Snapshots of Home: It’s More Fun in the Philippines

A trip to any travel show would be incomplete for me if I didn’t drop by the booth for my native land, the Philippines. As a matter of fact, as part of my pre-event research, I made it a point to know the country’s booth number so it’d be at the top of my list of booths to visit at The New York Times Travel Show.

It's More Fun in the Philippines.

And to honor the Philippines’ independence from Spain, a day which is observed every June 12, I’d love to share what I gleaned about the country from my own experiences, plus insight from the friendly and knowledgeable folks manning Booth 242.

With all the fun activities, tasty native dishes and breathtaking sceneries visitors can sample in its 7,000-plus islands, the Philippines’ new country tagline “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” fits the nation quite well.

There are so many interesting things to see and do, such as whitewater rafting, spelunking, hiking, shopping, dining and more. Where do you begin? Depending on their original location, their plane commute from abroad takes nearly a whole day, (i.e. 18 hours or more from New York). To offset their travel time and to deal with possible jet lag, most Filipinos take at least a two- to three-week vacation when they visit the Philippines—ample time to explore and enjoy.

Activities, Places to Visit & Special Tour Packages

For those who want to avail of a special package, you may want to consider “the only tour being organized by the Department of Tourism and the Foreign Affairs office,” shares Emily Blaza of the Philippine Department of Tourism.

A photo with Emily Blaza of the Philippine Department of Tourism, located at 556 Fifth Avenue, New York.

According to Blaza, the package includes a special luncheon and photo opportunity with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (Noynoy) at Malacanang or “the Palace” in Manila—home and workplace of the President.

Priced at $2,157 per person, the basic tour package runs from July 11 to 15, 2012 and includes airfare, accommodations, daily buffet breakfasts, and transportation details within the Philippines. The guided tours will take patrons to cultural venues and activities, such as fiestas and shows. And, of course, you have the option of prolonging your stay.

The 7th Ambassadors, Consuls General and Tourism Directors Tour of the Philippines takes place in July because “we want to encourage family vacations,” explains Blaza, noting that kids in the U.S. will already be on school vacation by that time. For more information, send them an email via Pdotny@aol.com or call 212-575-7915.

And among the places she’d recommend to folks who have never been to the Philippines, especially those used to the weather in the Northeast, Casmehre Narcelles of Mango Tours, a New Jersey-based travel agency, says without hesitation, “I think it would nice if they go to Tagaytay.” She cites the cooler temperatures in Tagaytay, and adds the mountain resort of Baguio as another place “where it gets cooler at night.” Both areas are in the northern part of the Luzon island of the Philippines.

Narcelles also advises visitors to spend some time at the beaches, like Boracay, a popular destination spot that residents and tourists frequent because of its white sand and serene location.

Casmehre Narcelles from Mango Tours explains they also arrange trips outside Manila. Mango Tours is at 535 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, NJ - across from the Philippine Bread House.

While I haven’t yet gone to Boracay or Baguio, when I visited the Philippines in 2010, my family and I had a wonderful time at Tagaytay, which is a two-hour drive from Manila. The photo below shows Taal Volcano, surrounded by Taal Lake—the deepest lake in the Philippines.

Scenic vista from Tagaytay - overlooking Taal Volcano and Taal Lake.

I remember sampling some fried Tawilis, a freshwater sardine found only in Taal Lake, in the Batangas province of the Philippines. During my trip, I learned that the lake was once connected to Balayan Bay (saltwater). However, after numerous volcanic eruptions, the bay was eventually cut off from Taal Lake, which, over time, became a freshwater lake. The present-day Tawilis adapted and evolved to their new habitat.

Native Cuisine

If you haven’t yet tried Philippine cuisine, hopefully you’ve now grown curious enough to do so. If you’re in New Jersey, which has a big number of Filipino expatriates, peruse through this article highlighting places where you can stop by:

“Where Can You Get Filipino Food in Jersey City, New Jersey?”

Or, if you love fried chicken, check out Max’s of Manila in New Jersey, a restaurant that opened its first location’s doors in Manila, Philippines in 1945. Among other traditional fare, fried chicken is their specialty.

The borough of Queens, New York is another area where Filipinos flock to live or work. And nestled in Woodhaven, Queens sits Mama Meena’s Family Restaurant where the sumptuous food is matched by their friendly customer service. Read on to learn about Philippine cuisine as per my interview with chef and restaurateur, Mama Meena.

Of course, thinking about Philippine dishes brings nostalgic thoughts from my own childhood via my earlier post: “Food & Prose Evoke Comforting Memories”.

Illustrating how much more fun it is in the Philippines, check out the Fun Stuff links on their website where you can create your meme. Click here to check out the one we made via morefunmaker.com.

Editorial Creatives hopes you’ll consider the Philippines as a possible spot for your next vacation. After all, like they say, “It’s more fun in the Philippines.” And with the US Dollar to Philippine Peso conversion rate ($1 USD = 42 Philippine Peso; as of June 13, 2012), you’ll have more dough to keep on having fun.

Happy Independence Day, Philippines! Mabuhay!

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