14 Surprises From the Philippines



Iloilo City from our hotel, Injap Tower

1. Every time you purchase something, the cashier says the amount you give them, for example: “I received 1000 pesos,” and so Jacob started to say as he handed them money “I give 1000 pesos.”


2. The people like to keep things light, but they have depth and intelligence to them. If they have something unpleasant to tell you, like the doctor is not in despite your appointment, they giggle. For this reason, Jacob likes them as much or better than any other group of people in the world. He loves their outlook on life and interpersonal skills. For me, it took some adjusting. Were they really that friendly? Do they really not have any personal space? I think, in time, it would grow more comfortable. I loved the attention Ryder got there.


3. Boracay is the top tourist destination. It was on the bucket list of many of Jacob’s work team, who we wanted to take on a work trip. My idea was to go to an adventure eco resort where hiking waterfalls was on the agenda. But good thing we didn’t—we couldn’t even convince any of the team to go cliff jumping off the lowest point. I don’t think they would have been into hiking waterfalls. The water really is that clear and blue, and the sand is like dust.


Jacob taking the jump


Traditional boats built to withstand tropical storms 

4. College is only $20/semester here. And getting a manicure and pedicure is only $2. A full time nanny? Less than $10/day. Things here are so cheap, they feel free. If you ever want to go to a place where the cost of things doesn’t factor into your decisions, try the Philippines.


Ryder called her “Babysitter.” It only took one time for him to really warm to the idea of having a four hour a day friend to take him to play.


5. You can get really good healthcare here—I went to a doctor for Ryder’s vision who trained in the States and with whom I was quite impressed—or you can get what-the-heck healthcare here—I went to a pediatrician for a wellness check up and she didn’t even measure his height until I asked her to—but she did recommend some hydrogen peroxide for a mosquito bite he had on his leg. A little random. And they collected everybody’s poo and pee samples and left them on the front desk on the secretary’s appointment desk? Decided against letting them do any poking or prodding after that.


6. The people come across childlike and innocent, yet have no problem discussing anything, from sexual desire to bowel movements.


7. The shopping malls are outrageously developed and comfortable for the standard of living surrounding them. Ryder loved the malls here more than anywhere else. The trampoline, the play rooms, the extraordinarily kid-friendly mall workers—Ryder learned how to be potty trained and to stop saying “no” to strangers purely by desire to stay in the mall.

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Inside and outside of SM City Mall

8. The food is good, reflective of the Philippines historical influence from Spain, the US, and China. I wouldn’t list it as the healthiest on the planet. Ryder loved the stream of chips and candy coming his way. My mouth loved all the carbs, but my belly didn’t. And overall, it is a fairly meat-based cuisine—must be why Jacob ranked it in his top four. (Mexican, Italian, and Indian also rank—but hint: Japanese is coming after this trip and will overthrow the rankings.)

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9. They like balut—duck embryo—and I actually appreciated the flavor and texture—like a crunchy hardboiled egg. It was the veins that almost wigged me out. Jacob could not complete his, or even take a bite, despite a day-long pep talk he gave himself. However, I never adjusted to the gooeyness they seemed to prefer their breakfast eggs—I always asked for “well done” scrambled eggs, and even then it seemed sometimes their well done was my medium rare.

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10. The LDS church has taken off in the Philippines—they are a religious culture in general, majority Catholic. Strangely enough, an old family friend’s daughter was serving there. We took them all out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant.

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11. Transportation is convenient. You can either grab a taxi to anywhere you want in the city for around $2, or you can grab a jeepney, or shared open jeep truck with set routes, for around .25 cents.


12. Haircuts for kids are easy here: just sit in a car and watch Barney and he won’t even know what’s happening to him.


13. In the Philippines, being gay or transgender is common, much like Thailand, and relatively accepted. There are set roles that women do—like they always wash the dishes—which gay men can also do.

14. In Manila, I had to wait 45 minutes just to buy a ticket to get on the metro. I’ve never seen anything like that and hope to never again. Also, we were the only stroller out on the streets that day. It is so overcrowded and wild and polluted…It took an hour by taxi to go a mile down the road. I don’t think you could pay me to live there. But fascinating. I made a friend who looked after me and walked me around. She was so patient and smiley through it all. She said that’s why Filipinos look young. They smile a lot.

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Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 372 awesome articles for us.

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