A while back, John Miele wrote an article about the top 100 things he liked about the Philippines. It is something that has been on my mind ever since, because I really enjoyed the article and found it informative. I really enjoy reading a very positive account like that, and find it inspiring.
Since the subject has been on my mind, I wanted to write a list of things that I love about the Philippines. Unlike John’s list, this is in no particular order, because I love many of these things quite equally, and would find it hard to rank them. Some of the things that I love are the same, or similar to the things that John likes, but some are quite different. Let’s have a look, remember, in no particular order.
Family. Where I come from, we are not particularly close to our extended family – cousins, aunts, nieces, nephews and such, at least not as close as extended family is here in the Philippines. In my house, I have, over the years had probably a half dozen nieces and nephews live with me at one time or another. At first, this was hard to adjust to, quite hard. I like my privacy, and having all these people living under my roof felt somewhat as an infringement on my personal space. Over the years, though, it is something that I got used to and grew to love. Honestly, now, if one of my extended family moves out of the house, I genuinely miss them. Even at times when we have had a little “speed bump” in our relationship, when they leave, I miss them and hope that they are doing well. Extended family has really become an important part of my life.
Durian. Durian, the king of fruits! It is a Davao favorite, and a favorite of mine too! A common thing that people say about Durian is that “it smells like hell, but tastes like heaven.” Well, I don’t see how that can be said, because I love the fragrance of a good durian! Before I started eating it, I thought it smelled very bad, but now I love the smell of it! I particularly enjoy eating durian when I have a foreign visitor with me, because almost every foreigner thinks the stuff stinks, and is appalled at the thought of even tasting the stuff. There is a certain pleasure about sitting down and eating durian in front of such visitors, and seeing the look on their face!
Roasted peanuts with garlic. It’s a Filipino specialty, and I love it. Peanuts roasted in garlic. Hmm… very delicious! I never tasted this kind of thing in the States before, and it is a perfect combination. Makes me think it could be a business opportunity to sell this in the USA, I bet it would catch on!
Public Markets. The palengke, or merkado is a staple in Filipino life. I particularly enjoy going to the wet market, the place where things like fish and meat is sold. Honestly, visiting this part of the market is filled with a pretty rotten smell, but if you can get past that, it’s a wonderful experience. Just seeing the people – vendors and customers – interacting with each other, the genuine friendships that you see there, it is really a study in Filipino societal culture. I am not even talking about going there to shop. I enjoy just grabbing my camera and heading to the palengke to watch and document the happenings there. It never fails that you meet some really interesting people there, and see some interesting things there too. I love visiting the palengke!
The beauty of Tawi Tawi. I have been to Tawi Tawi, but only once. Well, that is one more time than most foreigners, though. You see, Tawi Tawi is an area where few tourists go, because it has the reputation of being a real terrorist zone. Tawi Tawi is a province that consists of 107 islands in the Sulu Sea. It is, honestly, the most beautiful place that I have seen in my lifetime. I visited there in February 2007, and I hope to go back again some day soon. Unfortunately, right now things are a little unstable there, and I don’t advise making a visit to the area, but when the time is right, I will go back again. You don’t even have to touch ground before you realize the beauty of the place, as flying into the airport has to be the most beautiful airplane landing that I’ve seen before, and I’ve done a lot of flying. Once on the ground, you will see the cultural richness of the place, and the friendliness of the people. Tawi Tawi is probably about 95% Muslim, and a lot of people are scared of Muslims, although I don’t understand why. There are bad people in any religion, and that should not allow you to miss out on the beauty of a place like Tawi Tawi. I know that I am happy that I did not.
The varying cultures of Mindanao. Mindanao, the island where I live is a very culturally rich part of the Philippines. I guess that as I think about it, the only other part of the Philippines that can even come close to the cultural richness of Mindanao is the Cordillera area where the Rice Terraces are. Here in Mindanao, you have three basic groups of peple, Christians, Muslims and Lumads. Lumads are the native people of the island. All three groups can be broken down into sub-groups. For instances, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of smaller tribal groups that make up the Lumads. When it comes to Muslims you have the Maguindanao, Maranao, Sama, Tausig, Yakan and many other Muslim groups. Some of these groups are mortal enemies with other Muslim groups, so it is not always easy to talk about “the Muslims” as a single entity. Anyway, I have really enjoyed seeing these various groups, interacting with them and learning more about their cultures. I love the diversity of Mindanao!
Filipino Kids. There is just something about Filipino kids that is special. I don’t know for sure what it is, but they are so cute! Their eyes, looking at you, always pull at your heartstrings! I love interacting with Filipino kids, especially young kids, like 5 years old or less. Especially since I’ve learned to speak Bisaya, interacting with these kids is a real charm. Filipino kids are often quite shy, but when they hear you speak in their language, they open up quickly, and are fascinated that a white guy can speak Bisaya! It is a real highlight of my day when I can get into a conversation with some Filipino kids and get to know them a bit.
The Weather. Well, this is sort of a no brainer! Warm sunny weather almost all the time, what is not to like? Here where I live in Davao we don’t have typhoons, so the weather here is almost always good, except for an occasional rain shower, but those are usually only 30 minutes or less anyway. The weather is something that keeps me loving the Philippines!
The girls. Well, hopefully Feyma won’t get mad at me (I know she won’t), but what a feast for the eyes. It is hard to go anywhere without having a lot of beautiful women everywhere you look! I have often told people that the hardest part about living in the Philippines is that there are simply too many gorgeous women here, and it is really true. That is a plus in many ways, but also a minus for a married man! You have to keep on your toes to make sure you don’t get your wife upset!
The fruit. There are so many wonderfully luscious fruits to enjoy in the Philippines, it’s hard to decide which one you should have at any given time! My favorite fruits here are Pomelo, Mangosteen and Mango in that order. Oh, yes… durian too!
Green Mango Shakes. I never have been a fan of green mango (unripe mango), but I love a good green mango milkshake! There is nothing better!
Filipino Peanut Butter. I have to agree with John Miele on this one. There is no peanut butter in the world that is better than Filipino peanut butter! It is wonderful stuff!
The beauty of Bukidnon. I love Bukidnon Province, here in Mindanao. It is a beautiful place. In Bisaya, “Bukid” means “Mountain” and thus Bukidnon is the Mountain Province of Mindanao. The weather is crisp and cool in Bukidnon, the mountains are majestic, and everything about the place appeals to me! I love Bukidnon, and I visit there every chance that I get.
Albino Carabao. In general, I really have an affection toward the Carabao. It is a beautiful animal, and a real workhorse for the Filipino people. A lot of things just would not get done without the carabao. In particular, though, I like albino carabao! The pink color of an albino carabao is kind of unique. I call them “Kanobao” as a playful nickname, like an “American Carabao” since they are almost the same color as a white person. I really enjoy seeing people riding down the highway on the back of a carabao, and I have a secret fantasy of wanting to ride a carabao myself. Maybe one of these days I’ll do it! I think it would be a blast.
BBQ on a stick. Filipino barbecue, usually Pork, put on a bamboo stick is simple heaven when it comes to food. I particularly like the little piece of fat at the bottom of the stick. Is it healthy? No way! Is it good? You better believe it. It’s hard to pass by a good stick of pork BBQ.
Speaking Bisaya. I really enjoy being able to speak in Bisaya, the local language where I live. There is no better feeling than being out with a group of foreigners at a restaurant or coffee shop, and to suddenly start speaking Bisaya to the waiter. The looks on the faces of the foreigners is priceless… shock, and even jealousy are so evident. It’s kind of an ace card up your sleeve when you can do that. I enjoy it a lot. The ability to communicate is great, and the shock that you get from other foreigners only enhances the experience.
Here is a rundown of other things that I love in the Philippines, without the detailed explanation:
Bobot – a candy made out of peanuts. It’s delicious.
Ampao – a puffed rice snack.
Tsokolate – a hot drink made out of native chocolate.
Calamansi – a tart citrus fruit that serves many purposes.
Massage – no better way to pamper your body than a good massage.
Free WiFi – here in Davao you can get free WiFi access at hundreds of locations around town.
Meeting people – people who read my blogs visit Davao often, and many times they want to meet me, I enjoy it a lot.
Samal Island – Beauty, peace, a get away from the City.
Surprising People – I like to surprise people (Filipinos) by showing them that I am not a “typical” foreigner that they expect.
Banana Pie at Blugre – it’s simply delicious.
Buko Juice – coconut water. It is refreshing, healthy and delicious.
Driving – I love the freedom of driving in the Philippines. Basically there are no traffic rules that you have to follow except that you don’t get into a wreck.
How about you, are there other things that you love about the Philippines? If so, please share them with all of us!