I remember back to years ago, before I first stepped foot in Southeast Asia. I knew that geographically there were different countries here but I couldn’t help but picture them as one homogenous lump of rice, temples, and elephants. Of course, it didn’t take me long after arrival to begin to appreciate the nuances and individualities of each country. I have grown to love the unique culture of Thailand, the resilient spirit of Cambodia, the diverse landscape of Vietnam. I’ve savored learning about the complexities of the regions’ land, people, religions, and more.
And yet, The Philippines still managed to surprise me. Widespread Christianity, a comfortable familiarity with English, Spanish-inspired food and an appreciation for soft mattresses and pillows (anyone who has traveled in mainland Southeast Asia will be familiar with the rock-bed phenomenon) were some of the first hints that this was going to be a serious departure from my typical Southeast Asia experience. And in my three week there, not a day went by that I didn’t find myself noting something that made the Philippines a totally unique destination for me.
Some days I laughed out loud, because I couldn’t even find words to appreciate how beautiful everything I was seeing was. Some days I marveled at the kindness and warmth of the people I met, who treated me like family within moments of meeting. Other days I cried in frustration or confusion, because I didn’t quite realize that I was indeed going off the beaten track here. Guidebooks were useless, the internet was a black hole of information, and there were scarce few other backpackers around to ask for word-of-mouth recommendations. I ended up extremely grateful that my friend Heather, who long-time readers might remember as my photography mentor in Grand Cayman, my fellow wedding guest in Philadelphia, and my travel buddy in Oahu and the Big Island, decided to join me for a large part of the trip. It was a wild three weeks, and I can’t wait to relive it with you all here! Here’s a little bit of what’s in store.
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The song used in this teaser video is Breezeblocks, which played non-stop on my iPhone throughout this trip. There’s one line that always stands out to me and describes how I often feel in a new destination.
The fear has gripped me, but — here I go.
I’ve got so much to share with you guys, from hiking into isolated rice terrace villages reachable only by foot to diving remote reefs that made me feel like I was in the movie Avatar.
First up, the mega-city of Manilla. Stay tuned!