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The Grizzly Gazette

The Grizzly Gazette

Mabuhay! From the Philippines

Because I got to go back to the Philippines after nearly eight years since moving to America, this past summer, before the 2023 school year, quickly rose to the top of my list of favorite summers.

The Philippines is huge, with over 7,000 islands and 113.9 million people scattered throughout the country. Every island is different, but they are all known for their stunning beaches and exotic nature. Alongside the abundant flora and fauna, there is a vibrant life within the bustling cities of the Philippines.

My trip started with an almost 19-hour flight from LAX to MNL, the Manila Airport. There were no layovers so I was stuck in a cramped seat with questionable airplane food, bent in awkward positions as I tried to sleep my way through the flight, but the discomfort was worth it when we landed and I was able to see my family again.

I hadn’t seen some of them in several years so being able to hug and spend time with them was the highlight of my trip. But of course, I still enjoyed all the outings I was able to have. The Philippines is such a popular spot for travelers and it’s easy to see why. 

The most enjoyable thing we did was our week-long trip to Coron, Palawan, one of the most famous islands. We stayed in Corto Del Mar, right where the town proper is, and it was such a quaint neighborhood. It was near all of the tourist spots and you could walk everywhere, visiting all the small market stands. 

We went island-hopping for two days, getting the fun luxury of a private boat with knowledgeable local tour guides, and we snorkeled, went on a canoe, and hung out on the beach the entire time. I think that the private boat was fantastic for my family because we were able to go to places, such as the Twin Lagoons and Kayangan Lake, at our own pace. 

We also got to go on a safari, feed giraffes, and hang out with zebras, monkeys, and other small animals that had been rescued at Calauit Safari Park. It was another one of my highlights on our Coron trip. 

Everyone in the Philippines is known for their hospitality and we befriended all the people we talked to, even our tricycle drivers and local sellers. The tour guides were no exception; they were helpful and took us to the best spots, they even cooked us a delicious lunch on days we were able to eat on the boat. 

I was shocked at how gorgeous the Philippines really is. Everywhere we went the water was the clearest, most turquoise I’ve ever seen. Every island was so full of plant life that you could vividly see the green pop out; it was truly magical.

I probably spent half of the trip just swimming. With my dad’s side of the family, we stayed at The Lily in Batangas, Philippines for a weekend. The house was gorgeously decorated with intricate artwork and pottery and we had the best time enjoying each other’s company and swimming in the pool. 

We also went to Pangasinan, where we spent a day and night at a beachfront resort that offered campfires, an infinity pool, canoeing, and even ropes courses. A couple minutes away was the infamous Enchanted Cave where we were able to swim in caverns with the coolest natural rock formations. 

Despite getting the worst suntan and having frizzy hair from the insane humidity, I still enjoyed all the outdoorsy things we did. I also really liked visiting several historical monuments in Marikina, which is where my mom and dad lived, alongside my mom’s family. Fort Santiago was a really interesting place to visit and learn more about the country’s history. I hadn’t really realized how extensive the Philippines’ impact was in a lot of world affairs and it was really cool to learn more about it. 

There were also a ton of malls. Every city had an SM (supermall) branch, like SM Manila, and I was surprised by how huge they were. Each mall was about five floors and had everything, including indoor playgrounds, arcades, and even supermarkets. 

Of course, a trip wouldn’t be a trip without the food. My favorite Filipino dish is sisig, which is a pork dish with calamari, onions, and chili peppers, and I think I ate my weight in sisig. I ordered it at almost every restaurant we ate at. I missed all the delicious street food, one of my favorites being taho, made with soft tofu, sweet syrup, and sago. I loved being able to indulge in all the traditional food. It just isn’t the same in America.

The reverse culture shock I experienced was also a little unexpected, but I welcomed it. It was very different in comparison to what I’m used to. For instance, hot showers weren’t always the norm and the streets were filled with tricycles, motorcycles, and jeepneys to get around. The traffic was insane, lasting for up to almost four hours, and even the way the highways and roads were constructed were vastly different. 

I found myself lucky to have the things I do in America and it was nice to see a different perspective.

The Philippines should definitely top your travel bucket list. There’s something for everyone to do, whether you want to shop til you drop, swim in the clearest waters, or just simply enjoy the presence of booming personalities, the Philippines is the vacation that you need to experience! 

Photo Credit: Aleish Cuaresma
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