Category Archives: Philippines

Whale Shark Snorkeling!

Swimming with Whale Sharks!

Imagine snorkeling with massive Whale Sharks!  They’re the largest fish in the sea, and they migrate right through The Philippines annually. It provided a perfect opportunity to not only see whale sharks up close, but get in the water and actually swim and snorkel with them. Wow. It was certainly one of the highlights of my trip!

whale sharks in the Philippines
impressive whale shark photo by Joe Newman

Whale Shark closeup in Donsol, in The Philippines How big are Whale Sharks?  Huge. The first one we saw while snorkeling was about 20 feet long; they can grow to the size of a school bus!  Average size is more than 30-feet and 20,000 pounds. They can grow much larger; a whale shark caught near Taiwan in 1994 was 79,000 pounds, and that’s not even the largest ever! (catching whale sharks is now banned)

Is a Whale Shark a Whale or a Shark?  It’s a Shark. It’s a whale-sized shark.  Rhincodon typus – the largest fish species still around (I just learned the term is “extant” – the opposite of extinct)

Is Boracay too touristy?

Boracay Too Touristy?

Is Boracay too touristy and overcrowded? That’s all perspective.  That’s what local Filipinos say about it, but that certainly doesn’t apply to their gorgeous beaches. While Boracay is the most popular tourist destination in the Philippines, it seems like half the tourists are  focused on avoiding  the sun. When I was there, the beaches were wide open when the sun was out, 10am – 4pm.
Here are photos of Boracay at different times of the day – it was completely empty at 1pm. By 5pm people start coming out, and by 6pm people are out to enjoy the sunset and post-sunset.

Boracay at 5:56 PM [17:58]

Boracay has some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen. Amazing!
Beautiful Boracay
This is as crowded as I ever saw it in Boracay – people waited until the sun set and the clouds covered the sky to come out and enjoy.
Boracay at 1:14 PM:
does this look overcrowded?
This photo may look like it was taken of a private beach, but it’s actually beautiful Boracay in the Philippines. It didn’t get much more crowded than this… 
Boracay too touristy and overcrowded? No way! This is a 1pm in the afternoon
Boracay’s beautiful empty beaches

Boracay at 6:08 AM / 6:08:

At 6am for sunrise, young people are just getting back home from the bars after a night of dancing.

Who needs sunscreen?

While many people in the United States tend to soak up as much sun as possible, the exact opposite is true in most parts of Asia. People go to great lengths to avoid any exposure to the sun – especially on their face, as you’ll notice in this below photo from the Philippines.

To protect your skin from the sun, you could use SFP 50, wear large hats, or you could avoid the sun entirely. If it’s completely unavoidable, why not wrap your face in towels like a mummy. See below.

Smile for the camera!

Fear of sun in the Philippines
Smile for the camera! We asked the guy behind me to smile for the photo. Really, he’s smiling. Can’t you tell?  — Photo taken on the way to Malapascua,Philippines
Who needs sunscreen when you can wrap your face like a mummy! - Philippines
he reeeeeally doesn’t want any sun on his face



Where Rum costs less than Coke

Every now and again the pricing on a menu makes you do a double-take, but not because it’s ridiculously affordable or too pricey. Check out the below menu and see if you notice anything interesting.

On the little island of Malapascua, in the Philippines, at Malditos bar, you can order a Rum and Coke for 60 php ($1.43 USD). A double rum-and-coke, with twice the amount of rum, actually costs 50 php (10 php less, $1.19 USD). Huh?  Want to drink a triple rum+coke? Good news for you, the price goes down another 10 php to 40 php ($0.95). Amazing. The Coca-Cola is actually much much more expensive than the rum. Obviously we ordered doubles and triples!

Notice the Rum+Coke pricing. 60 php, or 50 php for a double Rum+coke, or 40 php for a triple. I thought it was an error but they confirmed – apparently the rum costs less than soda. – We obv ordered the triple.

It looked like an error so I pointed it out to the bartender, but surprisingly it’s correct.  The rest of the menu seems logical, for another 30-40% they’ll make your Gin+Tonic a double or Screwdriver a double.

Frustrating Filipino Time

Filipino Time – The Philippines is one of my favorite countries that I’ve visited, but one aspect that I certainly don’t miss was their businesses’ apparent lack of appreciation for people’s schedules. Travelers refer to it as “running on Filipino Time” or running on “Philippine Time” or “Pinoy Time.” In the Caribbean I’d experienced what it’s like to be a place “operating on island time,” but this is much worse.  Perhaps being “prompt” is a western concept.  The customer’s time is consistently not valued. It was as if the times listed on published schedules were merely guidelines.  Schedules for flights, buses, and boats were often delayed or canceled without notice or reason.


Malapascua island

Introducing Malapascua island – now with electricity!

Some of the friendliest people I met were in the Philippines on  Malapascua island – we didn’t want to leave!  Everyone seemed to genuinely appreciate having us on the island. Tourism can be a double-edged sword. The influx of money can do wonders for a local economy, but it often strips that town of its own culture (I’m talking to you Thailand, specifically Phuket).

While people have been coming to Malapascua to see Thresher Sharks for years, it’s VERY difficult to get to, and it didn’t always offer electricity.  It’s still difficult to get there, but thanks to some generators, the island now has (nearly) 24 hours of electricity in most hotels. It’s new enough that you see signs advertising that they have 24 hours of electricity; it reminded me of old motels growing up that would advertise on signs that they have color TV. Ooooh!

Malapascua Island, Philippines

The beaches on Malapascua island were both empty and beautiful – it’s so difficult to get to, so only travelers that are very determined will make it. The people that are most determined tend to be going there to see Thresher Sharks. More on that in that post (click the link).

The Moral Dilemma of Buying from Children

“Buy some shells?” An adorable 8-year old asked me this on my first day on Malapascua Island in the Philippines, and proceeded to ask us every day on the beach. While relaxing on my beach chair, I was typically immersed in my book, so I didn’t notice them at first. When I’d finally look up, I’d find myself surrounded by three kids with their saddest faces, asking me to buy shells or hand-made jewelry or some other trinkets.

I was planning on traveling for another 3 months, so there was no way I was interested in having any additional possessions or keepsakes (even ones I might actually want when I’m home). None of that matters, because I’d be happy to help some children and at first glance, any amount of money you give them seemed like a wonderful donation. Then I learned more about it. There’s a bit of a moral dilemma of buying from children.