A Different View of the Philippines

This article was sent to me through an email by a good friend, Mimi. It’s written by Scott M. Allford, an Australian who has traveled in  various parts of Asia. He has fallen in love with the Philippines and has decided to write this article. I’m reproducing the whole thing here verbatim.

“Viewing The Philippines In A Different Light …..

by Scott Allford
October 18, 2009

If you live outside of the Philippines and you watch or read the news you may feel very justified in believing that the Philippines is a very dangerous country, savaged by typhoons, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, and terrorist attacks.  You may also be assured in your belief that it is a poor country with images of children picking through garbage, slums, and corruption scandals broadcast in most international news reports.  I am not going to deny that these things are true, however, they are not all that the country contains.  Not every person in the Philippines is poor, a terrorist or a victim of terror.  In fact other countries around the world suffer from these same problems yet they do not become iconic images of those nations.

The Common View of the Philippines

A few months ago I was at a roof-top birthday party in Makati filled with socialites and expats.  Whilst there I was introduced to a German ‘journalist’, and my friend asked him why the Philippines is portrayed in such a negative light in the foreign media.  His response was in two parts; Firstly because in his experience he could not sell stories about the Philippines in Germany if they were not about poverty, violence or corruption.  Secondly, he said that because there is so much poverty, violence, and corruption, there is nothing else to report on.  After saying this, he sipped his glass of red wine and was whisked away into a group of Filipino socialites.

Perhaps the red wine was ‘poor’ in taste, or the fact that that particular roof-top was one of the few in Makati which doesn’t have a swimming pool made him focus on the poverty in the Philippines, or maybe the sounds of merrymaking were ‘violent’ on his ears.  I think that it was none of these things.  Germany, a developed country, has slums.  But if the focus can be moved away from the poverty in the developed countries and put on some islands way out in the Pacific Ocean, then people in developed countries can feel a little bit better.

I remember growing up in Australia, taking garbage out to the dump after cleaning up the garden.  I would see Aboriginals picking through the garbage for food.  Yet that has never been an iconic image of Australia.  I went to ‘water villages’ in Malaysia and Brunei and thought how similar they look to slums in Manila.  Yet ‘water villages’ are tourist attractions and the slums here are not.  I lived in South Korea a few hundred kilometres away from the DMZ, with jets and helicopters flying overhead all the time it felt like a war zone.  In the spring I would have 40 tanks facing in the direction of my apartment.  Yet South Korea is generally not viewed or branded as a dangerous country.  And South Korea has slums too.  Perhaps the time will come when people outside the Philippines will come to realize that the branded image of the Philippines portrayed in the media is only a small piece of the full picture of this country.

A Different View

Since the Philippines was settled by people 30,000 years ago, this country has blossomed into a mix of over 180 indigenous ethnic groups, over half of which also represent unique linguistic groups.  This array of cultures, languages and cultural artifacts cannot be matched by most nations of the world.  From the Ilocano, Pangasinense, Kapampangan, Tagalog, Bicolano, and Visayans to the Binukid, Moros, Ati, Igorot, and the T’boli, just to name a few.  These cultures are rich, strong and proud and in most cases the people that make up these cultures are very friendly and welcoming to outsiders.  On a trip to Sagada I was welcomed into a very warm and friendly Kankanaey family. They showed us around Sagada and told us stories of Kankanaey cultural practices.  They even taught me how to wear a traditional bahag (a hand-loomed loin cloth or G-string).

Neighbouring Sagada is Ifugao, with vast rice terraces that shape the mountains of the region.  The oldest rice terraces are 6,000 years old, which is 1,000 years older than the oldest pyramid in Egypt.  If put end to end the rice terraces dwarf the Great Wall of China, and the rice terraces were not made by using slave labor like most other ancient wonders of the world.

The Banaue Rice Terraces are a UNESCO World Heritage site.  But they are not alone.  The Philippines have numerous UNESCO world heritage sites including the Baroque churches of San Agustin Church in Manila, Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur, San Agustin Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte, and Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church in Miag-ao, Iloilo.   There is also the beautiful and historic town of Vigan in Ilocos Sur.  Furthermore, there are the natural UNESCO World Heritage sites of the Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park and the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.

Lastly, the Philippines consists of 7,107 beautiful islands.  These islands contain remote beaches and amazing rock formations as well as other natural wonders like the Chocolate Hills in Bohol, the perfectly conical Mt. Mayon volcano or the stunning Bacuit Bay in El Nido, Palawan.  But also on these islands is a range of bio diversity not seen in most other places on the planet. In Romblon, Sibuyan Island is known as the Galapagos of Asia as it contains such a diverse range of species which can be found nowhere else on the planet.  If you get off these islands and dive into the cool blue-turquoise waters of the Philippines, you may also see some of the richest bio diversity in the world’s seas.  The Verde Island Passage has been named as the ‘centre of the centre’ of marine bio diversity in the world.  It has over 300 species of corals as well as vast numbers of fish that you will not find anywhere else.

With all that this country has to offer, I am baffled as to why it has been branded in such a negative way by the international media.  However, I think that more and more people are starting to discover that there is a different side to the Philippines to the one they have been bombarded with for the past few decades. Those who come to the Philippines to seek out the beauty of this country will not be disappointed.  However, first time travelers to the Philippines should beware, just like me and many other foreigners, this amazing country may compel you to stay quite a bit longer than you initially planned.

Scott M. Allford <http://tourism- Philippines. com/author/ scottallford/> has lived and worked in Australia and South Korea and has traveled extensively throughout Asia – Mongolia, China, Tibet, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and Japan – fell in love with the Philippines  and decided to allocate at least two years to comprehensively cover the country.”

8 thoughts on “A Different View of the Philippines

  1. Hi,

    We are from Visayas island, and we are proud that our island is beautiful. The rice paddies, and fish ponds are our playground, where I live, Kalibo, Aklan. We have our annual Sto.Nino every January. It’s festivities to honor our patron saint.

    The people live so simple and our town grew so fast after I left in 1964 there are so many tall buildings and more businesses.

    When I returned after 30 years, I did not see any slums, but only nipa huts and small stores along the highways. I noticed that there are so many motor bicyles for a peso to ride. Then the noise stopped at 10:00pm.

    Our town is quite and peaceful.

    Come and visit and you’ll see.

    • Hello Nilda,
      Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. I know Kalibo very well because I am also from Aklan, specifically Batan. My two brothers and their families are living in Kalibo. You are very much welcome to share more stories about our beautiful country here. Let us tell the whole world that our country is not all garbage and massacre.
      Thanks once and again and come back soon.
      God bless!

  2. Hi,

    Now I know that you are my townmate.

    Am I glad to hear from you.

    What’s your name? My maiden last name is Pastrana and my middle name is Melgarejo. These are true Aklanons.

    Best regards,

    Felina are from Abra.

  3. Hi Nilda,
    Thank you for coming back.
    My maiden name is Placer and my mother’s surname is Salazar. Our family is also true Aklanon.
    I am now leaving in Antipolo City however since I married a Manileno.
    Do contribute some stories here especially stories that show the beauty of our country and people.
    All the best!

  4. Thanks for posting this. I am one of the main writers for the website where Mr. Allford wrote this article. There is a new article from him regarding Kalibo Ati-atihan which is currently up on our website. Please do check it out and leave comments. We can also be found on Facebook – Tourism Paradise Philippines.

    I am originally from Aklan as well. Cheers!

  5. Hi Ryan,
    Thanks for dropping by again.
    That’s ok, my sites are not commercial too. I just want to do my part in promoting the beauty of our country.
    It would just be good to link up so our efforts are coordinated and we can reach out to more people.
    By the way, I just read Mr. Alford’s write-up about Ati-atihan. It’s good. I also wrote about Ati-atihan in my photography blog. It was just a short entry because I’m planning to also write a full hub about it soon. Check it out here.

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