While many countries in southeast Asia have seen a big increase in tourism over the last decade, the Philippines, with a population of almost 100 million people, seems to have been overlooked. Now the author of a new travel photo guide hopes to change people’s view of the country.
I spoke to Kiki Deere about her book, Journey Through the Philippines. She told me she can’t understand why more people aren’t visiting this fascinating archipelago of over 7,000 islands. “The Philippines isn’t very well explored,” said Kiki. “Most people tend to go to Thailand or Malaysia and the Philippines is always overlooked. I’m hoping the book will show potential visitors what it’s all about and what a wonderful country it is.”
Kiki said that with so many islands to choose from, there are a huge variety of landscapes on offer. “There are thousands of islands. Some have bubbling volcanoes; others have spectacular white sand beaches. Northern Luzon is home to stunning rice terraces and even in Batanes, the most remote province, the topography on these islands is completely different. It rains a lot more, it’s not tropical and it’s hilly – in fact it looks a bit like Ireland!”
And just like the landscape, Kiki says the culture changes across the country too. “In the tribal heartlands in the north, life is very different from the way people live in the modern metropolis of Manila. And that in turn is different from the Visayas – the central islands – where people live off fishing.”
So with such a huge diversity of landscapes and cultures, I asked Kiki where a visitor should start? Most will kick off their trip in the huge, sprawling capital city, Manila. “Many people are daunted by visiting the capital, but I liked it,” said Kiki. “It has some wonderful little pockets, which are very vibrant. There’s the oldest Chinatown in the world and some excellent museums.”
One of the most well-known resort islands in the country is Boracay, although Kiki says this might appeal to a younger crowd. “Even from the first time I visited, it’s changed a lot over the years,” Kiki told me. “It’s the party island of the Philippines. If you’re young and up for a good time, that’s probably where you’d go.”
But if you’re looking for a more authentic taste of paradise, Kiki told me you should head for the island of Palawan. “There are these incredible limestone formations which jut out of the crystal clear waters. All the islands are beautiful but I would probably recommend Palawan.”
Kiki says there are also two amazing sights that all tourists should have on their must-see list. The Chocolate Hills of Bohol are a major attraction. “It’s an incredible landscape when you see it. It looks like there are lots of little chocolates spreading into the distance,” explained Kiki.
Then there’s the UNESCO rice terraces in Banaue. “It’s picture-postcard scenery,” said Kiki. “Trekking through the terraces is the highlight of any trip to the Philippines and you can stay in a traditional tribal hut, which makes for a fantastic experience.”
As a developing country, travelling around the Philippines can sometimes be a challenge, and it takes some patience. “Because there are over 7,000 islands, it can be difficult to travel from one to the other,” warned Kiki. “Most travellers take at least one internal flight while they’re there. With the infrastructure, you just have to be a bit laid back and go with the flow. Factor in a bit more time and have a sense of adventure!”
And Kiki says English speakers won’t have a problem, because the language is widely spoken in the country. “Most people speak English perfectly. In some remote areas it can be harder but there’s always someone around who will speak the language. That’s a massive plus for English-speaking travellers to communicate with virtually no problems.”
For more inspiration on visiting this diverse country, check out Journey Through The Philippines by Kiki Deere, which is available in Amazon.