The wonderful people and places of the Philippines

[This is Steve’s post about his experiences in the Philippines]

My third trip to the Philippines during the past 12 years has inspired me to think about all the good times I’ve enjoyed during my visits, while also reflecting on what I’ve learned about the good people there.  I’ve also found that I get somewhat depressed about the hardships that folks have to deal with in their day-to-day lives on the many beautiful islands (7,107 to be exact).

Philippine Map
We spent 8 nights with Mona Liza’s family in Moalboal on the southwest end of Cebu, then several nights on gorgeous Palawan – the island to the left in the image.

I want to stress that this post is a very general comparison of life in the Philippines, in contrast to living in the good old USA.  Like any place in the world, there are many exceptions to the following characterizations, but I thought it might be worthwhile to offer my insights into what I observed while there.

Just another day heading into the office or school
Pasil, Cebu
Squatter’s shacks along the water – the worst of life in the Philippines

My recent trip reminded me how upbeat, tough, resilient and flexible the Filipino people are.  These folks generally work hard for extremely low wages, and there are no pensions, retirement plans or medical benefits in sight.  There’s no “attitude” here as there is with many young people in the USA, and these are non-violent people.  Their biggest joys are spending time with family and chatting comfortably with complete strangers.  They are friendly, helpful and respectful with anyone they meet.  Life is much more leisurely, and it’s almost as if time is not a factor when trying to get their jobs done (ie. a very low-stress lifestyle).

Mona Liza’s sister Thelma returns home from the market – this is the way to get around town, and I totally enjoyed the ride several times!

Wanna talk about tough?  Many people in the U.S. choose between living in areas that experience either brutal weather or earthquakes.  In the Philippines you get both!  We arrived in the midst of a “signal-1” typhoon, which caused some damage but never made the news.  Several typhoons cross the islands each year, but only the “super typhoons” make the news.  Fortunately, the recent huge typhoon Hagupit headed north of our stops and spared us and ML’s family.

Kawasan Falls
The typhoon we endured while on the island of Cebu caused quite a bit of damage at the popular waterfalls

No matter how terrible things get with regard to weather or their job situation, Filipinos rarely fail to show up at church on Sunday to thank God for what they have.  Amazing!

Farmers Market in Moalboal
A typical market that we enjoyed on a daily basis

Although I love the beautiful islands and warm Filipino people, I have to admit that I’m probably just too spoiled to live there full time.  I would never drive there; although the drivers appear to be insane as they negotiate the roads with no attention to any kind of traffic laws, they somehow make it work and defy my certainty that accidents must occur every few seconds.  On my first trip in 2002 I was terrified as we weaved through traffic at high speeds.  This time I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.

Sabang, Palawan
You think you’ve seen crazy drivers?  How many violations can you spot here?
Sabang, Palawan
Hauling coconuts to a stand for sale. We loved drinking the milk and eating the meat of these yummy delights!
Saavedra, Moalboal
Life can be difficult here, but they always get the job done

Despite the fact that I don’t speak the language or even fit in very well, I always look forward to my next adventure in the Philippines.  So many beautiful islands to explore and friendly people to hang out with.  You simply must make a trip there one of the items on your “travel bucket list” – you won’t be disappointed!




  1. Glad to see you back safely. Thanks for this look at the Filipino people. It sort of makes us look rather spoiled and demanding by comparison. But then I’ve heard many people say that their happiest times in life were when they had the least. Looking forward to more reports on your trip.

    • Hi Sherry, you’re right about us being spoiled in many ways. But these visits do make me appreciate many of the things I normally take for granted. I think ML has another post about ready, I’m curious to see what she comes up with, too!

  2. Thanks, Steve, for showing us MonaLiza’s homeland through your eyes. Sure sounds like less makes better people. We experienced the same crazy driving when we visited my parent in Egypt. As you said, they all seem to get where they need to be! All that fresh produce makes me drool.

    • Hello John and Pam, looks like you found yourselves a nice area to hang out for the near future. I loved the story about the airplane monument. Glad to see you hooked up with Hans and Lisa, and that you have actual mountains to hike! Not too many of those in these parts of Texas, but we’re doing some flatlander treks for now. Take care!

    • Hi Ingrid, yeah walking to the fish and produce markets and grabbing the freshest everything was the high point of my day during our visit. Such a simple and relaxing lifestyle. Just wish I could speak the language. See you and Al in a few days!

    • Thanks Lisa! I really can’t wait to go back and experience more places there. The fresh fish at every meal is something I could get used to. And the world’s best mango every day? Love it!

  3. Thanks Steve for a very accurate description of our way of life in the Philippines. The best and the worst more on the best side…

    • Hi Becky! I couldn’t agree more, it’s definitely more on the best side. Americans could learn a lot from Filipinos about what real happiness is all about. Take care!

  4. I so enjoyed your post, Steve. I often think that the more we have of material things, the more we still want. How wonderful to see the Filipinos content and happy with their less than ideal lifestyle. We can certainly learn a lot from their laid-back attitude. I’m happy to hear that typhoon Hagupit spared both you and ML’s family. The fresh produce market looks wonderful.

  5. When we lived in Hong Kong we made many trips to the Philippines and I totally concur with your feeling about the people there. Some of the friendliest people, and their lives are not easy. We could learn a lot about gratitude from these countries.

    • Very true Nina, I can’t wait to go back and hang out with those nice folks again as I explore more islands. I already miss the mangoes!

  6. This was a wonderful post, Steve. I appreciate experiencing the beauty and simplicity of daily life in the Philippines through your eyes (and ML’s gorgeous photos). In my travels in the U.S. and abroad I’ve often observed that people with the least in terms of material goods often seem to be the happiest and the most grateful. They seem to know what’s really important (family, friends, celebrating life….). Welcome home to you both!

  7. Wonderful post Steve. Whenever we have traveled to developing countries, we always marvel at how happy the locals are, even with the very little they have. They seem to have their priorities in line, God, family, and friends and have profound gratitude for whatever they enjoy. We would do well to follow their lead.

  8. Philippine taught me well not to complain too much, be content with even the littlest grace, and also not be so stress about life. 😉 Well delivered Mona.

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