Philippines guidePhoto by Tona Stell

Like the country’s islands, halo-halo – meaning ‘mixed together’ – is a Filipino dessert made up of various ingredients. This dessert was originally created after the Americans left canned goods behind. From corn to beans, yams or evaporated milk, the cocktail is then poured over shaved ice.

You might run into trouble trying to define the Philippines in only a few words, especially as the country has 7,107 islands, each one radiating its own personality.

Traditionally Filipinos are cowboys, pearl farmers and tribal weavers, they are deep-sea divers and urban dwellers. Their diversity might seem contradictory, but it is in fact a mark of their versatility. The world-famous Filipino welcome is the thread that draws all the islands together.

You will find footprints from early settlements in everyday Filipino life: Tagalog (the national language) is littered with Spanish, as are the names of citizens and city streets. Filipinos are nostalgic about American pop culture; we’re willing to bet that most people would know the words to a big Aerosmith song. Colonial Spanish houses are dispersed among the islands like hidden gems. You can taste Asia and Latin America in the food, and the oldest Chinatown in the world sits in the heart of Manila.

The country and its people are a real mix. But as one of the largest English-speaking populations in the world, it’s a mix you can easily immerse yourself in. Perhaps the common language helps back up the trademark Filipino approachability – they would say (and we would agree) that they have one of the most welcoming cultures in the world.

A lack of infrastructure and a tired economy has long kept the Philippines under the radar, but we’ll consider that a blessing in disguise. Today a surge of economic growth and an enthusiastic government are putting the archipelago in the spotlight. If you move quickly, you may still get to see it in it’s present state – largely untouched by tourists and the commercialisation that has raced through both Thailand and Indonesia.

Every island brings variety to the tropical experience – here you can backpack through the mountains, visit tribal communities and see some of the most diverse marine life on our planet. Or you can navigate the raw city centres via jeepney – remodelled jeeps left behind after the Second World War – which have become a popular form of public transport.

A wave of energy and new ideas are transforming the Philippines. This dynamism coupled with the country’s traditional and historical influences combine to create a really special island adventure.

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