Four reasons you need to visit The Philippines

The Philippines had never featured on my travel bucket list, and I’m not sure why. I guess that the promotional messages for other idyllic island destinations in the region have been more prevalent or appealing to me, thrusting beautiful pictures of sun soaked beaches and tropical forests at me over the years, subliminally blocking out their neighbouring isles.

My wanderings in tropical Asia have taken me to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Borneo, Bali, Lombok and other nearby Indonesian islands, but never really feeling the draw of the archipelago. I will therefore be eternally grateful to Cebu Pacific Airlines for opening my eyes to another (new) favourite destination – and for making me realise just how to easy (and cheap!) it is to get there from Dubai.
I was absolutely blown away to hear that direct flights are available from Dubai or Doha to Manila from as little as AED 800 (honestly, I checked this morning and this was the price I was quoted!) Admittedly there are none of the frills that we have been accustomed to receiving on long haul flights from Dubai: There is no in flight entertainment (unless you count the cute little travel games the crew play with passengers before the plane lands) and meals have to be ordered online in advance, but I came equipped for such a flight with a couple of downloaded seasons of Game of Thrones and a bag full of snacks and didn’t even notice the nine hours passing!
There is so much I feel I could write about the trip, but don’t panic, for this post, I just wanted to list the highlights of travel to The Philippines!
1.  Fun loving people
Living in Dubai, I have lots of Filipino friends, and they never stop smiling, singing and laughing, but let me tell you, after meeting plenty of warm welcoming hosts and tour guides, it’s true what they say, it is even More Fun in The Philippines!
2. Tropical island paradise
With 7,107 islands comprising The Philippines, there are no end of picture perfect desert island locations, offering lush tropical forests at the centre and fringed with white sand beaches and turquoise seas clear enough to see the coral and fishes beneath. We were lucky enough to visit the provinces of Palawan and Cebu during our whistle stop tour, Palawan offering more rustic and natural charms, while Cebu extended a more luxurious and developed welcome.
3. Extraordinary food
I’m not just referring to the fresh-from-the-ocean seafood available on the islands – the enormous clams, prawns and other shellfish, caught and barbecued the same day – or the sweetly marinated pork and deservedly renowned lechon. Nor am I limiting myself to the savoury selection, with the distinctive purple ube (yam) flavouring everything from ice-cream to macaroons and cakes, and often used in the famous halo-halo (along with shaved ice, milk and an assortment of beans and sweets), and competing for space with mouth-watering fresh fruit, particularly the mangos, delicious fresh or dried. I also want to draw attention to the unique foods that won’t be gracing the covers of any brochures or advertisements any time soon, those that often top the lists of world’s most frightening foods – infamous foods such as balut and the lesser known, but equally intimidating tamilok (read my review of these weird menu items here!) All washed down by fresh juices and our favourite – Buko (coconut water served fresh from the coconut).
4. Beauty and adventure
You will never be stuck for things to do in The Philippines. We experienced plenty first hand, from exploring culture and heritage in the Fort Santiago and Intramuros area of Manila, to island hoping, snorkelling and other water sports in the provinces, and relaxing in tranquil spas. We saw plenty of other facilities too, which, given more time, I’d have been clamouring to get out and experience, from scuba diving to rock climbing. And for the non-active types, there are few spots in the world that could rival those we saw in The Philippines for a sunset drink, early morning swim or late night stroll on the beach in terms of beauty (check out my Instagram for more of the pictures @SamanthaDancy).
Given that the country contains all of these key factors essential to a memorable holiday, and that Cebu Pacific Air offers flights at such low prices, I’d stay tuned to this blog because it certainly won’t be my last visit!