Readers' Submissions

My Take On The Phils

  • Written by Zaq1
  • December 1st, 2011
  • 4 min read


Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

Stick has published a couple of articles submitted by Filipinos over the last few months, one with pics, which looked rather good…but I thought was grossly misleading. Sure, the natural beauty of the Philippines is superb BUT almost all population centres both large and small are invariably noisy, run down and terribly polluted. It's a tough gig – and I find it almost impossible to spend much time there without feeling pretty run down myself. It's hard to find good, healthy food unless you stay in the expensive international hotels and the poverty and pollution is in your face almost everywhere you go which ends up making you physically sick and depressed of spirit. As a friend remarked just this morning, it's a cheap Charlie country… and indeed the types of foreigners that do like the Phils generally fall into that sort of category. If you've given up, or are too old and worn out to care anymore, then I suppose there is some comfort to be gained by being in a place where most people are simply going nowhere…

On the other hand it's a country of great extremes but of course it's money, more than anywhere else I have ever been, that separates and divides. The sheer amount and depth of corruption in the Philippines deserves a sub all to itself; but for now I'll just say that the rich and powerful live well insulated and comfortable lives off the backs of the poor to whom, so it seems to me, they don't give a second's thought. And therein lies the big problem. Most people are so desperate for cash for basic necessities or to buy medicines for sick family members that you can sense the tension on the streets. Like a pack of hungry wolves, the feeling of exploitation, scams and dog eat dog is palpable. You quickly come to realise – in fact you can be certain of it – that behind every mask there is a grim tale to be told. Resources are scarce and the population is huge and there is nowhere near enough to go round. There is a discernible reluctance of business to offer value and penny pinching abounds, foods are additive laden to pad out flavour, cheapest ingredients are used… And the lack of maintenance in Philippine hotels is legendary! Check out Agoda and Tripadvisor reviews for evidence of that, though to be fair there are a lot more decent hotels around nowadays and standards are not quite as bad as a few years ago.

One example of penny pinching I often quote… Earlier this year in Dumaguette: I asked for butter for my breakfast toast and was told 'Sir, you already chose the marmalade!!' I was so taken aback by that reply I was speechless (not like me at all!) Coffee is usually presented like this: a cup of hot water with a sachet of cheap 3 in 1 mix on the side. Do it yourself! If they can cut a corner and save effort and a dime you can be perfectly sure they will. Buyer beware… Unless as most here, you have no choice.

You can buy peace and quiet if you are lucky and depending where you are… comfortable surroundings away from the incessant cheap rap and 'romantic' music, the smoke, noise and smells of the street… and occasionally you might come across great food… but that's rare and generally, it's going to cost you! Those pleasant surprises you get in Thailand are mostly absent here. With the exception of those that are able to raise, grow or catch their own food, the diet of the average Filipino is quite simply terrible and unless you are very lucky on your travels the kind of food you will eventually be forced to eat (or starve!) will bring you down. Junk food, pastries and coffee… You can only take so much.

A few facts: heart disease and hypertension is responsible for 47% of deaths in the Philippines, lower respiratory diseases kill 42%! People are dying in their 40's and 50's in towns and cities yet in the cleaner, more remote areas many Filipinos still live into their 80's. I think that illustrates well enough the conditions under which most Filipinos have to suffer. Fruits and vegetables are available but are expensive and generally of poor quality. Certainly nothing like what's available in Thailand. Cooked food tends to be over-salted, laden with sugar, barbeque burned (highly toxic and carcinogenic!) and of course contains MSG. Pre-packaged factory sweets, biscuits, cake, donuts, junk foods and sodas are everywhere and miserably, that's often all that's on offer.

As a side trip from Thailand I can sometimes squeeze in a few weeks before I've had enough and it's time to leave. The diving here is excellent (I wish the resorts themselves were even half as good) and some journeys and their destinations have been worthwhile. There are a few noteworthy hotels and of course the girls can be sweet (but daft) and English is widely spoken – though don't expect to always be understood in quite the way you intended!

In a future sub I will include links to a collection of videos taken on my travels. Today I flew from Manila to General Santos to visit a fellow Brit who is married here and lives up in the mountains. Should be interesting!


Stickman's thoughts:

No-one has written anything that really makes me think that the Philippines is a place you have to visit. I am sure for those with certain interests it is great, but there seems to be no compelling reason for someone who has experienced Thailand to head over that way, unless they are simply looking for a change of scenery.