When you can swim with whale sharks in the Philippines, it’s going to be a fab time of your life!
My birthday falls in the month of May and when my husband Navin and I decided to celebrate it by going for a trip this year, the Philippines was our first option. We love travelling and meeting new people. Naturally, the lure of the pristine beaches, lakes, waterfalls and lagoons were like nothing else in the world! We simply wanted to experience all of it.
One interesting aspect about the Philippines is that any Indian holding a valid US/ Australia/ Schengen/ UK/Canadian/ Singapore Visas can avail visa on arrival, free of cost. This made our trip so easy and convenient. Our eight-day trip included Palawan and Cebu. In Palawan, we visited the breathtakingly beautiful small islands of El Nido and Coron. Zip lining from one island to another in El Nido was a beautiful experience.
Cebu too had something mindblowing to offer — we could swim with whale sharks for 30 minutes, which was one of a kind experience. But you need to reach the location by 6 am to experience it.
We also snorkelled to see the beautiful corals. During our stay, we even discovered a couple of secret beaches and lagoons. We also spotted a giant monitor lizard in one of the beaches. There are a lot of unexplored places in the country!
Marine fishing in the Philippines is more than an industry; it’s their way of life. Tourism also adds to the overall revenue. Filipinos are, by and large, friendly and happy people. The population is less and is scattered. In fact, every Uber cab ride we took in Manila and Cebu was one to cherish. We also travelled in tricycles, an indigenous form of the auto rickshaw, which is a common means of public transportation. Though we met a lot of Chinese and European travellers, we couldn’t find any Indian tourists there.
Since we are vegetarians, we didn’t have many food options — wherever we went, they served us rice and some veg side dish. Their staple lunch is one type of sticky plain rice and fried fish, which they have by 11 am!
A commonly sold street-food in the Philippines is balut — it is a developing bird embryo that is boiled and eaten from the shell. We tried some of the famous desserts like buko pandan (a sweet made of coconut) and Ube delicacies. Ube is a root like purple sweet potato and the purple coloured desserts made out of it were yummy. Mangoes are very common there and the locals make a lot of dishes made of mangoes. They export dried mangoes to other parts of the world. One of the famous drinks that we tried is San Miguel Beer, which comes in three flavours.
The best time to go to the Philippines would be between December and April. Even though we went in May, the climate was really good. They say it’s better to avoid travelling to the Philippines during the monsoons.
(As told to Merin James)