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February 06, 2006



Torn has covered a lot of ground, but there's maybe room for a couple more.

"The Pope", "culture shock", "happy-go-lucky", "ongoing peace talks", "fat-bellied cops", "population explosion", "failed coup" and "Jollibee".


You can also mention our inability to tell the time. We had some trainors fly in from Europe and they asked if it was true that being 15 minutes late to everything was polite (ergo, please show up to sessions on time).

In a way it is polite to show up late --- people who show up to parties at the designated time find themselves alone with the host still getting ready.


Sometimes I think the Philippines is inhabited mainly by women. I don't mean like an Amazonian island (or rather, 7,000 islands) -- because the women they show on the covers or inside the pages of these Tourism PR publications are all dainty, girly, fragile wisps who couldn't possibly throw spears (or much less cut one breast off just to do it). Smiling, of course. And everyone's a beauty queen -- I wonder where all the losers are shipped off to?


You forgot to mention "Christian" and "Catholic"--as in the *only* ones in Asia--as must-use descriptions of Pinoys. As if that meant something.

Madame Chiang

'airport', 'hopeful' and 'next year'.....

we should be so lucky....!!!


Did you read the about the Guardian article on the Philippines?



I found the guardian article interesting, but also disappointing - I didn't feel it really got to grips with why this country seems to be off the map for backpackers 'doing' Asia - something that strikes me every time I travel elsewhere. I'd be very interested to hear some insights from Torn on this subject??


you should also tell them what happens when they google the word "filipina"


Oh, so cynical... but luckily I never write about the Philippines. To me it's only family there, but I guess I'm lucky.


Actually quite a few of the clichés in my post came from the Guardian article, which says something about it I think.

I don't know for sure why so few Western tourists come here, but we seem to get fewer and fewer every year. I came to the Philippines twice as a backpacker in the good old 1980s (I was living in Singapore then) and had a great time. When I first arrived here to live in 1997 there were still a few knocking around Malate, but these days we almost crash the car in shock if we see one. Personally I like it that way (the thought of living in Bangkok surrounded by European package tourists fills me with dread), but it's not good for the country.

In roughly descending order, I think backpackers avoid the Philippines because: (i) geographically it is off the map, it's not a stop over destination and travelling to another country is expensive and difficult (compare Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam; (ii) it's not very good value; (iii) its tourist infrastructure is poor(the fact that there is STILL no route from the international to the domestic air terminal boggles the mind); (iv) terrorist incidents involving tourists have given it a bad name; (v) there is a perception that it has less exotic culture to offer than other destinations.

I do agree though that the route taken by Thailand -- appeal to the backpackers first and they will return when they are middle aged (like me!) -- is better than Richard Gordon's idea of just slapping a bunch of expensive ads on CNN. Yet strangely there are actually relatively few hut-type backpacker resorts here, despite the country's natural advantages.

Jon Limjap

The lack of backpacker-friendly resorts is attributed by the Filipinos' mistaken (skewed?) belief that all people who can travel and who have white skin are rich enough for hotels.

Interestingly, small-scale hostels and 1 & 2 star hotels are taking advantage of this.

carlos celdran

Hmmm. Actually, there are lots of backpacker accomodations around the country. Places like Sagada and Puerto Galera are basically geared only for them. It's just that these places don't advertise so one thinks they don't exist here. Friendly's, Rainbow, Malate Pensionne, Pensionne Natividad, are only a few of the places available to them in Manila (Even going for PHp250.00 a night at some places). They don't advertise outside of their backpacker networks so that locals don't check in and leave enough room for the real travellers. In other countries, some hostels even ask you to show a passport to make sure you are a foreigner.


I'd have to disagree with you on that on that one Carlos. Yes, there are *some* backpaper places, but a tiny, tiny number compared with Thailand even in the 1980s, let alone now. Look at Khao San Road in Bangkok, there are more backpacker places in that one street than in the whole of the Philippines!

I think Jon's point is a good one. There is a basic misunderstanding of backpacker culture in the philippines.

christina nelson

I'd have to agree with you on this one, torn. It costs me about as much to travel outside the Philippines as it does to travel in the Philippines. (I don't count Metro Manila because I live here.) Any savings in domestic airfare (which usually isn't much) is usually blown on accomodations. Even if the accomodations are at "backpacker level," I've paid double what I would pay in Thailand or elsewhere in Southeast Asia. My friends here still, after months of friendly discussions on the subject, still think $90 a night for a hotel is "inexpensive." Sigh.

carlos celdran

Ya. I guess you are right. Backpacker culture is dead here. Oh well.


Not only is backpacker culture dead here but because the price difference is negligible between a trip to Hongkong or even Singapore, Vietnam, Bangkok, etc, to, say, a trip to Palawan, i as a local would much rather visit a foreign country where the culture, vibe and food are all new and unusual rather than go to another philippine beach. It is money better spent, period. So, local tourism i'd say isn't doing much better either.

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