The Philippines is a state in southeastern Asia. The country consists of 7.107 individual islands which in terms of the number of islands makes it one of the largest archipelagos in the world, second only to Indonesia.
A population of more than 90 million people makes it the fifth largest English speaking country in the world and offers white sand beaches, phenomenal scuba diving, unrivaled culture and spectacular nature.
The Philippines was colonized by Spain in 1521 when Fernando de Magellan arrived in Cebu, but it did not become a permanent colony until 1565 when the Spaniards wanted in on the lucrative Asian spice trade in which the succeeded.
In 1898 when the US army sank the Spaniards navy off the coast of Manila the situation changed. However it was not until 1907 the Philippines gained partial independence, while full independence was granted in 1935.
Only a few years later the Japanese occupied the country in 1942.The war had devastating affect on the country, but the US promised support in exchange for several privileges including free trade between the the two countries anduse of military bases. Because of this, the economic perspectives looked bright for the Philippines, butthe country fell behind during the industrialization.
The rebel organization Moro National Liberation Front was established in 1973 and started fighting for the independence of muslim provinces. After large numbers of fatalities during the fights for independence the Moro came to an agreement with the government in 1996.
Political turbulence including accusations of corruptions exist to this day and as recent as 2004 president Gloria Macapagal Arroyos’ election was questioned and the president only barely avoided being put in front of a jury.
Even if the Filipinos have experienced poverty and political turbulent the people undeniably remain some of the most cheerful and hospitable you will ever meet. The people seem to approach life with the concept of bahala na which roughly translates that whatever God throws at me I will do my best, and life shall pass. As with many other Asian cultures having no shame or loosing face is the worst fate one can imagine. Showing strong and negative emotions in public is regarded as such and will make Filipinos loose respect for you. Things might not always go as planned when you travel in the Philippines as the culture is extreme polychronic, but take a step back and say to yourself ”bahala na”.
Spoken as a first language of one third of the Filipinos and as a second language of almost the rest is Tagalog, commonly known simply as Filipino.
The second largest language, and the language spoken in Malapascua and throughout the Visaya-region is called Cebuano and is distinctively different from Tagalog. While the Visayan people are taught Tagalog in school and fully understand the language, the native Tagalog speakers do not understand Cebuano. This is the reason you might often hear Filipinos speaking English amongst each others.
Most Filipinos speak excellent English and are eager to practice their skills with travelers which makes traveling in the Philippines very easy. This fact combined with the hospitality of the Filipinos makes it very easy to socialize and get to know the locals.
The currency unit is called peso. Banknotes come in 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 peso notes. It may be helpful to try and break your 500 and 1000 peso notes to smaller notes as it might be hard to get change outside of bigger cities.
ATM are found in most areas and accept most western credit cards, VISA cards and Master Cards being the most popular. Please notice that most ATM’s will charge a fee of P150 to P300 for withdrawing money on top of the fee your local bank might charge. Please also be aware that there are no ATM’s on Malapascua Island. The nearest ATM is in Bogo City on the mainland approximately 2 hours away by boat and public bus. With the exception of Citibank and HSBC cash machines most ATM’s will dispense a maximum of P10.000.
In Ocean Vida Beach and Dive Resort we offer our guests payment by credit card. We charge no extra fees, but please notice that your local bank might add extra costs when using your credit card abroad. Furthermore we are a licensed money exchange and you may exchange your euro or U$ dollars with us at reasonable rates. See official exchange rates at XE.com.
Manila and Cebu (4 hours from Malapascua) have good medical care. Outside of these areas it can be difficult to reliable care, but basic medications such as antibiotics, antibacterial creams and antihistamines along with first aid kits are available even in rural areas.
Scuba divers should consider dive insurance such as Divers Alert Network (DAN) before arriving as evacuations in case of emergencies are very expensive. There are no pressure chambers on Malapascua.
Please visit diversalertnetwork.org for further information.
Most nationalities are entitled to a 30-day tourist visa open arrival in the Philippines. If you wish to stay beyond the 30 days you can apply for a 29-day visa extension at the Bureau of Immigration offices in all major cities or at a Filipino consulate in most other countries. The total cost for the visa extension is currently P3030. It is best to apply for the extension before you current visa expires as this will result in a P1010 fine.
Please contact a Bureau of Immigration office or your local consulate if you wish to extend your stay after 59 days.
Please note that by Filipino immigration law tourists are required to present an onwards ticket. Travelers who can not present this will not be allowed on board. Also your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the period you wish to stay.
Visit immigration website for further information. click here
Eating and drinking
Even if Filipino food has a somewhat poor reputation in most of the world the country does boost a range of delicious and interesting meals. Balút might be the reason for this. The surprisingly common meal consists of a boiled duck egg containing a partially developed embryo.
The most popular dish however is adobo – any kind of meat or vegetables stewed in vinegar and garlic.
The Filipinos love to drink and while the drinks comes in great abundances the weekday is of minor importance.
The domestically produced and immensely popular beer San Miguel (and San Miguel Light) comes with a price tag at only P50-60 and it is good! For the same reason San Miguel holds the market in a monopoly where the also popular and strong Red Horse is a brand of San Miguel as well.
Second in popularity only to beer is Tanduay rum. At only P65 for a 750 ml bottle you will find that sometimes a double rum and cola is cheaper than a regular rum and cola.
Getting to the Philippines
For most travelers the easiest way to enter the Philippines is by air, either via Mactan-Cebu International Airport (Cebu) og Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Manila). For overseas travelers Manila is usually the cheapest option as most international flight will stop in Manila anyway. Domestic flights between Manila and Cebu is usually P1000 to P5000 depending on availability and is approximately one hour away.
Book well in advance if expect to arrive during public holiday or anytime in December when Filipino expats visit their families. Also Chinese New Year is very busy.
International departure tax is P700 at NAIA and P550 at Cebu.
The Philippines use type B electrical outlets. The plugs are flat and 2-pin, the same as you will find in the US and Japan. In some areas along with middle- and top-end hotels outlets sometimes have built in adaptors for European style 2-pin type C electrical outlet. In Ocean Vida Beach and Dive Resort you may use both.
We have 24h electricity available.
Voltage is 220V at 60Hz
Female and solo travelers
Most Filipinos will find the concept of solo traveling a little strange, and will most likely ask where your friend or wife is. Even with the little extra attention, female and solo foreign travelers will generally have very little problems in the Philippines. As in most other countries the locals will appreciate if travelers cover upwhen not on the beach.
Telephone / Internet
Prepaid sim-cards are available everywhere in the Philippines, including Malapascua. Smart Telecom and Globe Telecom are the most popular while the latter has better signal on the Malapascua. A sim-card including a small number of text messages is around P60. Local phone calls should be P8 per minute and P1 per text message.
Internet is widely available throughout the country and even smaller villages in rural areas usually have at least one internet cafe. On Malapascua internet is available in most hotels and there are a number of internet cafes in the villages. Ocean Vida Beach & Dive Resort offers free wi-fi on one of the fastest connections on the island to all guests and divers. You can also connect your laptop to the internet via a 3G USB modem.