a day it’s inevitable that there’ll be some daily contact. Whale sharks bump into the boats and have evidence of cuts and scarring. Researchers have also reported that whale sharks now associate other non-tourist related boats with feeding, causing them to get injured when they come too close to motors and oars.

Along with that there is also the growing concern of increased tourist contact. As the popularity of the tours increases, so does the lack of compliance with local regulations and guidelines. For example, the 2 meter minimum distance of tourist to whale shark is very rarely enforced, with up to 97% of cases breaking the rule in 2014 according to a thorough research study (Source). This non-compliant regulation comes down to a lack of respect for the guidelines from not only the growing pressure on the tourism industry, but also the tourists joining the tours searching for that ‘ultimate selfie’.



What To Do Now?

As responsible tourism advocates we hope to inform and present a different side of the picture. By writing this article we’d love to see more tourists became aware of all the facts, so they can make an informed decision on their travel plans.

What we’re definitely not doing is asking everyone to suddenly stop visiting overnight. The affect this would have for the whale shark population dependent on the food, as well as the local population dependent on the income, would be disastrous. Rather, we’d like to hear more people talking about this and putting pressure on the tour agencies and local authorities to start regulating the industry more closely. Which should lead towards developing a strategy to ensure the safety and health of the whale sharks going into the future, as well as the education to tourists and locals alike. It won’t happen overnight, but as conscious travellers we can start to make changes slowly. Eventually, just like pressure on elephant riding tours and tiger temples in Thailand, there will be enough voice to support the issue.


Source: Lonely Planet

Responsible Tourism in the Philippines

So if you shouldn’t swim with the whale sharks, what should you do? Luckily there’s no shortage of amazing responsible tourism opportunities to view marine life in the Philippines: like being able to swim with turtles on Apo Island only a couple of hours south of Oslob. And unlike the negative affects of the whale shark tours in Cebu, this activity actually supports marine conservation and provides alternative income for the old turtle fishermen who now work as guides. This is an observational activity, with strictly no feeding or touching, but was by far one of our best travel experiences from our six months volunteering and traveling around the Philippines.



And if you really had your heart set on seeing the whale sharks then there are always opportunities with reputable dive companies that see them in their natural habitat, without feeding. Other locations off the coast of Dumaguete, Donsol and Pintuyan are known for whale sharks in the right season. Pintuyan in particular, in Southern Leyte, is known for its responsible interaction with wild whale sharks. Our best suggestion is to do your research, which really depends on the time of year you visit the Philippines. After that get in contact with dive shops for further information and they’ll help you out.

So to everyone thinking about the tours, although you’re free to make up your own mind, we would strongly urge you to consider all factors before booking your tour. And if you were originally planning on doing this (remember we were also), it’s not that you’re terrible and want to destroy the whale sharks, it’s just often hard to really know all sides. Hopefully now you do.


Want to Learn More?

Makati City Guide

Most travelers complain about Manila. Unless they’re catching a flight or have just landed from overseas, it’s uncommon to see backpackers spend much time here. Yes, the traffic is a constant headache and it’s hard to get around, but scheduling in a long weekend in Manila is totally worth it if you have time to explore Makati City. The Makati neighborhood is the financial center of Manila and is home to many more upscale businesses, residences and attractions than the rest of the city. While some areas of Makati are super fancy, another area is considered one of Manila’s red-light districts. The diversity and vibrant action throughout the neighborhood is what drew us and kept us entertained. We’ve gotten to know Makati City pretty well, so asked us to share our knowledge. Here are our top picks for what to do while in Makati City.



Greenbelt Shopping Center

Even if you’re not big on shopping, the Greenbelt Shopping Center in Makati City is a must-see. It’s without a doubt one of the most extravagant malls we’ve ever seen (think Beverly Hills plopped in the middle of Manila). Luxury stores line the walkways. We’re talking Gucci, Burberry and Coach; not much within the budget of a backpacker, or anyone short of a millionaire really. But the landscaping throughout the shopping center is beautiful with green patches, koi ponds and lawn areas to sprawl out on a summer day. There is also an impressive amount of restaurants and lots of coffee shops with free Wi-Fi, perfect for a day of catching up on blogging!




Sure, you can go to Manila and experience the culture through museum visits. But the real reason to stay in Makati is to the experience the city’s thriving red light district. The neighborhood’s streets turn into pulsing epicenters of nightlife as soon as the sun goes down. From midget boxing to “lady bars,” Makati City is anything but tame. If you’re not into a wild night on the town, we enjoyed simply walking the main strip and taking in the craziness as spectator.


Sunday Market

The Legazpi Sunday Market was one of our favorite places to eat in Manila. Each week part of Legazpi Park is transformed into a pleasant farmer’s market. Some of the city’s best restaurants set up stands and sell incredible food. There are lots of options, so we recommend to pace yourself and try a bit from a bunch of stalls. We loved the dumplings, mee goreng and churros for dessert! They also have organic vegetables and delicious fresh ginger ale for sale. Live music gives the event a lively, communal atmosphere.




If you’re looking for a fun night out but aren’t interested in the seedy activities of the street bars, check out Makati City’s speakeasies. These “underground” bars have been popping up all over Manila, especially in the Makati area. We highly recommend The Curator, coffee shop during the day and classy cocktail bar by night. The bartenders here at the best in the biz and will whip you up a specialty cocktail depending on your particular taste. I had the best espresso martini of my life here. Don’t miss it. Other fun speakeasies in the area include Exit and The Blind Pig.



Z Hostel

Makati is popular with travelers so there’s no shortage of hostels and hotels. Unfortunately for backpackers, Makati is on the pricier side with private rooms often costing $30+. Skip the annoying walk around the neighborhood trying to find a bargain and just head directly to Z Hostel. Owner Ben de Vera has created a haven within the chaotic streets of Manila. Z Hostel is an upscale boutique hostel that mixes the luxury of a hotel with the social atmosphere of a hostel. They host weekly parties and events that we recommend you check out even if you don’t stay there. You can read our full Z Hostel review here.

See more photos of the vibrant Makati City in the Expedia Viewfinder Image Library! 

Rebuilding Tacloban After Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda)


Tales From Tacloban After Typhoon Haiyan

Glasses clink as we raise our warm beers to the jubilation that fills the air. Everybody is full of smiles and laughter, and not even the stifling heat can interrupt this joyous moment. I reach for the bottle of Red Horse and give everyone around me a small top up, tilting the glasses slightly to avoid the classic Filipino beer pour, which usually leaves you with more froth than beer. I glance at the other beers around the table with their foamy consistently, looking more like fruit smoothies, and have a small chuckle. Sitting at the end of the table is a giant metal cooking pot full of pancit bihon, one of our favorite Filipino dishes. Stray glass noodles and chunks of chopped up cabbage and carrot are sprawled across the table around the pot. An old wooden serving spoon lies across the top of the pot; it’s a serve yourself type of event.

At the centre of the table is Danny, one of the community leaders of the Calvary Hills barangay and the President of the Calvary Hills Basic Ecclesial Community group (BEC). He has a smile on his face that rarely disappears, and nods his head in approval of the conversations happening around him. The familiar sound of ‘o-o, o-o’, Filipino for yes, bounces around the mixed chatter of Tagalog, English and the local dialogue Waray Waray. A small towel lies across the back of his neck, and he periodically reaches for it to dab at the beads of sweat that build up on his brow. As I look around the table I see most people nonchalantly doing the same, as if it was a common instinctual habit. I guess when you live in the Philippines the heat just becomes second nature.



From the crackling speakers the distinct music of the kuratsa, a traditional Filipino dance, reverberates throughout the crowd. A middle-aged woman sits in a plastic chair while a man playfully dances around her; twisting and turning his arms as he generously throws twenty peso notes into the air. When the song finally finishes kids scramble around the floor to collect the notes into an old straw bowl, before handing them to the barangay officials to count. Everyone cheers as the next person takes a seat and the dance repeats.


Livelihood Development Work in Tacloban

Tonight marks the celebration of the local Calvary Hills barangay fiesta, which Christine and I been invited to attend as special guests. Over the last 5 months we’ve been working with this community, specifically the BEC, to help develop a new livelihood program for the typhoon Yolanda survivors working to rebuild their life. Tonight is also an extra celebration because it signifies the opening of a new candle making business for the BEC and the beginning of a new livelihood opportunity for some of its most marginalized members. It has been a long process getting to where they are now and tonight is about celebrating how far they’ve come. For the people of Tacloban their struggles began long before we arrived, but for this moment all of that is forgotten while people smile, laugh, drink and dance kuratsa.

Before arriving in Tacloban in April 2015, eighteen months after super typhoon Yolanda, we didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know what we were getting into, but we knew we need to help. When the typhoon first made landfall back on that fateful November day in 2013 all we could do was watch in shock from the public television sets in Cuba. At the time our hearts went out to the Filipino people, but there was little we could do at that stage. We were just finishing up a two year trip through Latin America working with various non-profits along the way. We talked about heading to the Philippines, but we couldn’t afford it at the time, so we could only watch on and vow that we’d get there sometime in the future to help.



Thankfully that opportunity came late 2014 when we received an opportunity to travel to Tacloban and join in with the long-term livelihood development programs that were still desperately needed. So, after a couple of months of traveling in Southeast Asia, we finally touched down on the small DZR airstrip of Tacloban with open hearts and minds, ready to help wherever we were needed.


Tacloban Two Years After the Typhoon

Initially, from the main road, it was hard to see the trail of damage that typhoon Yolanda had left behind. If you hop aboard a Jeepney downtown, passing the Astrodome and the businesses sprawled along Real Street, it’s hard to see how Tacloban City differs from any other city in the Philippines. Shell gas stations, Jolibee, Mercury Pharmacy, among others, go about their daily business. In true Filipino style people are happy and hospitable. Life goes on as usual, but look a little deeper and you’ll see that the memories of Yolanda are fresh, as a constant reminder to embrace life. Stickers on pedi-cabs, tricycles and shop fronts display ‘Tindog Tacloban’, which signifies the resilience and strength of the people to rise up again from the destruction.



After a couple of weeks in Tacloban we started to see more traces of typhoon Yolanda. We widened our peripherals and saw that beyond the façade of normal life there were still many people in need of assistance. On our motorcycle ride to work everyday we passed a large community of resettled families on the Maharlika Hwy on route to the famous San Juanico Bridge, just before Citi Hardware. From the back of a motorbike, zooming past thinking about work emails and the latest sports results, it’d be easy to miss. But take a walk to the daily fish and vegetable market that is set up on the corner and you’ll start to see how people have been living for the last two years: in temporary shelters made from scraps of materials and no bigger than the average sized lounge room of a house. Despite their long enduring living arrangements they are friendly and welcoming. We’d regularly visit to purchase fruit and vegetables, chatting with the fisherman about their daily catch or asking the ladies when the price of potatoes was finally going to go down again.

These people haven’t been forgotten, but there is just still so much to be done that it’s sometimes hard to figure out where to start. The city government has plans to relocate them up to a new settlement area in Tacloban North, but even that plan isn’t without its challenges. For our time in Tacloban, to avoid the overwhelming and unachievable task of trying to help everyone, we picked a few projects and concentrated our efforts into making sure they were successful. The candle making project in Calvary Hills was one of these success stories, thanks to the assistance of the Calvary Hills community and a Jesuit organization from Manila named Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB).



Our Work With the Community

When we first visited the Calvary Hills BEC they were already working with the SLB and we were fortunate enough to be involved in the next stage of their development projects for the community. The SLB had already successfully helped Calvary Hills set up a small community eatery, where members worked in rotational shifts to share the income opportunities. It was a successful operation, but small and in need of expansion. This is how the community developed the candle making project.

The candle making, like many community projects post-Yolanda, wasn’t just about finding a business idea and making it happen: it was a complete process of empowerment, engagement and participation. As community development workers our ultimate goal is to become obsolete, so the community can be fully self-sufficient without external assistance. With this is mind we worked alongside the community as equals, helping them strengthen and grow. Along with organizing technical candle making training we were also involved in various capacity building training workshops for the community, such as business management, branding and marketing, financial literacy, as well as conducting market research, community surveying and data collation. After many month of planning and work the pinnacle of this project occurred just before we left Tacloban in late September, when the team conducted their first official day of production. It was a special day for us to be involved in, and one that we’ll forever cherish and remember. It was a rewarding feeling to finally see a positive aspect emerge from the constant reminders of that tragic November day.



Remembering Typhoon Yolanda

The longer you spend in Tacloban the more you come across subtle reminders of typhoon Yolanda, but over time the sentiment has shifted from helpless victims to strong survivors. Filipinos are proud of their strength and the way they have been able to bounce back form this tragedy. References to Yolanda are reminders for them on a daily basis of this strength, and they wear this tragedy and their response like a badge of honor. Originally we were hesitant to mention Yolanda in conversation, worried that it would invoke raw feelings of loss, but that quickly changed when we witnessed how open people were about it.

People would often recount stories and even joke about some of the funnier things that happened in the events after the typhoon. It’s humor like this that we were surprised to see and hear while in Tacloban. As a close friend of mine said one day when I asked about it, “if we don’t laugh about it somehow, then we will cry”. Stories like this gave us a small insight into what life was like post-Yolanda, and although we would never be able to fully comprehend the full extent, it did help give our work context and feeling. It was emotional and at times difficult, but it was real.


Video of Tacloban Two Years Later


It was this realness that has forever connected us to Tacloban and the people we worked and lived with. We share an unbreakable bond that transcends time, distance and language. Even now, as I sit in a small coffee shop in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I wonder how our special group of ladies from the candle making team are going. Not just their business, but how they are on a personal level. Are they well? Are they happy? Could I still do more to help? It’s tough being apart from them because I always feel like I could be doing more, but I have confidence in their ability. And I know one day I’ll get the chance to visit them again to witness their success.

For now I hold onto my memories tight, cherishing every tiny detail that made them so unique: like the night of the barangay fiesta. The unshakeable memories are still fresh in my mind. The laughter of the children as I chase them around the streets, picking them up and spinning them around until we we’re both too dizzy to walk. The gentle embrace from our ladies as they thanked us and presented us with personalized hand drawn portraits. The sweet creamy texture of mango float.



Nights like this where we danced, and laughed and drank the night away. Where there, in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Tacloban, you wouldn’t immediately notice the tragic aftermath of the super typhoon. Where the happiness and joy for living drowns out, at least for the night, the lingering sadness. Where the youth show their resilience through creativity in the form of impressive dance performances, and their parents and grandparents watch proudly, and appreciative of life in a way that we could never imagine.


Christine and I want to give thanks to everyone that helped support us during our time in Tacloban. And to the people of Tacloban, never stop fighting. Keep that passion strong and we’ll be back! Salamat po!

11 Unique Things Filipinos Say to Foreigners

Filipino culture is unique, both in the Philippines and around the world. Famous for their incredible hospitality and polite manners, Filipino’s also have some pretty interesting and uncommon things that they say!

Being a foreigner in the Philippines doesn’t have to be hard, as long as you learn these unique Filipino sayings before you go!

After spending more than seven months in the Philippines, including six months volunteering with Yolanda disaster relief in Tacloban, we got a pretty good understanding of the local culture. Here are of favorite things that Filipinos say to foreigners!


Nosebleed in Tagalog / Nose Bleed

The expression ‘nose bleed’ would have to be one of the most interesting, and unique, things that Filipino’s say. The term refers to the idea that if you think too hard, your nose will start to bleed. Filipino’s usually say this in English, nose bleed in Tagalog translates to balinguyngoy.  The saying is generally used in reference to Filipino’s trying to speak English.

When a Filipino tries to communicate in English, but gets stuck on a word and freezes, people around them will say ‘nosebleed’ and all start to laugh. It’s a lighthearted saying that isn’t used to be mean, but often leaves the person feeling a little embarrassed.



The best way to explain this is through the following anecdote. One time we were at a bus station and a group of curious, young Filipinos slowly started to crowd around us. One confident teen approached us with a few English phrases and started a conversation. When we continued the conversation and asked him a question he suddenly froze, looked at his mates and then ran away as all the others laughed at him and shouted ‘nose bleed, nose bleed’.


Hey My Friend!

In the Philippines, everyone is your friend, so you better get used to hearing this. Filipinos say this all the time, regardless of whether they know you or not. In simple terms, when a Filipino says ‘hey my friend, it is a friendly way of greeting a foreigner and saying hello.

If you get the chance, while they’re zooming past you in a tricycle or shouting at you from afar, yell back the same thing and watch their smile stretch from ear to ear. Filipino’s love to hear foreigners use the same expression as them, so start to greet people you meet with a simple ‘hey my friend’ and watch their response.



Filipino Hospitality – Sir / Ma’am

Before traveling to the Philippines we’d heard Filipinos were famous for their politeness and hospitality, but we could never have imagined just how nice everyone was, all the time! Any time you meet or greet someone you can expect a sir or ma’am added onto the end, without fail.

This level of politeness is nation wide, no matter who you’re speaking with or who they’re speaking to. Whether you’re speaking to the municipal government about getting your visa renewed, having your gas pumped at a station or down the local fish market, everyone will greet you with that formality.

After seven months around the Philippines I think we’re now officially the politest backpackers going round Southeast Asia!



Hey Joe!

If you’re a white male, get prepared to hear this a lot. Taken from the old World War II nickname for US soldiers (G.I Joe), this now accounts to pretty much any male who looks white and foreign.

It’s not offensive, so don’t be shocked when strangers on the street pass you by and say ‘hey Joe! That being said, it is a little annoying hearing it all the time, especially when you’re living in a town for six months and the locals see you everyday. It’s not like they’re trying to be rude, but when they say ‘hey Joe’, they’re basically calling you out as a white, male from the United States.

It’s a generalization that starts to wear you down eventually! Sometimes to confuse them I just yell back… hey Pinoy! Pinoy is a generalized term for anyone from the Philippines. It holds no negative connotation, but I liked to use it just to mess with the locals.

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What do Foreigners Think of the Philippines?

Filipinos are super proud people and always love to hear what foreigners think of the Philippines. They’re also fairly receptive to constructive feedback, as long as it’s not too mean. They know their traffic in Manila is terrible and they know vegetarian options are slim, but they also want to know how amazing their island are and how they’re literally the most friendly culture ever!

During all of our Philippines travels, as well as while to Filipinos around the world, locals are always curious to know what foreigners think of the Philippines. While we can’t speak on behalf of everyone, we can say that the majority of travelers we meet absolutely love the Philippines! Along with the gorgeous beaches (try Kalanggaman Island or Sambawam Island) and lovely people, the Philippines offers a rugged and less traveled countryside to explore.

Foreigners love exploring the Philippines, not only for the landscapes, but also to connect with the amazing people. Everywhere you go in the Philippines you’ll meet people welcoming you into their homes and their lives, curious to know more about you and to share a piece of their beautiful country with you.



What is Yours?

The first few times we heard this we were super confused. The term ‘what is yours’ literally means, what would you like? It doesn’t really have a translation or meaning, it’s just the way Filipinos ask you what you want. Expect to hear this phrase when you visit a small street store (called a sari-sari store), market stall or sometimes other places where you need to order.

It doesn’t happen all the time, but the first time it did I had no idea what to reply. I just repeated it back to the lady and received some very confused looks as she ushered for her younger English speaking daughter in the back room to come and deal with me.


What is Your Name? Where Are You From?

Most Filipinos speak amazing English, but even if they don’t have the confidence or ability to muster up a conversation, you can be sure they’ll find enough courage to ask you these two questions.

Whether we were traveling through a busy city, or a quiet rural town, many locals were excited to start a conversation with us based off these two questions. They often restricted to these two questions, and got a ‘nose bleed’ when asked return question, but it’s a great way to engage the locals and start up a conversation.



Out of Stock

Either Filipinos aren’t restocking their stores very well, or they’re being polite because they don’t understand me, but if you go into any sari-sari, restaurant, grocery, etc. chances are 1 in 5 items will be… out of stock sir.

They’ll always maintain a very polite manner while informing you, but it can be pretty frustrating, especially if you can see the item you’re looking for.


What Else?

This is a funny one! ‘What else’ is kind of like that scene from Dude Where’s My Car with the Chinese take-out store: and then? And theeeeeeeen? Once you’ve finished ordering something Filipinos like to ask you if you want anything else, multiple times.

‘What else’ pops up more frequently in markets and smaller stores when ordering. Sometimes I end up ordering way too much because I like to see how far they’ll go… they always win!



Welcome to My Country

Whether you’ve been in the Philippines for a week, or a year, Filipinos love to greet you and welcome you to their country. Anytime you’re talking to a Filipino they could surprise you by throwing in a ‘welcome to my country’. It’s extremely welcoming and just another example of their hospitality.

You’d be surprised how many times a stranger stopped us in the street or chatted with us in a Jeepney just to welcome us to the Philippines!


Thank You

When Christine and I came to the Philippines to help with the Yolanda recovery in Tacloban we definitely didn’t come for the praise or the thanks. However, the amount of people who have thanked us for helping their country has truly humbled us. This doesn’t just happen inside the Philippines, this has also happened multiple times when we’ve met Filipinos outside of the Philippines.

Everybody is always curious to know why we spent six months in the Philippines, and when we tell them our story they almost always say a massive heart felt ‘thank you’ for our help.

It’s a great moment that we can share with Filipinos around the world, but now we want to use this opportunity to thank everyone in the Philippines who has made this such an incredible journey and a life changing experience. From the bottom of our heart salamat po!


Bohol Travel Guide

The island of Bohol in the Visayas region of the Philippines is known for diving, diverse wildlife and, of course, the Chocolate Hills. Jules and I chose to explore this area because we felt it had a lot to offer rather than just another island with beautiful beaches (I know, we’re spoiled). Little did we know, however, that Bohol would end up as one of our all-time favorite spots in the Philippines.

Besides its many attractions, Bohol is just a downright gorgeous province. Driving through the interior of the island on our motorcycle was absolute heaven. The curving roads ascending into the mountains cut through lush jungle so wherever you turn your head you’ll see a million different shades of green. The air is refreshingly cool, a welcome respite from the humid coastal towns. And the best part? The people. Apparently Boholians are known for their friendliness and they did not disappoint. As we cruised through tiny barangays (neighborhoods) on to each location, we were greeted by dozens of waving hands from tiny kids to the village grandparents. We couldn’t believe how hospital everyone was and it really made our time in Bohol just that much better.

For this reason, we really encourage travelers to rent a motorbike for a couple days or a week and explore the area on your own. The roads are mostly well maintained and driving was pretty easy. If you’re too nervous or unable to drive one, tour companies do van trips around the island and there is a bus that loops through the interior and along the coast. Here’s our Bohol travel guide to find out what you should definitely not miss on this beautiful island:

Chocolate Hills

This series of over 1,500 nearly symmetrical hills get its name from the chocolate brown color that the hills turn in the dry season. You may be thinking, seriously? What’s so great about a bunch of hills? But we can vouch for their beauty. In both the dry and wet seasons, looking out over the viewpoint is a truly breathtaking moment. You can read all about our tips for the best way to check them out on our Chocolate Hills Guide.



Tarsier Sanctuary

If you’re headed to Bohol, you gotta see the Tarsiers. These funny little primates are known for their huge eyes, which do not rotate. Instead they can turn their head a full 360 degrees! They are nocturnal and super sensitive animals. If agitated these little guys have been known to commit suicide by banging their head against a tree or wall. That’s why its super important to stay quiet when visiting the sanctuary. We had a clueless tourist bust through the door with a big “HELLO!” After we shushed him, he continued through the tour slurping his soda, texting and taking loud photos. Grrrr.

Responsible tourism tip: There’s a few different spots in Bohol where you can visit the Tarsiers, but we recommend going to the official Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella. This one felt the most respectful of the animal’s space and sensitivity. Remember to whisper while you’re in the sanctuary, no flash photography and no touching the animals!

Loboc River

Loboc is another area that travelers base themselves out of to visit Bohol’s many attractions. It’s close to the Chocolate Hills, Tarsiers and the coast. But Loboc is a destination in itself. The town is quite small, but it runs alongside a beautiful river. There are several activities you can do including stand-up paddle boarding and the Loboc River cruise. We stayed at Nipa Hut Village, which is right on the water. We borrowed the bamboo raft that was tied to a tree and took ourselves on a little cruise of our own using palm fronds as oars. You can also rent a boat to take yourself down the river. Whichever activity you choose, definitely block out some time for a lazy river day.

Man Made Forest

This attraction took us totally by surprise. We had heard of the Man Made Forest, but didn’t know exactly where or what it was. Turns out, if you’re driving through the interior, it will most likely find you! The towering trees line either side of the highway and bow overhead, enveloping you in a tunnel of green. It’s really spectacular. Just be careful while you’re driving, as some idiot tourists seem to think this is a stunt road and end up lying down in the middle for a photo!


Have anything else you’d add to our Bohol travel guide? Drop us a comment below or find us on Facebook and Twitter!

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