The Philippines

View from my hotel window in Manila   Jeepneys in Manila, Philippines


The views from my hotel window - it's not pretty but it's an interesting town with some equally interesting characters. Click on the thumbnails to display a larger image.

1997. After three fantastic holidays in Thailand I was keen to return to Southeast Asia but wanted to experience another country in the region.

While doing some scuba diving in Thailand the year before I had met a guy who kept raving about Boracay, a place I'd never heard of before. From what he had to say it sounded quite idyllic so when it came to arranging a vacation the following year I booked a flight to the Philippines.

This was not a well researched trip; I knew virtually nothing of the country until I arrived. My naive hope that it would be similar to Thailand was way off the mark. The culture and predominantly Catholic religion of the Philippines is completely different to Buddhist Thailand.

My flight from the UK took me into Manila where I decided to stay for a few nights. It's an 'interesting' place and just as the Philippines isn't the same as Thailand, Manila definitely isn't the same as Bangkok. Arriving in the early evening as it was just getting dark I wanted to take a walk to explore the area but was told it wasn't safe to go out. Great.

I did explore a little in the daytime but probably missed a lot of what I should have seen due to not knowing anyone and not having done much research. What I saw of Manila wasn't particularly pretty and the number of firearms I saw was quite alarming. It seemed that almost every shop had an armed guard outside toting a sawn-off shotgun. I'd like to return one day for a better look. Whether I do or not remains to be seen.

Boracay Island, Philippines   White Beach, Boracay

Boracay Island

The quintessential tropical island. It was anyway, I don't know what it's like now. Click on the thumbnails to display a larger image.

My primary reason for visiting the Philippines was to go to Boracay. There are 7,107 islands in the country and this is one of the most beautiful. It is very small and there is no airport. I flew to the larger neighbouring island of Panay from Manila and then got an outrigger boat across to Boracay.

Boracay is your classic tropical island, consisting of white sandy beaches and palm trees surrounded by clear, blue sea. It is not renowned for its scuba diving but I thought the diving was good and there is lots of variety including coral gardens, a fairly fast-flowing drift dive and the chance to see large pelagics at Yapak.

Since my 1997 visit I have heard that Boracay has undergone a lot of change as it has become more developed. This was always inevitable and I've seen the same thing happen repeatedly in Thailand. These paradises on earth don't last very long. For thousands of years they are only known to the locals who live there until the day they are 'discovered' by the outside world.

For a while there is a golden period when a decent infrastructure has been put in place as a result of development but when the hordes of tourists still haven't arrived. But after a while, as happened with Koh Samui and Koh Phi Phi etc. etc., the tourists start to arrive in their droves and what was once a quiet paradise is never the same again.

What is concerning is how quickly this has happened in only the last 30 years or so and how development is going ahead at a frantic pace with every regard for making money but little regard for the ecology. Clearly this rate of development is not sustainable.

Boracay Island slideshow

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Boracay Island slideshow, Philippines