Likes & Dislikes


“Even if the Philippines were made from a nothing but concrete, it would still be worth visiting just for the local people. That’s not to say that Filipinos are particularly friendly with others, but they’re filled with such overflowing joie de vivre that it infects everyone around them. I can’t remember when I smiled as much as I did in the Philippines, and not just in Palawan, but in Manila too.” (2017)


“A few facts/positives about the Philippines:

Though plenty of pictures have been photoshopped, the waters around the Philippines really are bluer and more transparent than anywhere else I know, with undamaged coral, colorful fish and relaxed turtles

An uninhabited island mecca, with seven thousand islands, only eight hundred of which are inhabited.

The best snorkeling locations

A lot of delicious seafood

Smiling, friendly, welcoming people

Tropical fruit – i.e. the sweetest fruit – the Philippine mango is famously delicious and juicy

Tricycle (local taxi): a bench strapped to a motor, which fits four, though they often try to cram in more (there’s no such thing as ‘full’ when it comes to transport in the Philippines.)

Jeepney, or local buses – you can even travel on the roof, if the 160cm high interior is too cramped for you

Colorful boats with bamboo stabilizers built onto the sides

Every house, hotel or hostel has chickens, so you’re likely to be woken by a rooster at four in the morning 😊

Rice with everything. Plain rice (not fried rice, or rice with vegetables or sauce. No. Plain rice)

Adobo chicken – chicken stew with a local sauce

They love karaoke

They love reggae

Everything has added sugar – bread, pastries, bananas, biscuits…


“The Philippines aren’t Asia. The thing is, unfortunately, we’re not quite sure what they are. There are Asian features, but the Spanish colonial heritage is much stronger. The country and its inhabitants seem to me much closer to Mexico than to nearby Vietnam or China. Perhaps some sort of pan-Malay identity could be pinned to them, because they’re quite close to Malaysia and Indonesia – much closer, at least, than to Latin America. Still, for European visitors this is more a blessing than a curse – there may be plenty wrong with the Philippines, but at least there are no unbridgeable chasms between us when it comes to communication, as there can be in most Asian countries. Even our humor is compatible.



Domestic flights

Dozens of local airlines operate domestic flights, but many of them do not comply with international air traffic standards. We recommend Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air, as they are safe.


Ferry services between the islands are congested and accidents are common.


Take a bus only if you find a specific vehicle in a reliable condition.


The legendary jeepneys are cheap, but their mechanical conditions are not the best. These vehicles transport up to 15-20 people, and the tight space is an ideal environment for pickpockets. Mostly, the vehicle will only depart if there are enough passengers.

Motorized tricycles

These often deceive foreign tourists. If there are no passengers other than us, the driver will usually ask for an extra charge for his return trip, which is, of course, a scam.


Taxi drivers tend to be inclined to overcharge foreign tourists. You may insist on the use of the taximeter; you will succeed or not. Inside the taxi, you will immediately see the driver's profile certificate. Try to take a photo of it and send it to someone you trust locally.

The legal start tariff (base fare) is about 40 peso, and the kilometer-based tariff is about 13,50 peso/kilometers. (as of 2020 November)


The Philippines is a left-hand-drive country.

If you have the guts to get behind the wheel in this country, make yourself aware that the traffic is mostly chaotic and that the traffic rules' interpretation is arbitrary.

Davao City - Jeepney traffic - f.g. photo

Manila - colorful jepney - t.z. photo

Manila - tricycle - K Elter photo



Phillipines - There will be plenty of chicken meat at the family lunch - a.h. photo

Public safety

2020 November updates:

In the southern third of the country, on Mindanao, the government conducts intermittent warfare operations against Islamist guerrillas and Communist insurgents.

Don't travel to Mindanao or the Sulu archipelago (Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Jolo) because of the terrorist acts or regular clashes between the army and local militias.

According to army sources, there is a real danger that fugitive extremists will carry out terrorist acts in other parts of the country, especially at tourist attractions, and try to do kidnappings.

The number of violent crimes and weapons in the country is high. Theft in public transport is frequent.

Tourists should use reliable taxi companies only because some taxi drivers cooperate with robber gangs.

Hit and run muggings are common. Criminals grab shoulder bags or snatch away the cellphone from the victim.

Do not accept drinks or food from strangers because some wrongdoers may mix unawares sleeping pills or drugs to make you physically inert.

Sometimes unsuspecting tourists are trapped by minors and then blackmailed (for example, on charges of pedophilia).

Pay close attention when exchanging money, using ATMs, as well as paying with a credit card.

Because of the high number of pickpockets, we highly recommend keeping the passport in a safe place at your accommodation. Keep only a photocopy of it with you.  You should also digitally store an electronic copy of your IDs.

Penalties for drug use and pedophilia are brutally severe. The country has one of the worst prison conditions globally, and the death rate is very high due to violence among detainees and a lack of medical care.

Suspects can spend several years in pre-trial detention without formal charges.

During the Catholic processions, believers are crowded into the streets in millions, causing many or even fatal accidents.

2020 November update: Referring to the coronavirus epidemic, neither relatives nor consuls are allowed to visit the inmates, parcel delivery has been stopped.


In their tropical climate, proper food storage is not solved everywhere. Foreign visitors risk diseases by consuming spoiled food and contaminated water. For this reason, pay special attention to what you eat and drink. Tap water is not recommended for direct consumption.

HIV / AIDS (in 2020): The number of HIV cases in the Philippines has been rising by 1,000 per month for years. Currently approx. forty thousand infected people are registered with the authorities, most of them men.

Philippines - San Antonio - Folk healer, who promises to chase away your bad luck - v.m. photo

Philippines - so it’s appropriate to pose for waterfall photos - t.h. photo


1. Under an applicable law Article, foreign nationals can be arrested or deported if they participate in local demonstrations. The Immigration Office keeps publishing warnings in this regard.

Tourists should stay away in the streets from any political activities.  

2. English is broadly accepted in the country, but the language skills of less-educated people are minimal.

3. The rules on drug abuse are draconian. Imprisonment up to life sentence threatens all those who hold, consume, or offer drugs in the company of two or more persons. The ruling does not regard quantity and quality!


Philippines - national flag

Destination in brief

The Philippines in brief

The Philippines is a Southeast Asian country made up of more than seven thousand islands. The country is surrounded by the South China Sea (west and north), the Sulu Sea (west), the Celebes Sea (south), and the Philippine Sea (a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean). The closest country is 266 kilometers (166 miles) away: this is the distance between Sabah (in the northern, Malaysian part of Borneo) and Balabac Island (at the western tip of the Philippines).

The total land area of the archipelago is 300,000 km² (115,831 mi²). The 11 largest islands make up 95% of the total land area.

Capital city: Manila (on Luzon island)

Population: 109 million (2020) - The people of the Philippines are called Filipinos (not Philippinos)

Many Filipinos are unsure about their identity, and although they do consider themselves Asians, many also feel closer to the West, especially to the The United States. They in fact seems to be prouder of their Western upbringing than their Asian identity. Some call that a “colonial mentality”. Filipinos often have a preference for all things foreign over their own, an attitude people acquired during the many years of Spanish and American rule.

Filipinos range in skin color from deep brown to alabaster-white. Most are quite short and have East Asian-type monolid eyes (generally with a rounder eye shape than the Chinese). Because of their historical, linguistic, and cultural ties with Spain, Filipinos can be considered Hispanic.

Average net monthly salary (2020): 280 USD

Most frequent surname: Dela Cruz 

Official languages: Filipino and English 

Filipino is a native language based on Tagalog, which is used as an intermediary between the diverse ethnic groups living in the Philippines. It has many loanwords from English, Spanish and indigenous tongues of the archipelago and is widely used in the media. English is used for formal transactions and in business, education, law, science, and other essential fields.

Religion: The Philippines proudly claim to be the only Christian nation in Asia. More than 86 percent of the population is Roman Catholic. This comes from the islands' long period of colonization by Spain. Many Filipinos have conservative views on divorce and abortion. For example, two-thirds say that getting a divorce is morally unacceptable and 93% consider abortion immoral. 

There is no compulsory vaccine for visitors. There are recommended ones for those who visit jungles or travel to areas with poor hygiene. 

Public safety in the Philippines is worse than anywhere else in South East Asia or the Far East. Luckily, touristy areas like Cebu, Boracay or Palawan are quite safe. Mindanao Island is the most perilous.  

Optimal timing for a tourist visit: from the mid-January to May (dry season). June to October is the rainy season and July-December is typhoon-prone.

Most popular tourist destinations: Boracay, Cebu, Bohol, Puerto Princesa (Palawan), Snake Island (El Nido), Sangat Island, Batad (on Luzon), Mt. Pulag (on Luzon), Coron (shipwreck diving), Siargao Island

Filipino Time: refers to the Filipinos’ own brand of time, which is known to be minutes or hours behind the standard time. In other words, locals tend not to observe punctuality at all. This behavior usually drives time-observant foreigners crazy.




Philippines - island of Luzon - Mayon Volcano - Elter photo


In the Philippines, yearly, about 20 massive typhoons are raging, mostly from June to December. The heavy rainfalls typically go with severe landslides. During such a period, travelers worry about flight and boat cancellations, power and telephone cuts.

After a typhoon, restoring telecommunications networks can take days, but power and food supply are still guaranteed for international hotels.

Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are also common in the country.


“Tropical cyclones are fundamentally the same meteorological depressions (low-pressure formations) as hurricanes in the Caribbean, but here they are generally called typhoons.

The devastating typhoons which strike the countries of East and Southeast Asia are particularly violent during the summer and autumn months. Meteorologists can predict their arrival in time based on satellite images. In this case, residents of vulnerable areas have at least three days to take the necessary precautions: protect their loved ones, secure movable objects in safe places, nail shut doors and windows, and so on. Despite all this, typhoons do sometimes lead to fatalities, and can inflict enormous damage.

The reason for their formation is that in the summer when the sun’s rays fall perpendicularly on the Tropic of Cancer, the waters near the Equator receive a huge amount of heat. The sea behaves like a huge water tank being heated up. As the water temperature rises, heat is transferred to the layers of air above it. As warm air rises, an upward flow begins, which later turns into turbulence. The air flowing begins to move ever more violently in a circular motion around a point on the axis of rotation - this is the eye of the typhoon, which can be 10-40km in diameter. The airflow is strongest nearest the eye, while the airflow towards the edges of the typhoon is less intense. This low-pressure formation is blown by the trade winds parallel to the Equator from east to west, thus reaching the mainland.

Calm down, my Filipino neighbor smiles on the plane, if the current typhoon-affected flight safety, air traffic controllers would send our 747 elsewhere. Such things often happen around here, they are prepared for it, they know the drill. As we descend, we lurch up and down a few times on the flight path, then, to my relief, we land, at an airport named after the murdered opposition politician, Ninoy Aquino (NAIA). As the door of the Boeing 747 opens, the hot and humid breath of the tropics greets us. Thirty-five degrees celsius, and nearly one hundred percent relative humidity.” (Elter, 2021)


Corruption in the Philippines is worse than in Indonesia, Vietnam, or Thailand, but not so bad as in  Laos, Myanmar, or Cambodia.  

A considerable amount of Filipinos are employed overseas and can sustain their family through overseas remittance.

In the shopping malls, you can see both Catholic chapels and mosques.


This country has one of the most ethnically diverse populations globally. On 7,107 islands, about 11 languages and 84 dialects are spoken.


“As a legacy of the once-sizeable U.S. military contingent, many Filipinos still yell ‘hey, Joe!’ at foreign men. The karaoke craze has swept across Asia, but the contagion is most widespread in the Philippines. Here, where it incidentally goes under the name of videoke, the whole country is permeated by loud, incessant yammering. You can't sleep at night, you can't sit still on buses, and in internet cafes, your heart jumps out of place as the thirty Filipinos sitting around you suddenly join in. and the worst part is that videoke is the most popular among the middle-aged, so the butter-soft melodies of the sixties, seventies, and eighties are the most common.

The country is full of beauty salons, and Filipino newspapers are full of advertisements for plastic surgery. Filipinos are congenitally optimistic, and there are surveys that show that there are no happier and more satisfied people in the world. Every man in the Philippines imagines himself to be irresistible, and is very fond of combing and arranging his hair in public places.

Filipinos are all extremely religious. The majority are Christian (mostly Roman Catholic), while the southern part of the country is Muslim. However, Filipino Christianity is fundamentally different from what religion became in the West. It’s a peculiar blend of tolerance and blind fanaticism, where a nun chats cheerfully to an apparently gay young man, and at Easter, a handful of crazy people regularly have themselves crucified in downtown Manila, despite the Church’s vain prohibitions. Filipino Catholicism is charming precisely because of its freedom. There is much trouble with the Roman Church, and one of the greatest is the terrible cynicism that flows from it, as the priest and his subordinates, who conduct Mass in Prada shoes, say that they truly, sincerely believe in the immaculate conception and other dear tales. To retain the faith in another life, despite the idiocy of some of the clergy, as simple Filipino believers do every day, is a very commendable accomplishment.

It’s still somehow accepted that today the Philippines is the number one sex tourist destination in the world, but it is very difficult to understand how that does not bother many Filipinos. Elsewhere in the world, they don’t really rejoice when local girls end up as prostitutes to tourists, but here there seemed to be no opposition to the idea of ugly, middle-aged foreigners sleeping with local teenage girls. Moreover, according to our local sources, most Filipino families are particularly pleased if their daughter picks up a foreign man. Having said that, coming from a country, Hungary, where a significant portion of Europe’s porn movies are shot, where an Italian husband was the height of fashion just a few years ago, and where there is a serious industry to cater to all the needs of British bachelor parties, maybe we shouldn’t be so outraged.”


"What was most shocking was the behavior of men towards women. I’ve seen a few times that an acquaintance of mine has turned out to be cheating on my wife. This in itself is not so shocking, as it can happen anywhere in the world, as can the reverse, but the consequences are unusual. Usually almost nothing. Women may shout at their husbands, call them names, and generally act like tigers, maybe accompanied by a box around the ears, but an hour later it’s as if nothing had happened, peace is restored, and they chat, or go out together, etc. And this wasn’t just one case – I saw it happen several times. I even asked locals, and practically everyone said that it was a frequent, even normal issue among men, and one for which there seems to be no solution. I suppose it happens elsewhere too, but it seems more prevalent here, and there are fewer consequences. There are many companies, mainly construction companies, that sometimes require workers to take on jobs far from their homes, so they may disappear for long months. Because of this, some have multiple families in different parts of the country. These families do not even know about each other, but each thinks they are the man’s only family. Sometimes such situations come to light only after many years.”

Tourist etiquette

1. When having a conversation with locals, foreign tourists should steer away from topics related to Philippine politics. The population is heavily divided, and there are too many sensitive issues.  Talk instead of food, family, guys, and girls, the beauty of the country. 

2. In case of a conflict with a Filipino or complaining about lousy service, foreign tourists should avoid openly showing anger.  Such behavior could become counterproductive as Filipinos are extremely sensitive about being humiliated (lose face).

3. In public, you can discreetly show affection to your traveling partner, like holding hands, placing an arm around the others' shoulders, give quick kisses, etc. However, in rural and Muslim-dominated areas, this kind of public affection causes resentments, even if not openly. 

4. Most of the Filipinos are deeply religious. If you happen to be an Atheist or inactively religious, do not admit that even try to hide it.   



Philippines - lechon - typical local meal - K Elter photo


Batad, Banaue Rice Terraces

Philippines - Batad Banue rice terraces - b.d. photo

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