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November 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 32, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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What You Need to Know About The Philippines

from the November, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The Philippines has 22,500 miles of coastline, nearly twice as much as the United States, thanks to 7,107 islands. And it has lots of friendly people since Filipinos go to work all over the world, giving them an international outlook and affection for Westerners.

Manila, the capital on Luzon, one of the most densely populated cities in the world, is as busy as an ant hill. Traffic often stands still for what seems like hours. The jeepney (manufactured in the Philippines), a popular form of transport, evolved from the WW2 jeeps that were converted into colorfully decorated buses. Bicycle rickshaws are still popular.

Once you get away from the city, the village people, who live in a matriarchal society, are very easy going, in general, devout Catholics (except in the extreme southern parts of Mindanao, where there is a Muslim population) with most people speaking good English. Here, the U.S. dollar goes a long way.

The diving is extremely varied. For example, the Camotes Sea, which is bordered by Cebu island in the southwest and Leyte to the east, offers everything from the muck at Sogod Bay and the jetty at Padre Burgos to the whale sharks of Cebu and Limasawa Island. Malapascua, with its famous thresher shark encounters, lies to the north and Bohol, with its white sandy beaches, chocolate hills, and tiny tarsiers, to the south. You can tour the Camotes Sea by Bangka, staying at a different resort every night ( Or opt for a liveaboard if you don't want to be restricted to one island.

John Seymour (Mauritius), a retired PADI dive instructor and filmmaker wrote after a trip in December 2016, "The diving at Padre Burgos rates in my top three dive sites thus far. I am hooked after diving here [with an] incredible variety of corals and tropical fish, nudibranchs, sea snakes, scorpion fish, turtles and the most anemones and clownfish I have ever seen." He also saw a whale shark on his first dive there.

Elsewhere, Tubbataha reef in the Sulu Sea is a uniquely protected eco-system reached by liveaboard from Puerto Princesa on Palawan. John Yavorsky (NJ) went there on Philippine Siren in August and reported a plethora of different marine life from nudibranchs to manta rays.

Dumaguete (Dauin) on Negros Orientalis is famed for small critters as well as the green turtle haven of nearby Apo Island.

Closer to Luzon island you'll find WW2 wreck diving at Coron Bay. Ed Noga (OH) traveled there aboard the liveaboard Atlantis Azores in February and wrote "The [WW2] wreck diving was pretty good. Other than a seaplane tender and a couple of gunboats, the wrecks are cargo ships sunk by the U.S. fighters and bombers in a devastating 15-minute raid. These were ships that escaped from Truk, then Palau, previously."

Then there are the popular diving locations of Puerto Galera and nearby Verde Island. Michael Fritz (NJ) said of both Puerta Galera and Dumaguete, "Everyone speaks English, so it's easy to get around and interact with the (very friendly) locals" after visiting in March this year.

They certainly know how to look after you in the Philippines. Jeff and Pat Maeda (TX) said of Kasai Village on Cebu after a trip there a couple of years ago. "This is true valet diving. They take care of everything except your wetsuit and booties."

Manila and Cebu city have international airports. While flying between the other islands, Philippines Airlines cabin crew conducts quizzes with the passengers. It's all very sociable. If you travel economy class, Manila's international airport is crowded and not comfortable unless you discover the $10 lounge, which it seems few people do!

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