Philippines – Country #1 In My Mission to Visit All UN Recognized Countries

In this latest series, I will be going through all the countries I’ve travelled to on my mission to visit every single country in the world. In this article, we will be covering country #1: Philippines. If you haven’t gotten a chance already, read this story first to find out why I’m trying to visit all 193 UN-recognized countries.

VIDEO – Country #1: Journey to Palawan, Underground River, and Sagada – Country #1 To Visit All Countries

Blog post on the Philippines

My birthplace

Philippines is the country that I was born in. And yet it feels foreign to me at the same time. When I was 10 years of age, my family moved from Philippines to Canada. Since moving to Canada, I’ve visited the Philippines four times.

The first time I visited was when I was 12 years old and I can barely remember my time there.

It wasn’t until I was 24 years old when I returned to the Philippines. And it was to visit my father who I have not seen since my parents got divorced when I was 14 years old. He was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer and we were to spend some time with him in his last few moments.

It wasn’t until I was 32 years old when I decided to take a year to travel around the world that I would get a chance to get to know the country. And I was pleasantly surprised by my discovery.

My view of the Philippines before travelling there as a tourist

When I was a kid in the Philippines, I vaguely remember thinking that the country wasn’t safe at all. Kidnappings and robbery was a normal occurrence. As you can see, this didn’t help me paint a positive view of the country at all.

When I would meet people here in Canada who would ask me what Philippines was like, my natural answer was something negative. I’d tell them it’s not safe. There is a lot of theft, robbery and kidnappings. Unless you know someone from the Philippines, I would never recommend for people to travel there.

The only positive thing I could ever say about the Philippines was that the country takes Christmas and the New Year seriously. And that going there during Christmas and New Year would be the best time to visit the country so you can enjoy all the festivities.

Returning to the Philippines during my 380 days of travel

During my 380 days of travel around the world, I got a chance to finally see Philippines from a tourist lens. And damn was I surprised!

I mainly returned to visit my relatives and spend my Christmas and New Year there (since that’s when it’s supposedly the best time to visit).

However, this time around, I decided I actually wanted to travel to some of the tourist destinations here.

At the time, I was collecting all 7 Wonders of Nature. This meant I have to go to Palawan to see the Puerto Princessa Underground River.

I also wanted to see the Banaue Rice Terreces which was located in the Philippine mountain province. There, I discovered the city of Sagada that had tons of fun adventures to be had.

Manila

Upon arriving in Manila, my relatives didn’t recognize me. I haven’t been back in the Philippines in 8 years and I was also travelling as a backpacker. When they finally saw me, they were surprised to see me travelling with no luggage. They’re not familiar with what travelling as a backpacker is like.

The reunion with my relatives was really nice. I missed them a lot and it was heartwarming to get together again after all this time. I used to hang out with my cousins every day when I was a kid. To me, they weren’t just my cousins. They’re pretty much my brothers and sisters.

Just before Christmas, I had planned to go to Palawan with my cousin Archie and his then-girlfriend now-wife, Carol.

Palawan

Palawan was amazing! I can’t even describe how much I love this island in the Philippines. First, there’s not much crime here. Which is unheard of in the Philippines.

The number of scams is also very little. People tend to be honest and charge you a fair price when you take the tricycle or local transportation. People are also very nice and it’s a welcoming place to visit.

There’s also a lot of things to do making this a fantastic place to visit as a tourist and also a place to live permanently.

Puerto Princessa City Tour

The first part of our adventure in Palawan is to do a Puerto Princessa city tour. We got to check out many places like the World War 2 memorial site. Here, Americans and Filipinos alike teamed up to fight against the Japanese. Many brave individuals lost their lives in the war.

Philippines

Philippines

We also checked out the butterfly garden and tribal village. Here, we saw many endemic animals to the area and learned how the tribal people lived their lives.

Philippines

Philippines

We checked out Mitra’s ranch which is the home of some boring politician that no one has ever heard of.

Finally, we visited Baker’s Hill which is an odd-looking garden full of Shrek statues and a bunch of random stuff thrown together to make a pretty looking garden.

Philippines

Puerto Princessa Underground River

The next day was the main event. We checked out the Puerto Princessa Underground River which is one of the 7 New Wonders of the World.

Philippines

This place did not disappoint. From the very beginning taking the boat ride to the entrance of the cave to entering the cave. This whole place just screamed adventure. You definitely have to do the audio tour to fully enjoy this experience.

Philippines

Afterward, we met up with some Americans that joined us on the tour and had a nice dinner with them at night.

Philippines

Honda Bay Island Hopping Tour

On our last day in Palawan, we did the Honda Bay Island Hopping Tour. Honestly, this was just okay. It wasn’t my favourite of the three days’ worth of activities we partook in.

Philippines

We did some snorkeling in two different islands as well as swimming. I can’t recommend this tour, it’s just not my favourite.

Banaue Rice Terraces

After spending a nice Christmas in Manila with all my family, the next part of my adventure in the Philippines was to the mountain province. This time, I would be teaming up with my cousin Alviboy (Archie’s youngest brother) who just came back from Saudi Arabia after spending 2 years working there.

The journey to the Banaue Rice Terraces was a long one. We actually left late at night and slept in the car. Our driver was super cool and engaged us in a fun conversation during our trip. By the time we got to the rice terraces, it’s not as nice as I envisioned. I think we went during the wrong season that’s why. We needed to go back in April when the rice crops are in full bloom.

Philippines

Sagada

Next, we ventured to Sagada where we would set up base for the next two days. Here, we did some caving at the Sumaguing cave. The caving adventure was really fun and gave us an adrenaline rush. In the end, I stepped on a sharp thorn that got lodged into my foot. Luckily, first aid was nearby to help pluck the thorn out of my feet.

Philippines

Afterward, our next destination here is to check out the famous hanging coffins. It was a funny experience because the locals thought we were Koreans. They even said that “these Koreans speak really good Tagalog!” We just laughed and didn’t tell them we are actually born in the Philippines and we’re Chinese, not Koreans.

Philippines

Sagada also has amazing pizza which we devoured in the evening.

Mountain province road trip

The next day, we went on an epic road trip on the mountain province in the Philippines. This road trip is so good. You can even argue, that the rice terraces that you see outside your window look even better than the ones in Banaue. I think that aspect really shocked me.

As we traversed on the road towards Baguio, we saw this really cool hotel right up in the mountains. I’d love to stay in that hotel one day. I love discovering this kind of stuff when I travel.

Philippines

Our mountain province road trip ended in Baguio where we celebrated by eating some delicious mango pie in Jollibee.

Back to Manila

On the way back to Manila, we stopped by this house resort that my cousin arranged for us to stay at. I wasn’t feeling it in that house, to be honest, and I was concerned about my cousin. My cousin, Candy, had a miscarriage and I felt that we should have spent our time with her instead of being out in this resort house.

The next day, we went back to Candy’s home and spent the New Year with her which was great. I think it’s nice to appreciate these small things in life like spending time with close family members during the holiday season.

Getting really sick before departing

I was supposed to leave the Philippines shortly after to go to my next destination which is Laos. Unfortunately, I got really sick and had to stay in Manila for one more week so I can recover. I ended up with a high fever and missed my flight which was non-refundable. Thankfully, World Nomads reimbursed me three months later for my missed flight and hospital bill.

Conclusion

I love the Philippines now and would love to go back and explore it more thoroughly. Places I want to explore includes the Chocolate Hills in Bohol, El Nido and Coron in Palawan, Mindanao, the mountain province again, and more of northern Luzon. The Philippines is severely underrated as a tourist destination, especially for adventure seekers.

I can now say, I can recommend Philippines to anyone looking to travel in Asia for beaches, adventures and food.

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