Our stay in the Philippines has just come to an end. Now it’s time to sum up our visit by saying what we liked and disliked about the country that never sleeps and is surrounded by 7,107 incredible islands. I am going to be nothing but honest here and all our feelings are based on our personal experience.
Paying for the photos
A big disappointment here. For some reasons, Filipinos (especially older people) got really angry when they saw us taking photos of them, the food in the street or even ourselves in front of their shops or houses. It’s totally understandable, but once we asked them for permission, they quoted the price of the photo or said “Any money is ok. It’s up to you.” This attitude shocked us on the first day, but it continued for the rest of our stay. We still can’t understand that. Is it because some Filipino are materialistic people or they are just poor people trying to earn some extra money? Don’t know the answer.
“Taxi sir?” “Free massage maam?”
Culturally, Filipinos are respectful people. We have been to many countries, but there were no other nation in which we were called sir or maam as frequently as here. We felt they were incredibly respectful to us, although we sometimes felt like they were kind and polite so they could sell their stuff to us.
The most frustrating people were taxi and tricycle drivers (similarly to other countries in Asia) who quoted the price (mostly PHP200, around $4.50) without even knowing where we were going. They were shouting to us while blocking the entire pavement to stop us. Total mess and madness!
Giving us wrong directions on purpose
It was very typical for locals to give us wrong directions when we refused to take a taxi. Sometimes we just wanted to walk to get to our final destination, but not with Filipinos. There was a rule there “Taxi or I’ll tell you the wrong way”. That was tiring and frustrating. Once we asked where the nearest 7 Eleven store was and we were told it was 5 km away. As it turned out it was 1 minute walk, hidden around a corner.
We have also experienced some amazing hospitality in the Philippines. We met some incredibly friendly Filipino women in Banaue and Laoag who we had a nice chat with or a few locals in Banaue bar who we could not stop laughing with. There were locals who offered us some food or gave up a seat on a bus which was polite and so kind of them.
In terms of landscape, the Philippines blew us away. Without a doubt, this is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever been to. Stunning beaches, amazing rice terraces, always crystal clear sky and a lot of palm trees. Most of the mountainous islands are covered in tropical forest and volcanic in origin.
One of our favourite places here was Alona beach where we could chill out and get some proper rest after hectic bus rides. We also enjoyed the breath-taking view of the Rice Terraces in Banaue which reminded us of Guilin scenery.
Forgive us, but we didn’t enjoy Filipino cuisine at all. There was nothing unique or surprising to us. A lot of rice and naan bread (typical for Indian cuisine and China), fish and grilled seafood (nothing to compare with Thailand), outdated fruits (black bananas and sour mandarins like the ones in Sri Lanka) and expensive American products such as cheese, milk and cereal we can get anywhere in the world nowadays.
All food was deep fried and oily. In such hot weather conditions, most of fish and fat meat dishes looked disgusting and gross. The street food (my usual go-to option in Asia) managed to tick the happy food box as I savoured barbecued everything from innards to unidentifiable pieces of meat, but a girl can’t live on BBQ alone.
Most dishes were very salty and contained a lot of sugar or chilli. We tried some noodles and dumplings hoping they would taste as good as the ones we had in China, but they were tasteless ( a big disappointment here).
Filipinos love to eat cakes and pastries. You can find plenty of bakeries around where donuts and white bread were served. They are cheap and sugary, good for a treat from time to time, but you can’t have them every day. By the way, we have noticed the majority of young girls and boys are overweight (in the north of the Philippines).
We managed to survive on greasy and fat Filipino food for the first 3 days. After that, feeling bloated and unsatisfied, we decided to do some shopping in local supermarkets and prepare our own meals.
We had plenty of veggies and fruits, some bread and roasted chicken for less than $2 a person. The portions were big, nutritious and delicious!
In the Philippines we traveled by 10 different local buses, we took 3 tricycles, 2 jeepneys, 1 taxi and 2 ferry rides.
We must say that local transportation is very cheap (more price details in the coming blog posts). We never paid more than $1 per person a ride. Jeepneys were the cheapest, around PHP8 a ride ($0.18).
We enjoyed jeepney and bus rides the most as we had an opportunity to talk to some locals. Most of local buses lacked of air conditioning, windows and the seats were broken. There were no seat belts either so the rides were not very safe.
When there were no more seats left, people were standing or sitting on the floor or on each other’s knees. We were squeezed like lemons, but we totally loved the experience!
To sum up, we both think the Philippines are a bit overrated when it comes to hospitality and local cuisine. Nevertheless, the landscape and rich flora and fauna make the country so worth visiting.
Have you been to the Philippines? If so, what was your first impression?
267 thoughts on “First Impression of the Philippines”
I really enjoyed reading this personal and honest opinion. Definitely not what I expected but refreshing to hear the truth.
The poverty status is depressing specially cause I fear it takes away from the countries hospitality when they even charge for a photo.
I certainly imagined that the food would of been great – im a big fan of Asian food, but in saying that I have never traveled to Asia.
Yes, the country is so poor so I guess tourists are the only one source of income for some locals.
A photo for a fee? May I know where in particular?
Filipinos love to post for photos and love to see foreigners taking photos of them – for FREE. Some even request you to take photos of them especially children. The story is quite absurd.
The only place I know where photos ain’t free are from Cordillera region where you find the tribal folks. Taking photos for a fee is a norm there. I guess you are talking of Banaue or Baguio. You really need a tour guide.
I’m a Filipino and i must admit, street foods in the Philippines aren’t really great. Thanks for being honest. But it is a shame you never got to experience the real taste of Filipino cuisine. Sadly, you cannot find them most of the time in the street. The street foods here are very cheap so people can afford them, and because of that, the quality of the food isn’t really great. Btw, typical Filipino breakfast IS NOT consists of fruits bread with jam and coffee. Typical Filipino breakfast is called TAPSILOG or Tapa Sinangag Itlog (Cured beef, Fried rice, and Egg), and/or LONGSILOG (Longganisa (sausage), Fried Rice, Egg, and/or the very common Rice, Egg, Daing (dried fish), and Coffee. Believe me, i have never had a breakfast consists of fruits bread with jam and coffee in my 25 years living here in The Philippines. Im sad you didnt have the chance to taste the famous “SILOG” breakfast. I think you also missed the very famous Halo-Halo (featured in CNN, serve in a NewYork resto, and an all time Filipino fave dessert. And also the famous Adobo, you can not find the best Adobo in the streets, you can find them in the kitchen of a Filipino home. If you really want to experience the best Filipino foods, you find them in a Filipino kitchen, but not in the street, that is a sad truth. I always love Filipino cuisine, but not street foods. But there are some Filipino street foods that i can be very proud of, very cheap and can beat Thai street foods, i know where they are, and I hope when you visit the Philippines again, you will find them. I hope one day you decide again to go here, and please find me tru email, I will be more than willing to tell you where you can find the best Filipino foods in a cheap price (but not as cheap as there in the streets). Or you can come to our place, and il ask my grandmother to cook for you Authentic Filipino foods :) Lechon (grilled pork), Adobo, Halo-halo, Pakbet, Kare-Kare, Pancit, Lumpia, Sinigang, Sisig, are among the most delicious Filipino foods, HOMECOOKED or resto quality, not the ones in the streets because they are low quality, to be cheap so people can afford them. And also, i noticed, you didnt go to the most famous places in the Philippines, like Palawan, Boracay and Batanes, the big 3! Also, Filipinos being respectful and polite are not because they just want to sell you something, i am very certain its not only reserve for tourists. And about the “taxi or ill tell you the wrong direction” thats is so NOT TRUE, it could be that the people you asked dont speak english very well or are just very shy and was shocked a foreigner ask them directions and panicked and give the wrong directions, or could be that they dont really know the direction and give directions to look like they are helping (which is not okay). My country lack a lot of things that first world countries have (ugly truth), but if you really explore this country, you will see a lot of beautiful things that first world country dont have. I really hope one day you will come back :) Thanks for visiting our country! God Bless you both! (PS, sorry for my lack of English skill, im not very fluent)
Hi Agness and Cez!
We Filipinos would really love for you to come back again and experience the rest of the Philippines. Please visit Iloilo City next time and collaborate with other local food bloggers. Here’s a link of a food blog mostly about Ilonggo cuisine. https://flavoursofiloilo.blogspot.com/
I agree with Ryan. It’s the tribes people who would usually charge for a photo with them. Filipinos love taking photos. In Manila and neighboring cities, people are so used to having foreigners around. We do not really care at all. It is also really difficult to find a Filipino of no mixed ethnicity except at the really provincial parts. I visited Baguio when I was in high school, I wanted my photo taken and suddenly some tribes people posed with me. I was glad until they asked me to pay them PHP500.
Anyway, I guess is some parts of non-western countries, it is quite inevitable to find some locals who will feel really curious and sometimes even starstruck with caucasians. Here in Indonesia, a lot of locals would always ask for a picture with a “bule” (referring to white people; literally means albino). Many of my caucasian friends here hate that term, they find it offensive especially of they’re just walking or shopping then someone would call out “Hey, bule!”. Many of them got so used to it too and don’t mind at all. If you ask a local, “bule” is a non-offensive word for them. It’s all about understanding and adjusting to the culture. :)
~ A Filipina from Semarang, Indonesia
I think you are more than poorer hunnie..If you want to have a very good and enjoyable time here in our place and not only here, even in other countries then learn to spend more ok :)And how come you say that tourist is the only source of income in other places here huh? Tourist came here not everyday and foreigner like you wont bother them because all of like you white people are not a good payor and spending only low amount thats why you are just like a trash time waster to them..sorry but this is the truth hunnie ;)You are much poorer than those people
I think you are more than poorer hunnie..If you want to have a very good and enjoyable time here in our place and not only here, even in other countries then learn to spend more ok :)And how come you say that tourist is the only source of income in other places here huh? Tourist came here not everyday and foreigner like you wont bother them because all of like you white people are not a good payor and spending only low amount thats why you are just like a trash time waster to them..sorry but this is the truth hunnie ;)You are much poorer than those people!Please dont ever come back here..People here dont need you Agnes! A white girl talking a lot, searching for a nice place and nice food but cant spend that much to buy in a real complete resto cuisine and cant afford to pay for a much better place to stay in tsk tsk..
I’m glad that you enjoyed your journey in some parts of my country. But I felt bad that you did not appreciate our local cuisine. I hope when you come back, you get to try a proper meal. I saw some comments here (or in another post) that they even invited you to their home. :)
Also, please do a proper research so you know where to get a longanisa. Obviously, you can’t buy it from a convenience store. Hahaha. They usually serve it for breakfast. If you are staying in a hostel and if it’s on their menu, ask for it. If you love fish, try the bangus with fried rice.
Some foreigners like/appreciate Filipino dish, some does not. I get that. What I don’t get is the title you used in your other post. Somehow, it’s like you are fishing for negative reactions to get more attention. Maybe not. Oh well, who am I to judge you? I’m just one of your readers whose ego got offended because it’s my country you are talking about. But it’s cool now. Ego is okay.
“Tourists are the only source of income for some locals” NO. It’s not. We have other sources of income. Again, do a proper research. You have to understand that there is a peak/off peak period for tourism in every part of the Philippines. And you also have to think of what you write in your blog because you have readers all over the world that some of them (including me) might take it as a fact.
That person asking for money in exchange of a photo? Nah. Like what Ryan said, only for the tribal folks. But for the rest of your stay…meaning in other provinces you visited, I don’t think so.
P.S. I might’ve missed it but I’m not sure if you tried our mangoes. If not, don’t tell me you can’t find it. Cos, that would be impossible. You can buy mangoes from any local market. Ciao!
I’ve spent a lot of time in the Philippines over the past few years – and yes . . . the food is not something you come back for! The countryside (beaches, mountains etc ) can be amazing but you have to research quite carefully i think to make sure you are able to get to the right place – the wrong place / beach can be really dissapointing. The whole sir / maam thing is just part of everyday life and certainly not reserved for tourists as they will address each other as that at times as well – directions . . . often a case of say something rather than admit not knowing in an attempt to be helpful I think? But overall it looks like you saw some lovely places and I think your impressions are pretty accurate – where to next?
Hey! Totally agree with you. We are now off to Indonesia :)!
A lovely Filipino women who hosted us in Banaue >>> At least you mentioned her name as honest writer to be more realistic. If you visit yogyakarta, please contact me. I really want to meet you guys in person.
You should try quick-quick, in cabadbaran city phil. next visit.
hi again Nan or any of these flat bread are not a typical Filipino fair. I guess something a MIDDLE EAST / overseas worker brought back home to the Philippines from abroad.
Thanks for the clarification, Kiko.
Thanks for sharing this very interesting and honest post with us. I actually do not know anything about the Philippines except that there are good diving spots. The landscape looks like it’s worth to visit the country even though the food is not the best, especially the rice terraces. But I also find it a bit weird that the people claim money for taking a photo.
Hi Stef. Hope you can make it there soon. The landscape is so breath-taking!
Hi. If you want to experience a good diving spot here in the Philippines go to Sorsogon Bicol located at the southernmost tip of Luzon. You can experience a one of a kind adventure by swimming with the whale sharks, interacting with the Butanding, also known as the gentle giant, its an exhilarating adventure that you can only experience in few places in globe.
You can find some useful website in the internet what else are the things you can do in Sorsogon :)
This was a great read, Agness! I too liked your candor and honesty to your experience. I’m sure sorry for the negative aspects of the trip there. But, as always, you and Cez did and always do put a positive spin on all of your travels! One of my best buddies is from the Philippines and I’m going to have him read this. I’m so curious to hear his input then I hope to get back to you on that! Great to hear from you always, our friend. You’ve been missed by me and Phoenix :)
Hi Mike. Oh Gosh, I miss you and Phoenix a lot. The last few days were so intense, but I’m back now! I hope you can visit your friend from the Philippines soon and you will enjoy the country more than we did :)!
I really like the picture of a local woman in Banaue! I suppose she’s one of the nice ones, not asking you guys to pay for a picture? :-)
I’m quite surprised you could eat so much with less than $2! Looks great!
Yes, the woman from Banaue was amazing to us. We had a proper chat and she never mentioned the payment!
Yes they are the one who will ask you to pay after taking pictures of them, even local tourist they will ask some money. It’s only in Banaue or Baguio, Philippines.
People and food are always a highlight of my travels so I don’t think Philippines and I would be good friends. However the landscape looks amazing! I’ve always read only good things about this country so it’s good to finally see a honest opinion about it…
No, you wouldn’t be friends, that’s for sure!
With your prejudice and judgmental view against Filipino people and food without even trying to get some experiences first, I can imagine how negative experiences you’ll get if you will try to visit there. So yeah, just don’t bother. You won’t get friends and find good food from that country!
I’d love to go to the beaches, it looks beautiful!
Alona beach was just…. ahhhhh stunning!
Where is Alona beach located?
The best place to stay in Pagudpod is at Casa Consuelo.Trust me, you won’t regret.
Hello. If you’re planning to visit Philippines and find some beautiful beaches, go to EL NIDO, CORON, HONDA BAY in Palawan Province, BORACAY in Aklan province, CARAMOAN and CALAGUAS island in bicol region, PANGLAO beach in Bohol, ISLAS DE GIGANTES in Iloilo province, CAMIGUIN ISLAND in Cagayan De Oro city, MACTAN ISLAND in Cebu city, SIARGAO (Surfer’s dream) in Siargao province and many more stunning beaches in the Philippines. But these are the famous beaches. I hope someday you will visit one of those beaches :)
I couldn’t agree more with your observation but I just think that you weren’t able to dig in to some authentic Filipio cuisine coz all you had were either street food or fast food. You missed the ripe and green mangoes and a few other Filipino signature dishe, and maybe you can go to the more famous tourist destinations in our country. Nevertheless, great post and I’m an avid reader from the Philippines. ^__^
We visited a few local restaurants and that was what we were offered to eat. Maybe when we come back to the Philippines in the future and find someone who can introduce us to the real Filipino cuisine, we will enjoy the food. For now, we didn’t like what we ate at all.
if ever you plan to visit the Philippines, you can try Albay Province where the Majestic Mayon Volcano lies :-) I do hope your next visit will leave a good impression. Thank you for a very honest review! :-)
Thanks for visiting our country..
Will do, thanks!
there’s really no extraordinarily good food in the Philippines. hahaha… hope you get to visit Palawan when you return. would be willing to share more info in moving around. free of charge. hahaha… thanks for visiting the Philippines. your experience is valid but too bad on the idea of people giving wrong directions. good that i have not experienced that yet.
I am amused by your opinion about the Philippines. I am a traveler too (from Australia) and I really liked the landscapes and beaches in that country.
However, I am saddened by your experience regarding the “locals” and the food…in the time I spent there – which was about one and a half week – I never experienced those. Maybe you interpreted the poor people as the locals? There are many poor people but the workers and students in their capital are also locals.
Before I went to the Philippines I researched and then deduced that it is a country which has a high crime rate which was maybe caused by poor people who wanted to steal from those who have money. That is why I avoided the places where poor people stay. I stayed in Quezon City with a Filipino friend and she told me a lot about the right places to go.
My friend made me try several restaurants and I was never disappointed. Ninangs’, Country Style Pancit Malabon, and Buddy’s Pancit Lucban were a few of what I tried. The food there are authentic Filipino cuisine and not that expensive – we spent much less than $25 dollars. My friend told me to avoid food stalls which did not have license or safety permits because she said that I am sure to get stomach illnesses (unlike the locals who were already accustomed to the “dirty” food). The small restaurants that you also said might be their so-called “carenderia” and those caters people who can’t even afford $25 to live a day.
Since you stayed at a lower class dominated area and experienced the “locals” taking advantage of you, I sympathize with you because when I traveled by jeepney and passed several “squatters’ area”(as they call the place of informal settlers), I always see people who fight each other. This confirmed my hypothesis that most poor people in Philippines are violent people or people with bad intentions.
I think that if you want to really experience the regular Filipino life, and not a poor Filipino’s life, you should have a contact friend or you should live with a family. I hope your experience won’t be repeated again! :)
It is my humble opinion that you learn more from a place by honest scrutiny than dishonest praise. Thanks for this.
With that said, I am surprised about the money asking for pictures. That would definitely turn me off.
As far as the food goes, I’ve never been to the Philippines, but had many Filipino friends in college and must say that I am a big fan. I understand that it is not the healthiest, but to me, that is like avoiding the pastries in France. Maybe with a little time, some healthy options could be found?
I am a sucker for salty food, so “pancit” if my favorite.
It did turn us off. We were like “Are you serious?” We paid some people once or twice, but afterwards we stopped bothering!
Thanks for your honest blogs about my country. That’s good thing than writing flattery descriptions just to impress Filipino readers. It’s sad to know that you encountered bad experiences especially on finding authentic Filipino food.
I understand your disappointment especially that you travelled first to china, thailand and vietnam before going to the philippines. Thailand is my favorite place when it comes to finding authentic local food. Laos and cambodia are not too bad for me. But yeah, street food back home is not impressive like in other SEA countries.
I agree with your evaluation. I hope you’ll get nice experiences if ever you plan to go back to my country again. I hope you’ll get filipino friend who can invite you to their home and experience our cuisine cooked with love and care, and not for commercial purpose. It’s a filipio honor to receive foreign visitors at his home. So give it a try in the future. Cheers
I have never been to the Philippines and can’t say I’ve really had any real desire to either. Thanks for this informative post. The lack of good local cuisine is a bit of a shame..
Hope you’ll make it there Jules!
Wow – telling you the wrong directions on purpose!? I can’t get over that (I’m always hopeful about the kindness of humans)!!
That was nasty, believe me. We wasted a lot of time trying to find the right way :(.
Oh, yeah. Definitely, I’m a native Filipino and even they trick us! Usually during summer when resorts and pool areas are booming, some locals of the area try to lure us to THEIR resort instead of the one that we asked directions for. That was really disappointing, even as a native.
Yes, this is true. Even I myself a Filipina girl, lost in the streets of Sto.Rosario here in Cebu was given the wrong direction. TT_TT I don’t know if that was on purpose or not.
It’s always good to read about honest first impressions. Perhaps you were spoiled by the food in Thailand and China, or perhaps in the Philippines it’s harder to find good local food, as it is for example in Venice. I have heard about people giving wrong directions, in Vietnam for example. It’s probably just a matter of telling you something rather than nothing. Why would they do it otherwise?
Yeah, I guess so. We are big fans of Thai and Chinese cuisine!
A good honest assessment. Sometimes you cannot have everything. I think the beautiful scenery outweighs the poor food.
Once again, an incredibly useful and insightful post from you guys. Thank you for the honesty. As a fellow traveler, sincere opinions and experiences are very important for me. I feel more aware on the wonderful things and the annoyances regarding the Philippines, so once I travel around there, I will feel more prepared.
I wish someone would had warned me about India, people sometimes tend to sugar coat everything and the reality turns into an absolute shock.
A big hug from Zurich!
Hi Yara, that’s so true. I tried to be honest as much as possible :).
Wow, I was really shocked to read this because when Tony & I visited the Philippines, one of our favorite things about the country was the people we met! We had never experienced such kindness, and we were pretty much never bothered by touts, nor did we ever have people give us the wrong directions. In fact, we would joke about the fact that the taxi and tuk tuk drivers had no problem telling us how to get where we wanted even if we didn’t want to use their service—they were always really upfront about how much it would cost to take the public bus vs them, and we had locals go out of their ways to make sure we made it to our destinations safely and for a fair price. The only thing I would say was consistent with our experience was that no matter where we wanted to go, we were always told it was too far to walk. We always thought this was because most Filipinos were too lazy to walk, not because they wanted to rip us off. I can’t figure out why you had such a different experience to us!
I will agree with you about the food, though. We caught some flack on our blog when I said I didn’t really like the food in the Philippines, but I stand by that. It was all so sweet and unhealthy—it all seemed like junk food. I would happily go back to the Philippines in a heartbeat, but not for the food!
Hi Steph. I’m glad to hear you experienced such amazing hospitality in the Philippines. We didn’t feel that at all, but maybe next time. As for the food, no comments here. I would rather go hungry than eating fatty food from the street for a price of Western buffet.
Hey Agness, you should not be like that. I’d tried Filipino cuisines that are worthy to eat. Next time you visit the country, try visiting Two Seasons at Coron, Palawan. It is an island resort, stunning view and also they serve good food, maybe you should try some. It was sometimes televised on a talk show, the host was traveling and she commented nicely according to whta she experienced. I hope you’ll change your statement when you experienced some attractions in other parts of the country.
Nice post, especially the honest assessment.
Ok, paying for the photos,this the thing, as a person from a so called ‘developing country’, the perception(mostly wrong) is that tourists take photos of people, sell them and make lots of money, so they probably want a small ‘cut’. The other perception is that tourists (esp foreigners) have loads of money and would not mind parting with just ‘a little’.
Every place has it’s good and bad and thankfully you also found many positives in the country.
We didn’t mind to leave some money to locals, but when they say to you “pay me or get lost” with such angry faces, it’s just too much to handle!
Sorry about that dear. They’re igorots native filipinos, even local tourist they’re asking to pay them. It’s more nice if you have a friend here to guide you in all you travels and introduce real filipino cuisine. I bet, you will never regret it :) Have a safe trip to all your journeys :)
very interesting impressions. ive never been there or had much desire to visit, so its interesting to see someone elses opinion of the place. sucks the food was bad… food is usual the redeeming factor in many places <3
Although I only visisted Palawan in the Philippines, I definitely agree with everything you said! The whole place was incredible because of the scenery, landscapes and ocean, but was definitely let down by so so food and uncomfortable transporation (there’s a 7 hour bus journey to El Nido once you arrive in Palawan). I must say though, they had excellent fruit shakes where I was! :)
Yes, the Filipino flora, fauna and landscapes are just breath-taking! The Rice Terraces made our stay there!
I am a bit surprised to hear about the hospitality of the Philippines people. I met several people till now and they were very impressed by the hospitality showed by the locals.
Well, if they like cookies that means its the place for me!
Same here – a big disappointment! Yes, they love junk food, greasy food and a lot of sugary products :D!!
Thank you for visiting our country. I must say most of the street food are really fattening and yes, the Philippines is quite a fan of Western junk food. :( I hope someday you get to taste real good Filipino cuisine from a local host. Sorry about those people asking for money when you take photos of them. *shakes head* Sigh.
No wonder why the majority of young boys and girls are so overweight, it’s insane!! The older people are, the more obese they are in the Philippines. There are fast food restaurants around, but you can’t get fresh bananas anywhere!!
I presume you didn’t venture to the South Luzon? Most fresh fruits are found there; pineapples, bananas, watermelon, cantaloupes and more.