After feeling so emotionally exhausted traveling through Vietnam over the course of five weeks, as true escapists, we had become infatuated with the idea of the Philippines before we even got there. With endless beaches, jungles, corals, volcanoes and rice terraces all strewn across an island archipelago, the Philippines offered an alluring selection of all the natural beauty we had earmarked to see throughout Southeast Asia.
Beyond the natural wonders, though, for us, it was the mindset that this destination brought with it. We could be more impulsive. We could feel alive and most importantly we could discard the limitations that we had started to associate with travel. So, after a few discussions with AirAsia, our tickets were rerouted to Manila and we were off!
Compared to the mainland countries of Southeast Asia, it was hard to see how the Philippines was considered part of the region at all. Geographically speaking, fair enough. But culturally speaking, it couldn’t be further away. The coconut curries and fresh greens were discarded for meats and potatoes lathered in oil. The rows of three wheeled pushbikes and customized neon lights of tuk tuks were replaced by mismatched metal side cars on motorbikes and ‘pimped out’ jeepneys displaying anything from family logos, crosses to quirky depictions of East Asian cartoon characters. Even the familiar saffron robes and shaved heads of monks that we had become so accustomed to over the last few months were replaced by nuns clad in charcoal habits grasping their rosemary beads. But what surprised us most, was the playful Latin flare in the air. From the Spanglish we spoke, to the adobo we ate, it was as if Southeast Asia collided with South America and their bright eyed offspring was there to greet us with open arms.
Compared to Vietnam, there was such a warmth that permeated from the people we met and, in all honesty, it was a breath of fresh air. None of it felt like the Southeast Asia we were familiar with and out of all the countries we visited so far, it is the only destination that is bookmarked for our return…