Introducing the Philippines

Dive into this tropical treat and its myriad islands…

Not many nationalities greet each other by remarking ‘beautiful day’, (that’s ‘magandang araw’, in Tagalog). In the Philippines they do, which gives quite a big clue as to Filipinos’ positive nature – you don’t catch many Brits marking each day with such happiness. It really is more fun in the Philippines. Mother Nature has played a big part in this, bestowing the country with an aquatic playground: more than 7,000 beach-graced islands and islets that make the Maldives look lazy. If you’ve got a thing for sparkling aquamarine waters, glittering gold sand and cloudless azure skies – quite frankly, who doesn’t? – you’re in the right place. Unlike more touristy destinations, many of the Philippines’ jaw-drop beaches remain ravishingly unspoiled, so you’ll only have to share them with what’s in the waters: jewel-coloured corals, schools of fish as bright as fireworks, ponderous turtles and some utterly bonkers sea creatures (nudibranchs and frogfish, we’re looking at you). Filipino culture champions fun, with food and family at its heart, and a packed-out calendar of fiestas and festivals – many of which have a Roman Catholic bent, reflecting 300 years of Spanish colonial rule. Expect a riot of colour, music, dance, food and celebration: come hungry, come thirsty, and don’t forget your dancing shoes. We’ve touched upon beach life, but there are plenty of city thrills to be had here, too. Discover cultured capital Manila and its museums and galleries; touch knees with the locals in a Jeepney: former US military tanks left by the troops after their 50-year occupation, now used as buses and tricked out by locals with kitsch, colourful decorations. Get yourself invited to a family feast: if you’re lucky, you might get to try lechón (roast suckling pig), washed down with some Red Horse beer – the perfect fuel for a spot of karaoke. Have it all in Cebu, an island province in Central Philippines, where you can switch from diving with whale sharks and lazing on white-sand beaches to shopping, wining and dining in the country’s oldest city. Comprising Cebu City and around 150 smaller islands, Cebu sits in the Central Visayas region. The ‘Queen City of the South’ hosts Sinulog Festival – a fun-loving, week-long celebration of the Holy Child – on the third Sunday of January. The country’s most popular party includes Mardi Gras-style parades, parties, concerts, beauty pageants and flash sales. Cebu’s beaches aren’t half bad, either…

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