Health and the Weather, Manila
When you are traveling through Manila hold your nose when you are near a river or canal as they are among the dirtiest in the world as people dump all their rubbish there, even defecate by the edge, and worst of all i have seen children swimming in the dirty water. One of the reasons why the city floods so easily is that the sewers are all clogged up with plastic bags and other trash, but recently several supermarkets and areas of Manila have outlawed the use of plastic bags so you have to buy a re-usable one or bring your own (paper bags are now used in certain supermarket chains.)
Foreigners are advised not to drink tap water, even those served in fine restos. Some locals might say that the water's safe but that's probably because our stomachs have become used or immune to our water's impurities. Restos may also say that their water is boiled and/or filtered but that does not guard against frequent trips to the bathroom!
So to be sure, only take mineral or bottled water that is sealed when unopened. Bring some especially when going to rural areas or provinces where there is no running water.
Try to always bring your own toilet paper. Many of the restrooms have none or they have like the one-ply one square allotment per person, or something like that. I do think that I personally use too much paper, but the alternative drip dry and shake method is difficult for ladies. I mean we already have to hover.
If you are a Westerner like me, stay away from ALL ice and tap water. Do not drink any kind of shakes or eat any kind of desserts with ice (halo-halo) from any restaurant. Keep to the bottled water during the first few days. After bout a week or so, then it would probably be OK to have the different ice-made desserts and such. Of course, the body's tolerance to this will depend on the individual.
More and more places are becoming smoke free zones including Rizal Park as the sign warns you. Violators will face heavy fines so don't light up your cigarette while visiting the park.
first offence 500-1000 peso fine and 8 hrs community service
second offense 1000-5000 peso fine and 16 hrs community work
third offence 5000-15000 peso fine.
If possible, ask for bottled water. Just say "mineral water" to the vendor as that is the term they are more accustomed to. Also, when eating at a restaurant, politely ask the waiter if the ice used in your glass comes from the tap or bottled. Chances, you'll be fine either way (since the melted ice will amount to a small proportion of the entire drink quantity anyway) but it never hurts to ask where the ice came from.
An unusual shot from Space shows the Manila Bay. Look at the dirty coastal lines! Although many fishermen still are fishing shrimps and mussels from the waters of Manila Bay, personally I would not recommend to eat any seafoods that are offered from this area.
The dirty lake on the upper right is Laguna de Bay, a huge lake within 1/2 hours to reach fom Manila. The dirty water indicates the necessity of much more government control for drainage and waste water.
A second lake can be seen in dark blue with a little island in the middle. Of course, absolutely clean because pollution is not possible. The fish (Pampano)in this lake is very delicious. This is Taal lake created by regular activity of the volcano Taal. The ashes spitting tip is that little island. Beautyful to see, if flying with a 2-seater airplane at slow speed into the crater. I have seen several eruptions of Taal Volcano.
The best time to go the Philippines is the typhoon off season of September to May. The Philippines gets a crazy number of typhoons during the summer. When the typhoons hit the Philippines they cause bad flooding.
All around Manila, there are corner restaurants (usually outdoor and some with karaoke, some without) pragmatically known to the locals as "turo-turo" restaurants. "Turo" in Tagalog means "point" and that's exactly what you do when you order your food. There are no menus and you basically point to the food you would like to order from the pots and pots of food in front of you. These places are frequented by jeepney and tricycle drivers.
It's good food, in fact some of the best in town however Westerners stomachs probably won't be able to handle it at first... but your body should be well used to eat the second time around when you back for seconds.
Health : No immunisations are required for travellers to the Philippines, but cholera and hepatitis shots are recommended if you will be travelling to remote areas. For most visitors, only climate and changes in diet create health problems.
Water : Avoid tap water, as well as fruit and vegetables whose skins cannot be easily removed.
Try to avoid staying in Manila during typhoon season...usually from around June to November. Some areas in Manila get flooded and the terrible traffic turns into a nightmare of stranded cars. If Manila is not your main destination, it is best to leave on a connecting flight right away.
During the wet season, please make sure you're equipped with insect repellant. Unfortunately, when too much water stays inland and leaves stagnant water, it becomes the perfect breeding ground for the mosquitoes that carry Denggue Hemorrageic Fever. It's not a joke to have it. I've had it once several years ago and I was delirious with 41C fever for days and needed a blood transfusion. It's scary, but it can be avoided so don't let it stop you from visiting the tropics.
When eating at most restaurants, you should be fine. However, when buying food from the street (ie. fishballs from cart street vendors, local delicacies such as "balut", "taho", etc), make sure you have some anti-diahhreal medicine handy to counter the effects of the Filipino "home-cooked" phenomenon. Adminttedly, food from street vendors (although irresistably delicious) is not made in the most sanitized of ways. Westerners stomachs probably won't be able to handle it at first... but your body should be well used to eat the second time around when you back for seconds.