Sunday, June 1, 2014

Smooth Getaway Postcard From Manilla

Over the past three decades, economic and political misfortunes coupled with natural calamities have kept the Philippines from taking a well-deserved place among the world’s most popular destinations. Pity, when these 7000 green islands contain some of the planet's best scenery.

The good news is “The Pearl of the Orient” (with growing economic strength and relative stability in this crazy world) is now emerging as a favorite spot for travelers seeking an unspoiled tropical paradise. In fact, the negatives that held the Philippines back have actually helped the islands retain a multitude of scenic areas without the over-development that has spoiled many lovely sites.

The country is also recovering well from the devastation caused by typhoon Haiyan last year. Such events are rare and mostly limited to the August-October monsoon season. (Anyone who wants to help those affected by the storm can contact The Red Cross at or The Catholic Relief Services at Most of the country had relatively little damage and the majority of tourist destinations were not affected. 

There are an abudance of spectacular attractions worth a trip to the Philippines. Wanna see World Heritage Sites? Set your compass for the Banaue Rice Terraces, the Underground River of Palawan, or Tubbataha Reef Marine Park - all cited by UNESCO as natural wonders. That doesn’t include such fascinating places as the Chocolate Hills of Bohol, the Apo Reef (second largest contiguous coral in the world), and the Taal Volcano (a volcano in a lake within another volcano).

Cultural and historic sites truly abound. There are impressive Spanish churches like San Agustin in Manila’s Intramuros district. There is also Corregidor, the island fortress in Manila Bay where American and Filipino forces defied the might of the Japanese army to hold this post under heavy bombardment.

The Philippines has likewise become a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts with perfect locations for diving, parasailing and river rafting. Sun worshipers can find flawless white-sand beaches in the resort areas of Puerto Galera, Bohol and Boracay. Plus, rock climbing is taking hold in mountainous regions like Baguio.

For enthusiasts of the sport of shopping, the Philippines is a must. Mall-crazy Manila has huge commercial emporiums like Megamall, Glorietta Mall, and The Mall of Asia drawing multitudes of visitors from Korea, Taiwan and Japan. A bonus for Americans, Brits, Kiwis, and Aussies is that most Filipinos speak English and favorable exchange rates make such commerce advantageous.

Manila has become a progressive and prosperous city with elegant high-rises to sate the appetite of condo-hunters. Many ex-pat retirees find their nest eggs go further in the Philippines than their home countries. The city boasts some of the best hotels in the world at affordable prices, with service that may be unmatched anywhere else. Good restaurants are easy to find, both global chains and traditional Filipino cuisine, which is a delectable blend of Chinese, Spanish and Malay.

Nevertheless, the most wonderful thing about the Philippines remains the kindness of its people. The “Good morning sir” and “Good evening m’am” one hears so often are sincere and heartfelt, delivered with distinctive warmth that is long-remembered.

Mike Quane is a travel writer with twenty-five years experience. His work has appeared in The New York Daily News, Newsday, Grit, Endless Vacation, Parents Magazine, The Portland Press Herald, Telegraph Publications, Hong Kong Traveling Magazine, the inflight magazines of Singapore and Korean airlines plus many other places. He wrote a weekly column at This Week Publications for fifteen years and a monthly column at for over a decade.


  1. Mike,

    Some inappropriate comments about Filipinos:

    Now that most of us in the developed world (in the sense that a teenage girl is fully developed but not too bright) understand that every white man and woman has a God-given right to spend their life playing with gadgets in an office not wasting their time with meaningless and demeaning activities like raising children, and since this mathematically requires that some nonwhite people pick-up the slack, I thank God for the wisdom in creating short-legged hounds for tracking and short warm spiritual Filipino women so close to the ground they can easily feed, hug, care for and pray with white folks' children all day at minimum wage while we do important office shit. I am also thankful that Filipinos in heaven no doubt pray for those of us sophisticated folks who like technology more than snotty kids and are probably headed for a more "tropical location."

  2. After some thought, I concluded that my comment above must be wrong. It just doesn't sound right that Filipinos were created to care for white folks' children, even though some immigration laws give them a special break to do so. That means I was wrong and (even more shocking) that American culture may be wrong about something. Surely, the Creator who endowed Americans with inalienable rights also endowed them with capacity to carry out their inalienable moral responsibilities. Maybe men should not emulate machismo friends who think extreme sports and video games are more important than inspiring and disciplining their children. Maybe women should not emulate feminist friends who think corporate promotions and charitable organizations are more important than loving and feeding their children. Maybe the hand that rocks the cradle does rule the world and we should all do a lot less talkin' and a lot more rockin'. Thanks to the many humble Filipinos who aren't too important to do the important work on this planet. More humility and more time spent with children would probably benefit all of us. Jesus claimed the Kingdom of God was made up of children and those with childlike hearts. I just hope some of us Americans are allowed in as well.