Paradise Lost Can Be Found

Renáta Ježová

There are many wonderful places in the world worth visiting and discovering. One of those places is the Philippines. It is a paradise consisting of almost 8000 islands, providing visitors with various contrasts, surprises and treasures. When going to the Philippines for a limited time, you have to choose wisely which places to visit, as there is so much to see. I would like to give you a closer look at the few of them that I managed to visit.

The Philippines – people, culture and language

If you can imagine happy, careless and relaxed people, that is exactly what the people of the Philippines are. They smile and enjoy their lives; there are no problems to be discussed and no reasons to yell, whether you are walking through a poor part of Manila or meeting an old lady on a local bus on one of the small islands. Everyone tries to be helpful and make sure that you feel great when visiting their country. Sometimes it is a bit difficult to understand them – even though English is one of the Philippines’ official languages, it does not mean that it is understandable. There is a variety of dialects and accents which makes communication demanding sometimes. One example I remember is of a man stopping on a motorbike and asking “i-st pik?”, and me thinking whether I should have picked up ice from somewhere. After a few repetitions I was able to decipher the meaning – it was “highest peak”, and the man was offering a ride to the highest mountain on the island.

Manila and the other large cities

There is a contrast between the big cities and small villages near the sea and in the mountains. The cities are not a paradise. They do have their charm, they have several interesting sights, but apart from that they are usually crowded with motorbikes and people, dirty, smelly and overheated (the sun shining on the concrete jungle does this very well). 

Islands and villages

Much more interesting adventures and sights can be found in smaller towns and villages. You can get there by plane or ferry – there are many options. The atmosphere is friendlier and the pace of life is more relaxed than in the large cities. A paradise that will be in my heart forever is called El Nido. Some say it is already “too touristy”, but visiting the place in low season bears fruit. There were not many people and our tours on boats were practically private. Taking a boat tour to various smaller (often not inhabited) islands is something you simply must do. Lying in the sea with a white sandy beach, seeing nothing but other islands, hearing nothing but waves hugging the shore and eating fresh mango is sheer paradise. But this is just one of the (non-active) activities. There are hidden lagoons – you can reach one of them only from the open ocean by a really small hole in the rock while waves splash at you and the rock. You can also snorkel off-shore of those islands and there are so many kinds of fish and starfish and other animals – you can also go and swim with whale sharks! And when you get tired of the sea, you can go inland. I had never heard about canyoning until I tried it. It means you get through the canyon where a river flows to the end of the river. The one in Cebu was amazing – climbing rocks, swimming, jumping down waterfalls – those are things one does not do every day. 

Just be careful

Each paradise has its drawbacks, and in the conclusion to this article I would like to prepare you for some of them. As tourism is very big in the Philippines, some people have started abusing it (as happens everywhere). Be careful when getting a taxi or a tricycle; always ask about the price before sitting in the vehicle. Another pitfall is nature – be careful with the animals and insects, especially mosquitos and sea creatures – it is better to wear shoes in the water sometimes as there are some venomous animals. And the last warning concerns the weather – it is difficult to plan something like this, but always follow the forecast and be prepared. Travelling in low season has its pros – such as fewer tourists – but it is rainy and the typhoon season. The end of my vacation was like an escape from Hell – flying in a plane when the Mangkhut typhoon is raging in the north of the country is something I would not like to experience again. 

If you ever go to the Philippines, remember that paradise lost can be found if you look for it carefully.