Local lifestyle columnists

Visiting a gem in southeast Asia, the Philippines

By From page B10 | May 04, 2013

More than 1 million Filipinos call California home. We’ve been influenced by their culture, cuisine and recipients of myriad products and services.

But in the past decade, very few of my American-born clients have considered a vacation in the Philippines. Asking myself why, and doing a bit of research, I concluded a lack of promotion to this jewel may be the problem. So, here’s my contribution to putting this locale on your vacation map.

Known as “the pearl of the orient,” the Philippines are made up of more than 7,000 islands. The gateway capital, Manila metropolitan area, consists of 16 cities and serves as the business hub and education center for this nation.

Europeans, Aussies and Asians frequent these islands to enjoy its beauty, activities and many festivals.

If you haven’t, consider this destination for the following reasons:

The islands are tropical and exotic. Experience the unexpected at its eight UNESCO World Heritage sites – Historic Town of Vigan, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, four Baroque Churches of the Philippines and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park – and 29 proposed additions to the list. (Go to: www.worldheritagesite.org/countries/philippines.html).

Friendly and happy people are everywhere. Having been colonized by the Spaniards, Americans and settled by a variety of immigrants, Filipinos welcome visitors with open arms. A plus is that English is widely spoken.

Consume the cuisine. We are fortunate to have access to popular Filipino dishes such as pancit, adobe and lumpia, but you must be in-country to experience the more exotic dishes – or be as lucky as I was when sailing with a group of Filipino clients: one arranged for a countryman chef to prepare a native dinner each night.

There’s always something for the people to celebrate, which leads to endless entertainment, festivals and parties. Every municipality and town has a festival in addition to the many religious, indigenous, flower, film and music ones all over the country. Families love to party and night life is abundant.

It’s affordable. Accommodations, food and shopping can be a small fraction of the cost in other countries. Accommodation ranges from one to five stars, lobster dinners for $12; score a shopping bargain for one-tenth U.S. cost.

Countless outdoor activities include hiking, biking, golfing, rafting, diving and enjoying one of many sandy white beaches. Romantic settings and great prices makes it a leading wedding and honeymoon destination.

Now you have some reasons to visit the Philippines, so possibly you’re wondering how to get there and what to do.

There are more than a dozen airlines with service to Manila from the west coast, including the national carrier, Philippines Airline. I highly recommend first-time visitors start their journey with a tour package, until they’re comfortable in going on their own. Pacific Holidays Tours has a nice selection of packages ranging from seven to 11 days and starting at $2,795, including airfare. These packages are customizable to allow for extension of your time in-country, upgrades and add-ons to other destinations in the Southeast Asia region. Isramworld offers an eight-night Island Hopping package starting at $1,639 (without air), taking you to Manila and Cebu Borocay. Also they have mini-packages to five destinations, which are combinable to suit your needs.

With so many possibilities and choices in this country, I suggest you visit www.philippinesboard.com to begin your exploration of this destination.

For a visual tour, you can go to www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=32sbF72kJN8&feature=endscreen.

Once you’ve determined it’s for you, begin planning with your professional travel consultant and don’t forget to ask a Filipino friend or neighbor about visiting their country of origin.

Happy travels!

Rose Alston is a certified travel counselor and master cruise counselor. She can be reached at [email protected]

Rose Alston


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