10 things to know about the Philippines

Published December 3rd, 2015

I recently spent a week in the Philippines. Before the trip I had very little idea about what to expect and what made the Philippines unique?

Day by day more and more Philippines gems unravelled as I began to fall in the love with the pop culture, the cities, the people and the landscapes of the Philippine archipelago which... here’s an added factoid... is made up of a total of 7,107 islands!

So much to discover the Philippines!

Here’s 10 things you probably don’t know about the Philippines...

1. Singing

Filipinos love to sing. Whether they’re caught in traffic (which btw happens a lot – see below), or more recreationally, like karaoke. They LOVE karaoke, or videoke – a more compact version you can even store at home and bring out at every family function, or just a regular Monday night. No big.

2. ‘Ber’ months

In the Philippines Christmas celebrations start as soon as September 1 arrives. They call them the ‘Ber’ months – as in SeptemBER, OctoBER, NovemBER, DecemBER. If you love Christmas, you can revel in all the tinsel, Christmas lights and jingle bells you like for four fabulously festive months.

3. Anthony Bourdain is (more) famous here

Don’t know who Anthony Bourdain is? And you call yourself a foodie! He's the famous and a little bit rock–n-roll chef and host of travel-food-show, No Reservations. Bourdain visited the Philippines back in 2009 on the show, and they’re still pretty proud about that – especially how much he raved about their suckling pig, declaring Cebu’s lechon the “best pig ever”. They’re pretty big Bourdain fanboys/girls and it turns out the feeling is mutual. Bourdain is due to return to the Philippines soon with his new show, Parts Unknown.

'The' Lechon Bourdain declared best ever on the right. Image: Rachel Surgeoner


Need more reasons to go to the Philippines? Travel Obsessions: Philippines More things you didn't know about the Philippines

4. It Takes Gutz To Be A Gutierrez

The Philippines has their very own Kardashians: The Gutierrez family. The reality show follows the dramatic lives of the Filipino showbiz family. There’s former beauty queen Ruffa and her twin brothers – one’s an actor and the other is a funny/fashionista type, and their parents – Eddie, a ‘matinee idol’ and Annabelle, the classic ‘momager’ slash aspiring politician.

5. Every walking light is green

J-walking is a common but skilful practice here; the Filipinos are basically traffic ninjas. The cross the road pretty much anywhere, anytime.

6. Eggs

You never knew there were so many different ways to prepare eggs until you visit the Philippines. For the oddest, just Google ‘balut’. Then there’s salted eggs and‘100 year’ eggs (although these are typically Chinese). Egg basically pops up in a myriad of different dishes.

The delightful 'Sisig' (read below for what's in this dish). Image: Rachel Surgeoner
More delicious pork, this time in Chinatown in Manila. Image: Rachel Surgeoner

7. Pork

Much likes eggs, Filipinos love pork. Two of the most common pork dishes are lechon (slow roasted pork) and sisig (a mixture of pig’s ears, cheeks and snout mixed with chilli, onion and calamansi juice). Oh yeah, they love calamansi too which is a little citrus fruit – you squeeze this along with a host of other condiments on many dishes. Speaking of condiments – Filipinos LOVE the extremes of flavours – be it salty, sweet or sour. If you love condiments with every meal, you’ll fit right in. Embrace the flavour sensation!

The vivacious Raquel Choa. Image: Rachel Surgeoner

8. Chocolate

Cebu City, the Philippines ‘second city’ is the unexpected new artisan chocolate making capital of... maybe the world? Here you’ll find the entrepreneur and chocolate-making-goddess Raquel Choa of Ralfe Gourmet. Turns out the Filipinos have been captivated by the magic of cacao since possibly as long as the Aztecs. You can pick up her amazing handmade truffles, hot chocolates, cocoa butter and more at her store or enjoy a slice of her chocolate and beer or chocolate and red wine cakes at Raquel’s experimental chocolate cafe.

9. Shopping

If you like to shop, there’s no shortage of malls in the Philippines. SM Megamall in Metro Manila is largest mall in the Philippines and the third largest in the world. Heck, inside another mall in Manila, SM Mall of Asia, there’s even an Olympic-sized ice skating rink.

10. The road is your highway

Like most cities in Asia, the driving here is pretty cray-cray. The Filipinos make it a fine art, narrowly avoiding scrapes and prangs and every turn. The trick? Just beep. Beep your horn to indicate just about everything from changing lanes, alerting oncoming traffic, or passengers of your presence and then of course, simply to express your annoyance at being stuck in traffic – yet again.

Rachel visited the Philippines (and had a rad time) as a guest of Philippines Airlines and Tourism Promotions Board Philippines.

Rachel Surgeoner

A self-confessed 'food-tourist', I take hunting for the world's greatest sandwich very seriously, my quest has taken me from Berlin to Hoboken. Stopping off only for vintage shopping, craft beers and Mediterranean sunsets.