The Philippines is an interesting place. It is part of South-East Asia, yet its history and culture are heavily colored by 400 years of Spanish and American influences. The nation is home to breathtaking, fairy-tale vistas of mountains, forests, and beaches and amazing biodiversity, both on land and in the water. The public education system is good, and just about everyone speaks at least a little bit of English. Yet the country is plagued by huge overpopulation problems, rampant corruption, and extreme poverty. The rates of unemployment and homelessness are enormous. However, the Filipino people are jovial, open, and friendly. There is an overwhelming sense of camaraderie and hospitality and even a bit of a Latin flair. We loved it.
Manila: Beautiful, except for all that trash. . .
Jeepneys are the national symbol of the Philippines. Old army trucks lengthened and decked out in flashy paint jobs. We were told they are the perfect metaphor for the Philippines themselves – bright colors, charismatic names , and bursting with personality and often gaudy religious references, but essentially uncomfortable, old, welded-together rust buckets that rattle, shake, and spew pollution. Also common in cities is the motorcycle-with-side-car contraption we’ve seen variations of across SE Asia – here called traysikels (we discovered many such words in Tagalog – difficult at first, but very simple once you say them aloud).
Filipinos really like Manila because it is so Modern! And Western! This means there are some very large highways and lots of malls, which Filipinos are very proud of. Especially the malls. It’s a strange cultural phenomenon – we even found entire rack of postcard featuring malls, highways, airports and other modern attractions.
Getting outta dodge. We arrive in Sagada and trek off into the Cordillera mountains of Mountain Province.
Our tent (the turtle) on our ridge overlooking Echo Valley.
Rice festival practice parade.
J oversees locals swimming at the watering hole outside Sagada.
Planking near some hanging coffins.
More coffins stuck into nooks and crannies in Lumiang Cave.
This is pretty much how we bathed for our entire stay in the Philippines. Guesthouses? Showers? Who needs em.
J serenading the forest.
Bontoc civil parade!
On to Banaue!