I had my fair share of transport mishaps and uncomfortable long journeys this trip, the typhoon that hit while I was there didn’t help. Basically, what I learned, is to double any given estimate of how long a trip will take, start early and be prepared to be stranded, of course there are worse things than being stranded on a tropical island for a few days. The dichotomy here is not as outstanding as say China, but it’s becoming more present as there’s a burgeoning middle class with the IT surge and mass influx of foreign investment. While it’s a lot easier to spot the poverty than the wealth, you will see the odd fancy car drive by, the nicer shopping malls come equip with designer stores and the western influence is ever-present, not just in the language, which includes a wide range of English words, but commercially, with the presence of western food chains and brands, the Philippines is a prime example of the effects of globalization. The Philippines has yet to be spoilt by a tourist wave, but it’s coming, although I did avoid Boracay, the go to party place here, I was informed that property prices are rising as there are an increase of foreigners buying holiday homes here or setting up shop to cash in when the tourist boom hits, but in the meantime, most of the foreigners you’ll encounter are aged men with young Filipino women on their arms. The country can be testing at times, but it always balances out, being hassled constantly by tricycles or taxis desperate to give you a lift, street children tugging on your shirt, and people who automatically equate foreigner with dollar signs, you almost want to avoid making eye contact with anyone, but then you encounter the incredibly friendly people, eager to learn about where you’re from, proud to show you their country, if you take a ride a jeepney and you’re bound to make a friend on your way. Then there’s the filth, the shanty towns, street people, the drug addiction, but then you have the beautiful scenery, white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, rolling hills and deserted desert islands. This is a country in transition, which I always find fascinating, visiting a country and knowing if you come back 5, 10 years from now it will have changed drastically, seeing how they welcome and incorporate foreign influence, for example their massive Chinese population has had a big influence on their cuisine, and how they reject other things, like the older generation struggling to accept the increasing use of English among the youth, partially the effects of media but also because English provides more viable job options. It’s also interesting since you’ve likely encountered Filipinos who are working abroad or have spoken to them when you’ve called a help lines, to see where they’re coming from and understand their culture, as they are often the victims of intolerance when dealing with western customers.
As I took a walk with my tricycle driver, (after traveling for three hours only to discover that the “smallest volcano in the world” would cost me nearly $100 bucks to see, and opting for a walk in the little town instead before making the three hour journey back) I was provided with a little insight for this mass exodus of workers, he had studied electrical engineering at university, but there were no jobs and he didn’t have the money to find work abroad, so he was stuck driving a tricycle 11 hours a day, but as he told me about the crystal meth that was become a concern in the Philippines, effecting even this little town, that appeared so quaint, and how incredibly cheap it was, I began to question who exactly this drug addicted friend he kept on referring to was. As happens in any country that is experiencing a boom there will be many left behind, and driven to a point of desperation, whether this is to work abroad illegally, drugs, hustling ect. For many travelers the Philippines is an economic travel spot that can be challenging but extremely rewarding, it’s not for those who enjoy traveling inside their bubble.