The Philippines for the
Intrepid Traveler

Philippine travel brochures beckon travelers by endlessly boasting of its rich culture and traditions, its pristine beaches, legendary hospitality, and delicious cuisine, plus a long list of attractions, some exaggerated, some woefully promoted.

The usual time constraints inevitably tow a good number of the tourists and travelers into the travel-friendly places —Boracay, Palawan, Cebu, Manila – modern-generic, hip and polished destinations, with their hip coffee shops, familiar fast-food places and star-boasting restaurants for the trendoids, burgis, and deep-pocket expats, blikbays (balikbayans) and dollar-rich tourists.

Many visitors come with prearranged destinations: Faith healers and sex tours. Both are underground destinations: the former, in search of healing, fueled by faith; the latter, in search of fantasies, fueled by lust. The faith-healing tours invariably bring them to Baguio, their stays usually dedicated to a week or two of workshops and healing. Seldom do they have time to venture out of their itinerary. The sex-tour groups probably make up a bigger bulk of prearranged travels – testosterone-fueled travelers desperate seeking their fantasies, libidinously surfacing in the night hours of the red light districts of sin in Metro Manila and Angeles. Not too many of them venture beyond their sex-driven travels.

Alas, many come and go, their travel memories dreadfully sampled from a generic offerings of tourist traps and essential shopping excursions. Many expats and blikbays seldom venture out of the the familiar travel-and-tour circuit. Many who have never gone to the Cordillera have visited Boracay a number of times, Hongkong half a dozen times, and Singapore and Macau are more likely destinations than the hinterlands of indigenous cultures, fiestas and festivals.

But there are many places to see in this once-upon-a-time Pearl of the Orient, beyond the regimented air-conditioned coach-touring travel with their safe and trendy destinations. There are incredible ethnic nooks and crannies in these 7000-plus islands and fascinating boondock destinations enough to fill-up a month of excursions and explorations, not just for the low-budget backbacking adventurous souls, but also for the deep-pocket intrepid travelers.

The Philippines is a country of fascinating contradictions. Corrupt and Catholic. Patches of First World with long stretches of Third World and cul-de-sacs of Fourth World. Unabashed contrasts of the rich and poor: Skyscrapers of the new-money and walled sanctuaries of burgisland collared by slums and squatter communities. A confusing cultural collage from colonizations, past and present.

Beyond these contradictions and beyond the smog and pollution of the metropolis, the Philippines is a smorgasbord of great travel destinations, both for the fully-escorted or backpack winging. Boracay, Palawan, Cebu – they are in the generic list of tours. For the intrepid traveler, it is a wide-open door of fascinating possibilities and discoveries. But even the worldly travelers are ill-advised to go on their own. The country's legendary hospitality is countered and diluted by unscrupulous tour-operators and ever-present predators with their thousand-and-one schemes and scams. Consult a reputable tourist / travel agency for your travel needs. It benefits the traveler to know someone locally who can check into the grapevine of travel concerns and assist in the arrangements and safety of travel and negotiate on the fees and expenses.

For the intrepid traveler, SX offers a list of places to go and things to do or try. Suggestions for inclusion are most welcome.

Readings for the Intrepid Traveler  
Fiestas and Festivals
Philippine Cuisine:
The Yucky-But-Yummy

Sabong / Cockfighting

The ABCDE of the Yummy
Philippine Cuisine





by Godofred Umali Stuart Jr
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