Small but terrible. Size doesn't matter. Big things come in small packages. We all have heard these before. And as far as these clichés go, the Philippines certainly fits the profile.

Known for its more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines is blessed with beautiful natural wonders, be it flora and fauna, that have become tourist attractions. For nature-loving tourists, this serves as travel-heaven. There are mountains to climb, forests to explore, scores of beaches to visit, vast oceans to swim or sail in, hidden natural formations to discover,...The possibilities of fun are practically endless!

These aside, many tourists seem to come back again and again. Some other countries may have similar things to offer, and yet, somehow, it is the Philippines many tourists love to return to, and for a good reason. When it comes to the Philippines, it is not merely the sceneries and the wonders that attract tourists. More than these, it is the people and their rich culture that makes the Philippines a much-loved travel destination.

East Meets West

Visiting the country may be confusing at first for the first-time Philippine traveler who has made general presumptions about the Asian continent. He soon finds that the Philippines somehow deviates from the image he has formed in his head. Here, the East and the West blend in the same brew.

This Malay race mirrors much of the Western race, sometimes in attitude, sometimes even in looks. The country is a product, after all, of hundreds of years of Spanish rule. Much of their influence can be seen in the Filipino's everyday vocabulary alone. While most people cannot converse in Spanish, many terms have made it to the world of the modern Filipino. After finally escaping the clutches of foreign rule at the end of the 1900s, however, the Philippines soon suffered during the Japanese occupation in the ´40s, when World War II struck. It was a brief but quite harrowing period that is still much of an issue today.

The Americans soon helped the Filipinos send the Japanese away and stayed in the country for a time. The country now experiences the lasting influence of the Americans. The English language, for instance, is a huge part of the Filipino's life, the American's long-lasting legacy. The English-speaking foreign traveler will not have a hard time communicating even with the common Filipino. Taught by the Americans, English is the Philippines' second language, and as in the case of the Spanish language, many simple words are now used in local, everyday conversations, regardless of a native's educational attainment. This ability to communicate in what is considered the universal language has made Filipinos the much-sought after employees abroad.

It is important to remember, though, that the Chinese, businessmen since time immemorial, have made their indelible mark in the country as well, entering the nation through trade long before Spain invaded the Philippine islands. They have stayed for so long that it is not that easy to distinguish anymore which are originally theirs and which are the Filipinos'.

With its foreign influences, it is interesting to note that the native Filipino culture, while still strong, is also richly blended with others, a uniquely different and interesting culture that is a mishmash of many things that ironically makes the country more distinct from its neighbors. There is that conservatism, too, coupled with a liberated frame of mind – the Philippines is its own antithesis.

The Filipino People

When in the Philippines, there are some things the visitor ought to know. Here are but some Philippine travel information for the interested tourist.

The Filipinos or ¨Pinoys¨ are known for their hospitality. It is a trait that they have always prided themselves with, and with good reason. Such trait endears them more to travelers. Pinoys are friendly and willing to assist as much and as long as they can, all in the name of hospitality. Sometimes, they can even go out of their way just to help. Most times, a heartfelt thank you said to them, a smile, or a pat on the back is already much-appreciated. But of course, just like in anywhere else, it always helps to be alert and careful.

They are a hardworking and family-oriented lot – mostly, they work hard for their families. It is neither surprising nor rare to meet families with a large number of kids and extended members (when a foreigner marries a Filipino, s/he marries a Filipino family).

They can be easy-going, too, because Pinoys love to have fun and socialize, and do they socialize! They love to sing, dance, laugh, eat, play, and go places. The endless photos they take should prove enough of this propensity to enjoy to the hilt, sometimes to a fault.

Yes, the Filipino is a happy, friendly race. It is, too, a brave race, braving poverty, hardships and tragedies, and smiling at the end of them all (history can always attest to this). And that is why the traveler is then warned: He WILL have fun, whether he likes it or not, because when in the Philippines, one throws inhibitions out the window.

The Happy Pinoy

The country has festivities all-year round, with every region, every place celebrating various events and festivals and featuring the best their province or city can offer. Each celebration is a mix of the pagan belief and the Christian faith – the original context would have them thanking the gods for a good harvest, for instance, but having been made Christians by the Spanish church, they thank the Lord or their patron saints instead. Aside from celebrating their culture through colorful parades and presentations, this is every community's way to attract tourists. And they are mostly right as tourists keep pouring in every time.

As mentioned earlier, Pinoys love to eat. During fiestas that celebrate patron saints, tourists find themselves offered with just about any food on the table. Meaty dishes and sweet desserts are abundant, promising more calories ahead. A tourist who's a hearty eater is a happy guest, that is the idea. Attempts to decline are often futile. When in the Philippines, do as the Pinoys do – eat now, diet later.

Because eating is the fun-loving Pinoys' favorite hobby, they love to dare travelers as well into having a taste of exotic foods their places are known for. Chances are, these foods will be disgusting to the uninitiated – and they usually are – but the fun lies in finishing all that are offered. These dares may range from the infamous balut, or duck egg with nearly developed embryo, to creepy crawlers that are, thankfully, often cooked and actually edible. A “taste test” is met with much jeers and cheers and a tourist will do well to indulge, if only to have a great sense of fulfillment after. It's like doing an Evel Knievel sans the stunts.

There's another side to this hobby. Many males, as a way to socialize, have regular alcohol-drinking sessions. The male tourist will surely be asked to join in. To pass up even just one shot maybe seen as rudeness. Accepting a drink is a way of accepting their friendship, however brief.

The Pinoy race is an artistic race as well. They love to dance, for one. The young ones, influenced by Western culture, love to do their modern moves. Meanwhile, with the re-emergence of ballroom dancing, the oldies dance to their own grooves. Dancing is an equalizer of sorts.

More than dancing, however, Pinoys love to sing, sing, sing! Especially on occasions like weddings and birthdays. Don't be surprised to hear a neighbor some streets away singing loudly to his heart's content, regardless of whether he has a nice voice or not, and whether he actually knows that he does not. The videoke (rentable jukebox-style sing-along with video) has invaded the country and it is here to stay for a very, very, very long time. Chances are, guests will be asked to render a song or do a jiggy. This could be as scary as the exotic-food eating to the tourist, but for the spirit of fun, it would not be bad to indulge the audience either. Off-key tones are acceptable. They have heard worse.

Moreover, Pinoys with the entrepreneur spirit sell arts and crafts that can be quite lucrative when sold at tourist destinations. After all, most travelers love to buy souvenirs, either for their own collection or to give away when they go home. Through these products that are often made of wood, bamboo, clothe and woven materials, one can see the artistry of the Filipino and a sense of the rich and colorful culture that goes with them.

A unique, colorful, happy race, that's what the Filipino is. For sure, there are much more that the country can offer. But rather than read about it, why not visit the country?

For that great Philippine experience, have fun, will travel.

Copyright © 2010 J.Gi Federizo

Author's Bio: 

J.Gi Federizo is a writer from the Philippines. A writer by passion, she is a self-proclaimed fictionist and poetess. As a writer by profession, she has written articles for a health-and-lifestyle magazine (where she was editorial assistant and staff writer) and for the web, and wrote/produced several institutional videos for a tertiary school for a time.

J.Gi appreciates the creative and performing arts, by the way. And like billions of people, she's become a willing slave to the Internet. Find her at The End Justifies the Journey.

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