50 Semi-Random Observations about the Philippines
1) I got to view Manila during the night while flying in. You can see the manic nature of the city in the motion and variety of the lights. I found it kind of beautiful from the air to be truthful. Much more appealing than flying over a big city in America, like Phoenix, which looks so boring and sterile.
2) I would not last 10 seconds in Manila traffic. Others would not last that long. I don't know how the kind Manila drivers I had do what they do on a daily basis. They are blessed with otherworldly patience and low blood pressures to be sure. The Philippines driving style is totally different and though it may seem dangerous on the road their cities are blessed with so many more attentive and skilled drivers. You have to see it for yourself.
3) There's a 550 peso terminal fee at Manila airport, I think before or after the immigration station when departing. What a cash cow . So stash some money for this before leaving, my fellow travelers. I was lucky and kept some extra pesos on hand and had enough to cover it without having to withdraw from an ATM or take a service charge hit on my MasterCard.
4) My USAA MasterCard saved me once again . The ATM's in Puerto Galera were all down so we tried a Western Union station to get a cash advance out of my credit card. It worked after a few different attempts by the cashier. So Western Union is your friend if something goes bonkers with the ATM, though the service charges will be higher.
5) The road we took between Puerto Galera and Sabang was really bumpy and craterous. I half-thought the tricycle was going to fall apart on us!
5) Sabang's reputation as a red light and girlie hotspot seems to be accurate. Stopped in there to get money when Puerto's ATM's were closed and I noticed a steep increase in very hot and dressed to kill filipina babes. Also saw an immediate uptick in western men on their various adventures there .
6) No two tricycles are alike in the Philippines. Some are comfortable, some are not. Some of the motorcycles are souped up and raring to go ... while others will barely be able to make it up a hill!
7) Dogs are so savvy in the Philippines ... they don't need leashes and never run into the street. What can be done to make American dogs more streetwise? Are dog catchers America's curse?
Coco Beach in Puerto Galera is a very fun and quiet resort. I recommend it with a few gotchas ... 1) don't count on doing a great number of activities unless you're with a big group or it's a major vacation season/weekend (lots of activities have pax minimums) and 2) bring your tennis shoes and umbrellas - there is a lot of steep stairs and walking involved in traveling around the resort!
9) Lots of the sidewalks in Manila, Tagaytay, Batangas and likely other cities are very narrow or non-existent. Don't count on walking side by side at all times with your girlfriend, let alone your posse!
10) If your proposal to your girlfriend is accepted and is then followed 10 minutes afterword by a lightning strike less than 500 yards away from you and a big rainshower, take it as a sign that the ancients approve of your inter-racial relationship .
11) The one-way transport bus to Mindoro had one musical annoyance ... there was a radio station or audio mix that featured lots of classic rock songs from the Eagles and other similar artists - but they had the audacity to over-dub all the original drums with the exact same boring latin drum beat for every song! Grrrr, thank goodness for my headphones!
12) My hot water heater in America. I hugged it after I got home and took a long hot shower .
13) The floor heights and tinting lines in many vehicles are adapted toward filipinos who are obviously shorter. You may need to lay back in your seat a little bit to actually see outside the windows. Try to avoid having a stiff neck.
14) If you are the type who can't stand to have people speaking an unknown language around you constantly, it'd be best to learn Tagalog before coming here. If your patient and don't get bothered by conversations going in which you can't actively contribute, you'll be fine though. Just make sure you trust your Tagalog-speaking tour guide(s) or you could get taken I would suppose!
15) Despite plugin sparks while plugging in, I had no problem plugging in my electric shaver and Macbook charger in the Philippines. You shouldn't have much problem with most of your two-prong devices here, as long as they are somewhat up-to-date and can handle the 220 current. Just make sure to unplug your device when there is a brownout, in case of a surge when power is restored. I saw a lot of the locals doing this and followed suit.
16) Some ATM's are local only don't take Visa or Mastercard ... look for the Visa and Mastercard symbol before making your withdrawl attempt.
17) Verizon coverage was very shoddy and often unasble here in the Philippines for Smartphone internet use. Calling and texting was fine though. Next time I won't waste as much time with my international data plan. You'll have better luck with wifi or loading up a cheap Philippines phone, even when the signal is bad.
18) Going to an SM mall on a Sunday night was just crazy busy. An effect of the 6-day work week I would suppose. This is much unlike going to a mall in America on Sunday night (some of them aren't even open!).
19) If you have even a passing interest in WW II or history, you should check out the Manila American Memorial Cemetery. If it wasn't for the sacrifices of our grandfathers, would I even have been able to take the trip to Philippines?!
20) If you ride a big steamboat across the sea, sit toward the back where the loud engine and vibrations originate. I found the loud roar soothing and it was the most peaceful nap I had in the Philippines, despite an uncomfortable seat.
21) Philippines do not seem to have the caffeine/coffee habit much at all. It's refreshing and I'm down to just a few cans of regular coke a day myself after my trip .
22) I have a hunch that filipinas must be quieter in bed not because they're timid, but primarily because they often lack the privacy to get noisy at all and not be heard!
23) There's something quietly romantic about a tricycle ride around Tagaytay with your arm around your lover.
24) The peso limit at all the ATM's I used seemed to be 10,000 PHP. Except for the one at Ocean Park which was 4,000 PHP and for some reason dispensed all 100 PHP bills!
25) Pesos are kind of like Monopoly money ... the ones you need the most are the 50 and 100 bills and these are also the ones you seem to run out of the most often
26) The Philippines doesn't have vending machines. Not a big deal usually, but adjust accordingly if you are a midnight snacker or need bottled water frequently.
27) Ironically, portions of the Philippines are concious of limiting use of plastics, yet insist on serving every can of coke with a straw .
28) Automatic transmission: something I never saw in the Philippines.
29) I really enjoyed the Balls sports network in the Philippines. Very minimal commercials and enjoyable sports presentation without all the fluff and crap ESPN puts out. I was watching the US Open tennis quarterfinals and they even showed the changeovers!
30) I took Korean Air and routed through Seoul to get to the Philippines. It sure as hell is a step up from the domestic flights in the US. Even out of Chicago O'Hare, all flights were prompt and right on schedule and the Korean stewardesses were pretty, curteous and hard-working.
31) The Seoul airport is pretty nice. Free fast wifi abounds. The chairs at the terminals are actually pretty comfortable and it is probably the cleanest and safest airport I've ever seen. My only complaint would be that they need more restrooms.
32) Filipino spaghetti is pretty good, if you like your food pretty sweet. Probably not something I would eat all the time, but it was a nice changeup from everyday spaghetti sauce.
33) For those looking for a close stay to the Manila aiport, the Nichols Airport Hotel worked well for me. It is not located in the greatest neighborhood, so you'll need use their driving service. The hotel rates and driving rates are pretty affordable for something so close to the airport. The wifi is hit-and-miss but generally usable for email and low bandwidth stuff.
34) I only dealt with Ninoy Aquino Int'l Airport Terminal 1, since Terminal 1 is used solely for International flights. They have some free wifi there but it is spotty. I don't know anything about the other terminals and if they are better or worse or have the same 500 PHP terminal departure fee.
35) The heat and sun didn't kill me ... I've braved worse. As long as brownout didn't hit and the fans were blowing it was bearable. But I visited in September, not during the hot season March-April.
36) I liked many of the Filipino broths and soups, particularly tinola.
37) Filipino junk food is different but good. They had these Lemon Square cupcakes in a lot of places ... very good
38) You will need to turn away from and turn down a lot of shameless hockers and street vendors. It's just part of the environment. One guy even tried to sell me Cialis on White Beach after I wouldn't buy his necklaces!
39) Tim Tebow was born in the Philippines. Teach filipinos how to Tebow. I did. Why not?
40) Things I wish I would have brought - hand sanitizer, one jacket or hoodie for cold airports, frisbee, playing cards.
41) Things I wish I wouldn't have brought - excessive books (not much reading light on international flights and I was often too tired to read), sunscreen (I was already tan), my laptop mouse and mousepad, excessive snacks,
42) I had a weird experience with purchasing AA batteries for my camera. I bought some Eveready AA batteries but the terminal heads looked different and made my camera malfunction and do some weird things. If you buy batteries there, look at the positive and negative ends to make sure they look just like the USA batteries.
43) Most filipino mobile phones have Bluetooth capability. This can be very handy for sending pictures to and from your devices.
44) Watching my fiancee load her cell phone was a weird experience and with the Tagalog I didn't get what was going on. I think I'll let her handle it
45) "Tubig" is Tagalog for water. So I would not advise holding up your glass in an American restaurant and saying "Tubig", especially if the waitress is "too big".
46) If you do not like white rice, I think you might get very hungry in the Philippines.
47) For the record, I never peed outside or saw anyone peeing outside like it was talked about in Larry Elterman's book. Maybe I was too distracted or didn't visit the right areas, not sure.
48) At the Batangas port, in one area I was charged 10 pesos to use the bathroom. I took a dump in a stall and then when I got out of the stall, a lady was standing in the men's room and gave me a hand-bucket of water to flush my own toilet and charged me 10 PHP for it. A little bizarre.
49) When a filipino hotel boy carries your bags and shows you to your hotel room, he always turns on the TV for you even if you have no interest in watching the TV.
50) Watch out when singing Karaoke ... you could order a song and get the Tagalog version