Today is the last post to our Philippines trip (start with part one, part two to get the whole story). Our 10 day trip had begun in Manila and its surrounding areas (we stayed with family in Quezon City) and ended there. This post was the most challenging to put together, since we did so many different activities while staying in this diverse and interesting city .
I’m not sure if I can put into words how much fun I had, and how many different things I experienced in the Philippines, so I’m just going to give you a quick synopis of what the majority of our trip looked like. We spent lots of time with family, hung out with some really cool kids, ate huge, delicious home-cooked meals, drank Red Horse, got a history lesson, visited churches and an orphanage, went to the biggest mall in Asia, shopped local markets, ate fresh fish at a wet market, celebrated with a masquerade themed ball, watched traditional Filipino dances, and saw some fireworks.
On our second day there, we received a very thorough history of the Philippines by our knowledgeable tour guide, Jeff, at Intramuros, the oldest district and historic metropolis of Manila. It was a pretty impressive place.
The Philippines is diverse, and different religions are practiced there, but Roman Catholicism is still the most prevalent. We visited a few churches across our trip. This one, located in Intramuros and undergoing a renovation process, is also home to lots of weddings (there was one going on at the time we visited).
The most heartbreaking part of our trip was when we visited the Hospicio De San Jose, a Catholic welfare institution that is home to orphans, abandoned and special-needs children, and the elderly. The home is located on its own little island that’s accessible by a private bridge. Its difficult to put in words how I felt after visiting here – there is even a “dropbox” at the front of the gates to anonymously leave an abandoned baby. Hospicio is run by the Daughters of Charity and is privately funded, if you are interested in learning more or donating, click here.
Poverty levels in the Philippines have dropped significantly in the past 20 years, but it is still a critical problem in the country, with 26.5% of the population living below the poverty line (as of 2009 – and a proposed plan by the governemnt to reduce this to 16.6% by 2015 – source Wikipedia). Still, there has been much economic growth in the past few years, and you can see it in the thriving tourism, and continued building in and around Manila.
What the Philippines is lacking in finances, they make up for with personality – it is the friendliest and most welcoming country I have visited (next to Guatemala, which is similar in many ways), and has a continued reputation for this kind of hospitality.
One of the most unique dinners we had here was at a wet market (in celebration of Taz’s cousin’s college graduation). We picked our own seafood (fresh fish, lobster, shrimp, and crab), which we then walked over to one of the many surrounding restaurants, and had it prepared anyway we liked.
Life in the Philippines is easy! Everyone has a very laid back attitude (especially compared to New Yorkers!). We were on the go a lot since we were all vacationing, but most time Filipinos spend time with family, eating and drinking at home, and shopping at local stores.
The big breakfasts were one of my favorite parts of the trip!
The highlight of the trip was the reason we were there in the first place – to celebrate Taz’s mom’s 60th birthday with a masquerade themed “ball”. We stayed at the beautiful Sofitel, the party venue, for one night.
I couldn’t capture every part of Manila in a photograph, but I hoped you enjoyed that little sampling of our trip. I can’t wait to go back to the Philippines for a second visit.
Oh, and on our last night, completely unplanned, there were even fireworks…
It was the perfect ending to an amazing trip! We did a lot of different activities, but at the heart of it all was family, friends, good food – the simple things in life!