PHILIPPINES

The relationship I now have with the Philippines is unique, without a doubt. Unfortunately, my time here was cut short due to a global pandemic. You can read more about this in one of my blog posts below! 

I've outlined my top Philippine destinations below. Although I did not visit all of these destinations due to the outbreak of COVID-19, I compiled and outlined the list based on my short experience there, along with the opinions and recommendations of travelers I met abroad.

The Philippines

1 Manila

The capital of the Philippines. A typical first destination when entering this country. Dense, with modern buildings and a city feel, a place well worth exploring.

2 Cebu

You will find this island located south of Manila. The city of Cebu is where you will fly into. Although not the ideal place to spend a few days, it will be your home base for getting to the fun exciting destinations such as Malapasqua, Moalboal & Siquijor.

3 Malapascua 

This island is off the coast of Cebu. About a 4-5 hour bus ride from Cebu to Maya, followed by a 45 minute ferry. You'll find beautiful beaches and great diving spots at this destination!

4 MoalBoal

MoalBoal is a 3 hour bus ride from the city center of Cebu. Common attractions here are snorkling with the sardines and canyoneering. 

5 Siquijor

This island is located at the base of Cebu. It's about an hour bus ride from Moalboal to Liloan, and than a 3 hour ferry to Siquijor Island. 

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Palawan 6

This island holds some of the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines. You can explore the underground river, visit some secret beaches and explore some wildlife.

El Nido 7

Magnificent beaches and untouched landscapes make for an island vacation that you will constantly look back in your camera roll for.

Coron 8

Beaches, Beaches and More Beaches! Another beautiful must see island in the Philippines.

Boracay 9

One of the biggest party islands in the Philippines. Boracay is home to beautiful beaches where you can find many elite resorts and various party hostels that create a gorgeous, carefree environment to play in.

Vigan 10

Vigan was a destination recommended to me by a friend. A city preserved in its Spanish colonial and Asian architecture, with cobblestone streets and an old town feel. Known for its street food and architecture. 

Unfortunately, I was only able to visit 3 of the 10 destinations outlined above. The other 7 were highly recommended to me by various travelers I met throughout my trip. Idealistically, give yourself 3 weeks to a month in this country. Visit each island, don't rush yourself. Have enough time to explore and enjoy each destination. It's worth it!

Manila

Manila will be your first stop in the Philippines. You can completely bypass it and catch a connecting flight to one of the other islands, however, typically when flying into the Philippines the Manila airport is the largest and will be your first destination. 

I didn't stay in the city of Manila. I stayed in Makiti, a town just south of Manila City, and where my hostel was located. Makati is in the metro manila area, but not considered part of Manila City. Heres what I found exploring Makati:

My Hostel

My hostel of choice was Z Hostel which offered a comfortable social environment. It was relatively clean, updated, fun and inviting. My room had a slight cockroach problem, and after reading the reviews post check out, I saw other guests had a similar issue.

I was lucky enough to find myself in a room with people who I became friends with instantly. But if finding people you click with doesn't come easy for you, there is a rooftop bar to spend time in at night. It's a good way to meet others and enjoy yourself. 

Restaurants And Things To Do

While Manila Z hostel offered a free breakfast every morning in their cafe, don't let it keep you from exploring the food in Manila. 

The Filling Station Bar & Cafe -A 24/7 diner that will bring you right back to the 50's & 60's like you are in the movie Grease. Filled with nostalgia like Elvis and Marilyn Monroe statues, gas station Nicknaks and even retro car dining booths. You wont be disappointed by the environment or the food. 

Kanto Freestyle Breakfast- We lucked out with this find. Stumbled across it while walking around to find a place to eat breakfast. Their Honey Garlic Chicken with Rice was MONUMENTAL, a must have. I had to get a side of their fluffy pancakes as well. From the looks of what everyone else was ordering, you couldn't have gone wrong with anything on their menu. Overall it was a great restaurant. With outside seating, you should expect to sweat. And depending on the day and time, there could be a long wait time.

Taco Mata MNL- New York inspired Tacos. A chef and his wife settled down in Makati and opened this taco stand. A small window shop located in a strip with other vendors. This is a hole in the wall you do not want to pass up. Only 4 different choices of food to choose from, but the complexity and dedication to each menu item will leave you wanting to come back every day for more. The flavors of these worldly inspired taco dishes will leave an everlasting impression on your palate.

Ringside Bar & Grill - Not so much a restaurant hot spot, but a fun bar to hang out after hours. Attending this bar will depend on how you ethically stand. Here, you will enjoy cocktails and a show - a wrestling show that is - consisting of lady wrestling, little person wrestling and various other eclectic performances. Just remember, no photos and if you pay $20, you can referee a fight yourself, in the ring! 

Cebu

I stayed in 2 different hostels in Cebu due to the amount of time I stayed in this city. Both hostels created an inviting social environment and had their own pros and cons.

Mad Monkey- Located about 35 minutes from the Cebu Mactan International Airport, you will find this hostel in a relatively nice location. After scoping this out on google maps at first, I was pleasantly surprised to see it was located right next to a little river. Upon arrival, I realized the river it was located on just happened to be some sort of sewage run!

This was just one of the few downsides this hostel had. Overall, I think it's a challenge to find a clean, well put together hostel in south east Asia, especially in the cities. You will never find these accommodations to be the cleanest and most up to date, but as a traveler you will come to terms with what works for you.

The front desk crew was friendly overall and helpful, depending on what you are looking for. The area the hostel is located in is not the nicest, so the front desk gives you a good idea of where and when you can walk around, and where to go. 

Mad monkey is a party hostel. This hostel is where you're going to want to go if you are looking for a fun social environment and a party scene. The rooftop bar is a great place to meet others and participate in trivia games, social events and pub crawls.

The dorms are relatively clean. They range from 4, 6 and 8 bedroom units. Mad Monkey's private rooms are phenomenal! For roughly $30 a night, you get a clean, comfortable private room, plus the benefit of a fun common area and great company! I recommend if you're going to stay in a private room, here is the place.

OLA! Hostel- This hostel become my home towards the end of my trip. Ola hostel is located in Talisay, Cebu. A brand new location that opened up in January of 2020, One of two locations in the Philippines. They offer a free breakfast every morning, and a full food menu available all day & very reasonably priced! This hostel gives you acess to many amedities such as an open, spacious outdoor/coverd bar area with a pool, tanning area including a waterfall. An aiconditioned gaming area with karaoke, video games, & a pool-table located above the bar area as well as a basketball court to get some games in or a good exersize session.  

The only downside to this hostel in my opinion would be the location. Its about a 45 Minute-Hour drive from the airport. about 30 minutes from the city center of cebu. It's not a terrible downfall, Ola still offers cebu tours from the hostel so you can still use it as a starting point to begin the rest of your tours throughout the island.

The Staff in this hostel is above par, they take the time to get to know you and make your stay very comfortable. Overall I recommend this hostel to stay in! Its a notch below mad monkey on the party hostel scale, but you are still able to have a good time while staying in this accomidation. 

Transportation

I'd recommend taking Grab Cars mostly everywhere, In some circumstances they will be cheaper than a white taxi, both are safe modes of transportation. Getting a grab is significantly cheaper than a regular cab when leaving the airport. 

Moalboal

This is one of the three destinations I recommend visiting on the island of Cebu. Moalboal is about a 3 hour bus ride from the cebu bus terminal. The bus costs about $2.50, you can choose a bus with airconditioning which costs a bit more, or a bus without airconditioning. I'd suggest taking the bus with A/C, especially during the summer season.

My Hostel

Out of the few hostels available in Moalboal, I was referred to stay in MOHO Moalboal Hostel. You will find this hostel about an 8 minute ride from the bus stop. It's located about a 10 minute walk from the main strip on the strip, its slightly far from all the attractions and shops, but its still in a good location. 

The hosdtyel