Our country’s tourism slogan is, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.” The official AVP shows various reasons why it’s more fun to travel around the Philippines. This article isn’t about the islands and beaches, or the mountains and food. They’re all great, but what really make your travel around the Philippines more fun? The people. Yes, it’s you and I, my dear Filipino people. We are one of the best reasons why travelers are having a lot of fun in our country.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) recently launched its new tourism campaign slogan, saying, “Experience the Philippines.” It comes with #whenwithFilipinnos, showing how Filipinos make travelers’ experience in the country unique.
I met hundreds of travelers during my trips in Southeast Asia, but most of them haven’t been to the Philippines. As far as I can remember, only 2 out 10 travelers I met had been to our country and I was touched when I heard their stories. Our country is home to some of the best beaches in the world. As I noticed though, the Filipinos they met are what made their trip unforgettable. Indeed, Filipino hospitality is beyond compare.
Filipinos are extremely kind, happy, and generous people. These are some of the words they used to describe Filipinos. They said that Filipinos always smile, know how to enjoy life, and share whatever they have even if they don’t have much. Life is poor in some parts of the country, but people are always willing to help. You can’t feel that they’re struggling, because they look happy and contented with their simple lives.
I asked some of my friends whom I met during my travels to share their experiences with Filipinos and here are their stories.
Justina Viniarska (I met her at Siam Journey Hostel in Bangkok)
I’m madly in love with the Philippines and its people. I met Jober on the jeepney on my way from the bus station in Puerto Princesa. He was sitting right across from me. I smiled at him and said that it was my first time on a jeepney. He laughed at me and said, “Welcome to our daily life.” We started chatting. He immediately suggested places in Puerto Princesa that I should visit.
We had the same stop. We exchanged numbers and met up later for dinner. He brought a couple of his workmates (all of them were social workers) and led the way to a local eatery where he treated me and let me taste the famous Filipino chicken adobo. The owner of the eatery was so excited to have a foreign customer that he gave all of us complimentary tea and coffee. Then, they took me to their office and explained the nature and importance of their job.
I met Jober once again a few days later. He and his workmate picked me up and we rode on their tricycle en route to Baker’s Hill where we spent all afternoon listening to each other’s life stories and sharing our own life perspectives, and eating caramelized sweet potatoes on sticks. They didn’t let me spend a penny. They treated me as a friend. They were just truly happy having me in their country.
Deborah Provenzale (I met her here in Manila during TBEX and traveled with her to Western Visayas)
Before moving to Taiwan in 2011, I never met any Filipino and didn’t know anything about their culture. Then upon moving to Taiwan, the only experience I had with Filipinos was when I saw them working as domestic helpers, house cleaners, or factory workers. I still didn’t know much about them, but I always noticed two things: they were always smiling, and they were hard workers.
It wasn’t until I went to the Philippines for the first time in October 2016 that I got to really experience the meaning of the Filipino smile and see, first-hand, the culture of these hard-working people. The Philippines is not a rich country, and so many people live at a poverty level. I, however, never saw any indication of self-pity or helplessness. Instead, I saw people who made the most of what they had and were always filled with gratitude and faith that they would always have what they needed.
It’s sad that the media portrays the Philippines as a dangerous place full of murder and crime when my experience has been nothing but positive with the Philippines and its people. Both in the Philippines and in Taiwan, I have been the recipient of the kind and generous nature of Filipinos. They are some of the nicest people I have ever met. Always polite, they refer to strangers as “Sir” and “Ma’am,” and they always smile and offer help when they can.
More than once, I met Filipinos who, regardless of the fact that they clearly made less money than I do, were willing to share with me all they had. Each time, it was a humbling experience that left a lasting impact on me. It made me realize that for so many people, including myself, coming from first world countries, we take so much for granted. Seeing and experiencing the kindness and generosity of people who, from very little, will give you everything, was really inspiring to me. Truly, Filipinos are some of the kindest, most generous, and most hospitable people I have ever had the honor of meeting and calling “friends.”
Denisse Sotomayor (I met her at Siam Journey Hostel in Bangkok)
It was the 13th of April 2017 when I arrived at Cebu International Airport in the Philippines and immediately took a bus to my first destination: Oslob. It was already midnight when I didn’t have any reservation for a hostel or idea where to go. It was my first time in the country. Admittedly. I felt scared, because it was already late.
Our bus stopped at 7-11 and the bus driver helped me find a guy that could take care of me. Fortunately, we found a hostel manager. The hostel is their family business, new and in front of a quiet sea. But what touched me the most was the kindness of his mom, wife, kids and brother.
I was thinking to stay for 2 days in Oslob, but I felt good while I was with them. I ended up staying for 5 days. I spent Semana Santa with them, learned about the history of the country, the culture and their food. We ate together. They invited me to join them for dinner every night. They were the best hosts ever and that was only one of the many experiences with them.
I traveled around Asia for one year and met a lot of people in different countries, but the Philippines made the difference, not only because of the landscapes, waterfalls and turquoise sea, but also because of the people. Definitely one of my favorite places in the world.
After they launched the new tourism campaign, I was like, WTF? Prior to the launch though, I drafted this article already and started thinking of promoting the Philippines from a different perspective. The new ad of DOT not only shows the beauty of the Philippines, but also features the experience of traveling with Filipinos. Soon, it will make a difference.
Every country has its own charm and uniqueness. But how do the Philippines compare with them in the global market? What is our advantage? The answer is simple: we, the Filipinos. Experience the Philippines with our people. We can make the difference.