6 minutes reading time Philippines
Travelers in South East Asia sometimes skip the Philippines because they where told, or think, it’s not safe. This comes from mostly solo travelers. When I told people I was going to the Philippines as a solo female traveler, I often got the response “are you sure it’s safe to go there by yourself?”. For me the Philippines is definitely a safe destination to go to, even as a solo traveler. Yes, some taxi drivers will try to get more money out of you, but that happens everywhere in South East Asia doesn’t it? So, don’t be frightened. And if people tell you only couples and families go to the Philippines, they are wrong. There are plenty solo travelers out there. Now if you’re planning on going to the Philippines, here are some insights into the culture and some other fun facts about the Philippines.
Filipino’s are very friendly, welcoming and proud people. They have warm hearts and a lot are crafty and creative and have great ways of repurposing and living of the land. The main language is Tagalog, however there are more dialects throughout the country which are basically languages on their own. But almost all Filipino’s speak English very well, which makes communicating very easy (can’t say that about every county in South East Asia can you?). Sharing is a very big part of the culture and you’ll find yourself joining a party with locals without even trying.
At one of these parties you’re sure to find a karaoke/videoke machine. Videoke is basically the same as karaoke, only it shows some kind of video on the screen. Filipino’s LOVE this. A party is not complete without a videoke machine. They’ll sing their hearts out as loud as they can, even if they’re not great singers. Although there are many great singers and musician in the Philippines. Maybe starting videoke at a young age is the key to musical talent?
The main religion in the Philippines is Christianity, however Filipino’s have a lot of superstitions that are native to the country. For example, it is believed that when you hear a dog howl at night, someone in your neighborhood is dying. They also believe that when a Pheasant Crow is watching you house, this is a sign that someone is at death’s door. This bird is also call “the death bird” and it is believed that you shouldn’t look this bird in the eye.
If you’re think of cleaning out your house at night, don’t. Filipino’s believe that if you broom your floor at night, this takes the luck out of the house. It’s also not possible to buy salt or needles at night is some stores. An ancient believe is that when you buy salt at night, this salt will melt as well as all of the salt in the owner’s store. The same goes for needles, it’s believed they’ll go rusty.
These are just a few examples of superstitions. I’m sure you’ll find out about a couple more when visiting yourself.
Before my visit to the Philippines, a lot of people mentioned that the food was really bad compared to other Asian countries. I have a different experience; you just need to know what to look for. For starters, street food is always the way to go in my opinion, so make sure to be on the look out for little stands on the side of road. For sure there will be plenty locals there enjoying these snacks. Here are some examples of street food:
- Cheese sticks, this is a rice wrapper with cheese inside
- Kwek kwek, quail eggs with a coating
- Fish balls
- Various BBQ
- Proben this is a chicken organ coated in flower
- Isaw, pork or chicken intestines
I know some might not sound very “sarap” (Tagalog for delicious), but be sure to try some street food as it will surprise you for sure!
Marienda is another example of a great snack. Marienda is a Filipino snack in between meals. You’ll find locals walking around with cooler- or storage boxes selling their marienda. Examples of marienda are:
- Shanghai Lumpia, this is a Filipino spring roll)
- Banana Cue, friend banana with brown sugar coating
- Turon, friend banana in a rice wrapper with brown sugar
- Balut this freaks out a lot of travelers as it is a fertilized developing egg embryo, doesn’t sound great, I know, but it’ll definitely be an experience
- Puto, sweet rice cake
- Empanada, this is an example of one of the many Spanish influences, but made Filipino style
As for dinner there are a lot of great options. Be sure to visit a local restaurant to try some of the traditional food such as adobo, mongo or sizzling sisig. Joining a boodle fight will be a great way for you to learn more about the culture and the food. A boodle fight is a way of eating. Banana leaves are used to cover a table and all the food will be spread out onto them. No plates or cutlery, all you need is a healthy appetite and your hands.
Filipino’s love a drink. The most well know beers in the Philippines are San Miguel, yes San Miguel is also brewed in the Philippines, not just Spain and Red Horse WARNING, this beer has a habit of sneaking up on you. There is a myth about the Red Horse bottle with “the happy horse” on it. The happy horse is the logo of Red Horse only the horse here is smiling. It is believed that this beer is stronger than others, but the bottles are very rare, so many have never seen one. It is also said by some that this is just the old logo of Red Horse, but let’s not ruin the myth.
Emperador brandy and Tanduay rum are also favorites in the Philippines. Yes, you could use them as a mixer, but Filipino’s like to drink Tagayan style. Tagay means drink in Tagalog. Tagayan is unique to the Philippines and it is a drinking style where everybody gathers around a table with one shot glass and one chaser (this could be water, a soda or tang, which is a powdered “juice” drink). Everybody waits for their turn to take a shot. The first shot however is for the spirits. Filipino’s call this “Alay”.
When drinking, you’ll also need some food. Filipino’s call this pulutan. Pulutan is finger food for drinking. This could be anything mentioned before or anything you might like, of course there will be some favorites, but as long as it’s there while drinking, it is pulutan.
Some useful words:
– Salamat – Thank you
– Walang anuman – You’re welcome
– Kamusta – How are you
– Mabuti – Good
There is so much more to the Filipino culture. But hopefully this gave you some insights and you’ll feel comfortable exploring this beautiful country and meeting some of the lovely locals.