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Philippine Islands – Is it safe to visit the Philippines?

bankaThe history of the Philippines or the Philippine Islands from 1898 to 1946 began with the outbreak of the Spanish–American War in April 1898, when the Philippines was still part of the Spanish East Indies, and concluded when the United States formally recognized the independence of the Republic of the Philippines on July 4, 1946.

With the signing of the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898, Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States. The interim U.S. military government of the Philippine Islands experienced a period of great political turbulence, characterized by the Philippine–American War. Beginning in 1901, the military government was replaced by a civilian government—the Insular Government of the Philippine Islands—with William Howard Taft serving as its first Governor-General. From 1901 to 1906 there also existed a series of revolutionary governments that lacked significant international diplomatic recognition.

Following the passage of the Philippine Independence Act in 1934, a Philippine presidential election was held in 1935. Manuel L. Quezon was elected and inaugurated second President of the Philippines on November 15, 1935. The Insular Government was dissolved and the Commonwealth of the Philippines was brought into existence. The Commonwealth of the Philippines was intended to be a transitional government in preparation for the country’s full achievement of independence in 1946.

After the Japanese invasion and subsequent occupation of the Philippines during World War II, the United States recaptured the Philippines in 1945. According to the terms of the Philippine Independence Act, the United States formally recognized the independence of the Republic of the Philippines on July 4, 1946.

World War II veteran benefits

filipino veteranDuring World War II, over 200,000 Filipinos fought in defense of the United States against the Japanese in the Pacific military operations, where more than half died. As a commonwealth of the United States before and during the war, Filipinos were legally American nationals. With American nationality, Filipinos were promised all the benefits afforded to those serving in the armed forces of the United States.In 1946, Congress passed the Rescission Act (38 U.S.C. § 107) which stripped Filipinos of the benefits they were promised.

Since the passage of the Rescission Act, many Filipino veterans have traveled to the United States to lobby Congress for the benefits promised to them for their service and sacrifice. Over 30,000 of such veterans live in the United States today, with most being United States citizens. Sociologists introduced the phrase “Second Class Veterans” to describe the plight of these Filipino Americans.
Beginning in 1993, numerous bills titled Filipino Veterans Fairness Act were introduced in Congress to return the benefits taken away from these veterans, only to die in committee. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, signed into law on February 17, 2009, included provisions to pay benefits to the 15,000 remaining veterans.

On January 6, 2011 Jackie Speier (D-CA), U.S. Representative for California’s 12th congressional district, serving since 2008, introduced a bill seeking to make Filipino WW-II veterans eligible for the same benefits available to U.S. veterans. In a news conference to outline the bill, Speier estimated that approximately 50,000 Filipino veterans survive.

Philippine Culture

Philippine culture is a combination of Eastern and Western cultures. The Philippines exhibits aspects found in other Asian countries with a Malay heritage, yet its culture also displays a significant amount of Spanish and American influences. Traditional festivities known as barrio fiestas (district festivals) to commemorate the feast days of patron saints are common.

The Moriones Festival and Sinulog Festival are a couple of the most well-known. These community celebrations are times for feasting, music, and dancing. Some traditions, however, are changing or gradually being forgotten due to modernization. The Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company has been lauded for preserving many of the various traditional folk dances found throughout the Philippines. They are famed for their iconic performances of Philippine dances such as the tinikling and singkil that both feature the use of clashing bamboo poles.

Filipino values

As a general description, the distinct value system of Filipinos is rooted primarily in personal alliance systems, especially those based in kinship, obligation, friendship, religion and commercial relationships.

Filipino values are, for the most part, centered around maintaining social harmony, motivated primarily by the desire to be accepted within a group. The main sanction against diverging from these values are the concepts of “Hiya”, roughly translated as ‘a sense of shame’, and “Amor propio” or ‘self-esteem’. Social approval, acceptance by a group, and belonging to a group are major concerns. Caring about what others will think, say or do, are strong influences on social behavior among Filipinos.

Other elements of the Filipino value system are optimism about the future, pessimism with regards to present situations and events, the concern and care for other people, the existence of friendship and friendliness, the habit of being hospitable, religious nature, respectfulness to self and others, respect for the female members of society, the fear of God, and abhorrence of acts of cheating and thievery.

Philippine cuisine

lechonPhilippine cuisine has evolved over several centuries from its Malayo-Polynesian origins to become a mixed cuisine with many Hispanic, Chinese, American, and other Asian influences that have been adapted to local ingredients and the Filipino palate to create distinctively Filipino dishes. Dishes range from the very simple, like a meal of fried salted fish and rice, to the elaborate, such as the paellas and cocidos created for fiestas.

lechon-baboyPopular dishes include lechón, adobo, sinigang, kare-kare, tapa, crispy pata, pancit, lumpia, and halo-halo. Some common local ingredients used in cooking are calamondins, coconuts, saba (a kind of short wide plantain), mangoes, milkfish, and fish sauce. Filipino taste buds tend to favor robust flavors but the cuisine is not as spicy as those of its neighbors.

Unlike many of their Asian counterparts, Filipinos do not eat with chopsticks; they use Western cutlery. However, possibly due to rice being the primary staple food and the popularity of a large number of stews and main dishes with broth in Philippine cuisine, the main pairing of utensils seen at the Filipino dining table is that of spoon and fork, not knife and fork. The traditional way of eating with the hands known as Kamayan was seen more often in less urbanized areas.

kamayanHowever, due to the different Filipino restaurants that introduce Filipino food to other nationalities, Kamayan is fast becoming popular. This recent trend incorporates the use of “Boodle Fight” as coined by the Philippine Army, wherein banana leaves are used as giant plates mixing both rice and Filipino viands all together on top.

Sports in the Philippines

Philippine islands BasketballVarious sports and pastimes are popular in the Philippines including basketball, boxing, cockfighting, volleyball, football (soccer), American football, both codes of Rugby football, badminton, karate, taekwondo, billiards, ten-pin bowling, chess, and sipa. Motocross, cycling, and mountaineering are also becoming popular.

Cock_FightBasketball is played at both amateur and professional levels and is considered to be the most popular sport in the Philippines. In 2010, Manny Pacquiao was named “Fighter of the Decade” for the 2000s (decade) by the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA), World Boxing Council (WBC), and World Boxing Organization (WBO). The national martial art and sport of the country is Arnis, Eskrima or Kali in some regions.

Is it safe to visit the Philippines?

A very good question. In 2014 there’s very little doubt that Mindanao should now be avoided by tourists and travelers. Unexplained murders of tourists and continued violence in the area simply makes it a no go area. Checking out the foreign office advisory from your own country will no doubt reiterate the same thing.

Meanwhile the rest of Philippine Islands is no more dangerous than anywhere else in South East Asia. Mindanao simply continues to be a localised violent area. More worryingly is the kidnapping and spread of violence against foreign nationals in the rest of the Philippines. Thankfully, so far, this seems random and infrequent at best.

Where is a safe place to visit in the Philippines?

chocolate hillsTarsierNearly everywhere else aside from Mindanao. Here are my top Philippine islands and places to visit; such as Boracay (very popular) Bohol (chocolate hills, tarsiers), Palawan (diving, mini-islands), Bagio (rice terraces) and for expats Cebu.

Tips for staying safe when visiting Philippines

Don’t show off your money. Many people in the Philippines have an obsession with foreigners being extremely wealthy. It’s best to avoid handing out money to help people or carrying around large sums of cash.

  • Avoid drinking and staying out late at night alone
  • Let people know where you are going
  • Avoid getting romantically involved in the Philippines for short-term relationships
  • Avoid moving to a small village to live for the long-term
  • Avoid travelling by ferry (fly between islands if possible)
  • Avoid the worst of the typhoon season (July-December)
  • Stay in recommended hotels with good reviews
  • Read your foreign office advisory before travelling
  • Avoid Mindanao or taking private boats along the west coast of the Philippine Islands.

Even though we heard from news of murder and kidnapping of tourists in the Philippines it is not the overall appearance of the island. It is only a small incident that many country have it in this evil world. The Philippines offers safe and fantastic destinations to visit. Not even Thailand can rival the Philippines for its world-class diving locations. The rice terraces to the north of the country are epic and the culture is unlike anywhere else in the world.

If you are planning a visit you are sure to experience local friendliness with expansive English making travel there relatively easy. The beaches are pristine, the seafood is abundant and there’s a diverse selection of activities to enjoy from volcano climbing to caving.

You are Welcome to visit the Philippine Islands anytime, anywhere.

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  1. Bohol Philippines - top travel destinations in Asia
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