RABIES PROTECTION IS STILL WORTH CONSIDERING
Many islands in the Philippines now are considered rabies free according to the report on the website below, but one should still consider taking preventative measures before touring the country. Around 300 people a year die of rabies in this country, and several hundred thousand people are bitten by dogs each year (yours truly has been bitten three times). You are unlikely to start showing symptoms until 10-50 days after the bite, but if you are remaining in the same place try to observe the dog and make sure it is behaving normally. If you start having headache, muscle aches, loss of appetite, nausea, and fatigue then there is a possibility that you have contracted the infection. As the disease progresses you will become irritable, confuse, hallucinate, become aggressive, have abnormal thoughts and muscle spasms. In this country the victims are tied to a bed for the last few days of their lives, and there is a metal door (as in prisons), to prevent the patients from biting people or vomiting on them.
SO NOW CONSIDER BEING VACCINATED AGAINST RABIES as it is not a nice way to go!
RING THE BELL IN JEST, BUY DRINKS FOR THE REST !!!
Many bars in the Philippines have a bell at the bar, particularly where tourists and ex-pats drink. Do not ring the bell in jest (especially when you are drunk).as this is likely to cost you a small fortune. For those of you unfamiliar with the tradition, ringing the bell means a round of drinks for all, and on your bill! It is not so bad in a smaller bar where there are only 3 customers and the bar girl/man where you will just have to buy a few drinks, but in larger bars, perhaps in Manila, Angeles and Boracay you may find that you are buying drinks not only for the guys at the bar, but the other patrons who are sitting down, all the bar staff and even the go-go girls too! Failure to pay once you ring the bell will result in you being man-handled for the cash or something worse, so you have been warned.
Hurricanes-Mt Mayon killed 1000 !!!
On December 15th 2006 a devastating hurricane hit the central parts of Philippines. It was not the first or the last natural disaster as the Philippinos are used to living under the continual threat of hurricanes. It has become their way of life pulling themselves together and trying to go on with the remains of the catastrophe. Very often the damage is very extensive and at times they have to start from scratch since there is nothing left. It has become their life's great complaint towards Mother Nature. It's the high toll they have to pay for the extraordinary beauty of their homeland.
I had a sinking feeling at the sight of houses razed flat and uprooted trees laying dead in Bicol, the region which sustained the highest rate of casualties. It was more than 1000 souls, as I read in the newspapers, that the ruthless typhoon Durian took away and many more were left homeless...Many people living at the foot of Mount Mayon were deathly covered by mud as the hurricane broke away a big piece of the volcano's top and caused lethal mudslides.
It is said it was the worst disaster after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991.
I was wondering why on earth couldn't the state protect them. I asked the locals why didn't people in danger evacuate. The answer was their poverty prevented them from going away because they had nowhere to go and because they desperately hoped themselves and their shanties would escape death. Only, the hope of the poor is not enough....
If you look closer in the picture you can see a big piece is missing from the top....Related to:
- Road Trip
IS IT SAFE TO DRINK THE WATER ???
Many locals drink the tap water in the Philippines but most tourists correctly buy bottled water. I have lived here 20 years and i never drink the tap water without boiling it first, but the last few years we have bought 20 l containers of purified water. If we are traveling or at a restaurant we always buy bottled water. Some restaurants have containers of purified water for their customers, but it is always best to ask first.
In this country it is possible to catch typhoid by drinking the tap water in certain areas.
Also be careful of purchasing bottled water from vendors on the street in Manila as they may have refilled the empty plastic bottles and sealed the top with wax or a little glue .
Be careful of buying slurpees or similar as the machine may be hooked up directly to the water supply.
FAKE DVD'S MAY BE CONFISCATED
Every town has a market in the Philippines where you will find fake DVD'S which can have up to 20 movies on them, pop concerts or series from TV, all for just 50 pesos. As the authorities are clamping down on the fakes we often hear of place being raided in Manila and the DVD'S being destroyed. At the airports there may be a sign informing you that you cannot carry fake DVD'S and if caught they will be confiscated, but it is unlikely that you will receive a fine. The fines are for the people who are responsible for producing the DVD'S and the stall-holders who sell them. The place where i live there used to be many stalls where i could buy the fakes but the number of stalls has been greatly reduced due to the government getting tough.
JUST A THOUGHT--- Many poor people will not be able to afford buying the original DVD'S at 500 pesos or there about, so i cannot blame them for purchasing the fakes.
Sadly not for everyone.
It is no secret that I abolutely loved my six months in the Philippines, there is so much to like there not least the fantastic people. I wish that everyone could go there, however this is sadly not the case. Although thankfully able-bodied myself, I am minded of a quote from another VT member that "everyone is a potential wheelchair user" and this tip refers to people with disabilities. I am afraid I would have to suggest that it would be horribly difficult for travellers with disabilities, specifically mobility problems to get around in this country.
In some of the larger urban centres they have made some sort of desultory attempt to provide a little access but the second photo, taken in Manila, shows what a mobility impaired traveller would be up against namely someone parked on a wheelchair ramp. I could literally have taken hundreds of images like this. It was often tricky enough for me to move around with broken pavements with great unmarked holes in them, pavements used as carparks and a hundred other problems.
Accommodation options, shops and restaurants don't seem to do much better either. I don't remember seeing more than a handful of special toilet facilities in six months. Outside of Manila, I saw very few lifts (elevators) anywhere, only stairs.
On the plus side, the Philippino government seems to have adknowledged the problem as indicated here dating from June 2011 although I heard nothing about it in-country.
Sorry to post such a negative tip but I thought I should point out the potential problems.Related to:
COME HERE!!!!!----A BIG NO NO!!!
If you beckon someone to "come here" when you are in a restaurant or need assistance in a shop never curl your index finger as we do in the West, because this gesture is only used for dogs. This is considered derogatory and means that you look down on the person. The proper way to attract someone's attention is to hold your hand out flat and curl your finger inwards.
RECOGNISE FAKE NOTES---THERE ARE MANY
There is so much fake money on the streets in the country that now the government is even issuing warnings and how to detect it. Barely a month passes by without a huge cache of counterfeit notes being seized. In the olden days a tourist would be drinking in the bar in Ermita and hand over a $100 bill, only to be returned to him and inquiring if he had a different one, so he would hand over another one, not realising that the original one had been replaced by a fake, but now there is a big increase in counterfeit 1000 and 500 peso notes, so here are some tips on how to recognise the real bills. New notes were issued in 2010 making it very difficult for a counterfeiter to reproduce them.
1 The new notes are made from cotton and Philippine Abaca and are not smooth to touch, but a little rough.
2 The serial numbers consist of two letters followed by 6 to 7 numbers in asymmetric or increasing size.
3 There are red and blue fibers embedded in the note that can be seen with the ultra violet light of a money detector device that many stores use these days.
4 There is a mirror image watermark of the portrait in the blank space when you hold it up to the light, and the denomination is also included in the watermark.
5 On the bottom right hand corner, just above the numerical denomination, the word 'filipino' is written in the ancient Babayin alphabet that can be seen if you hold the note up to the light.
6 If you tilt the banknote at 45 degrees you will see a concealed denomination value in the smaller version of the portrait.
7 On the 20 and 50 peso notes you will see 2mm wide security threads if you hold the note up to the light.
8 On all the other notes there is a 4mm wide metallic like security thread that looks like stitches, and if you tilt the notes the color of the stitches will change from red to green.
9 On the front of the thread you will see BSP, together with the numerical denomination, which is repeated.
10 On the back of the thread BSP is repeatedly written.
11 The 500 and 1,000 peso note has a reflective foil, called an optically variable device patch. The 550 peso patch has BSP logo and a Blue-naped Parrot, while the 1,000 peso note has the BSP logo and a south sea pearl.
12 If you rotate the note through 90 degrees the reflective coil patches will change from red to green.
13 On the 1,000 peso note at the bottom right hand corner the embossed denomination value has optical variable ink which changes from red to green when viewed from various angles.
SEX TOURISTS------STAY AWAY PLEASE
Unfortunately the country has a bad reputation for sex tourism and most of us foreigners who live here are against the sex tourist who comes specifically for this reason. Sadly there are nearly 1 million girls, guys and children involved in this business, but although it is illegal to sell or buy sex it is brushed under the table unless there is a high priority case. Many karaoke bars, or bars where there is go-go dancing, singing, waitresses at these places double up as sex workers, and many bars charge a fee if you like to take the girl out before closing time, often as much as 4,000 pesos. There are many other freelancers plying their trade here and there. The major sin city is Angeles, a city 60 kms north of Manila where you can find bar after bar packed with girls and mostly foreign men who pay double money for their drinks. It is a pity because if you can get away from this area Angeles is quite an interesting place, but has this bad reputation.
Child prostitution is all too common here, often poor, uneducated children who are lured away from the provinces and are promised well paid jobs in the city, only to be forced into prostitution. Unfortunately many paedophiles visit the country with a few high profile cases hitting the headlines, but not enough are caught. Try not to be lured in to a relationship with these young people, they will even lie about their age.
Apart from the dangers of catching VD, or being drugged there is also the possibility that when you fall asleep with the young lady in your room, you may wake up some hours later and the young lady has gone....and so has your wallet!!!
DEADLIEST SNAKES IN THE WORLD
Philippines is home to more than 175 snake species and as i come from a country where there are very few snakes i treat each snake i see with caution, even though they are defensive creatures that usually slither away when they hear a noise, so if you are walking in long grass or vegetation carry a stick with you and wave it among the grass in front of you to alert the snake to your presence. Many islands do not have the anti-venom so let us hope that if you are bitten by a snake it will not be poisonous. (i know of two people that were killed by snakebites last year). Since i have lived here i have never been able to find a book about Philippine snakes or even a detailed list with photos on the internet.
Most of the snakes here are harmless, but don't be fooled as some of the deadliest snakes in the world are found here. Cobras are found here, including the King Cobra (the world's largest venomous snake) and as with all cobras they can be recognised by their hooded sides of their heads. There are also 3 types of spitting cobras here who can direct venom in to your eyes from a distance of 3 meters.
Pit Vipers are also quite common here and they are very venomous, usually dwelling in trees. On my land i have seen perhaps 10 of them, a particular type that are black and white with a bright red tail, usually only 2 feet long but if one bites you, yo will be dead within 5 hours if you cannot find treatment. It is a particular painful death as they attack the nervous system. One strange fact about the vipers is that they give birth to live young ones instead of eggs.They are known here as Ogu-ogu.
Coral snakes are usually found in scrub jungles and monsoon forests, avoiding dry areas, usually having multiband colors or stripes. They avoid human contact and are usually docile.
Sea snakes are common in the waters of the Philippines and very rarely venture out of the sea. They must come up for air now and again but some can remain underwater for up to 8 hours, while others live in the sea all their lives. Many are found near mangroves. The yellow lipped sea wraith can produce 10 times as much venom that is necessary to kill a human. There is the Lake Taal Snake that resides in the volcanic lake after which it is named, the only sea snake that can live in fresh water.
There are other snakes such as pythons, whip snakes, wolf snakes, bronze back and flying snakes that inhabit the islands, but if i was you i would back away if you saw a snake on the trail.
CRIME IN THE PHILIPPINES
Certain governments warn their citizens about crime in the country but if you keep your wits about you, there is not much need to worry. As in other countries you must be careful of pick pockets especially on the buses, jeepneys and metro in Manila as often they will be crowded. Even long-time residents like myself have suffered from the hands of pick pockets despite us being very careful indeed. Normally i keep most of my cash, credit cards, I.D.s in secret pockets sewn on the inside of my trousers, and try to keep my hand in my normal pockets to protect my wallet, but even then i had my wallet stolen on the busy metro. On a jeepney a thief opened my wife's handbag, stole her purse and zipped it back up again without her knowledge.
Be careful about joining locals for a drinking session, especially if you don't know them very well, as the drinks may be spiked. This happened to a friend of mine who woke up in a remote spot less his camera and money.
Be careful of bag snatchers who may be on motorbikes or approach you in the mall.
Never raise your voice to a local or swear as this can become very serious. If you are arguing about something, do it with a smile.
Should you be in an are where locals start a fight, leave immediately.
Never get in to an argument with a local, better to walk away.
Never withdraw cash from an ATM after dark unless you are accompanied by a friend, especially in Manila.
Remember many people are stricken with poverty here and are desperate for money.
ELECTRICITY BROWNOUTS AND POWER SURGES
If you are taking your laptop or other important items i suggest you take a voltage converter with you so you can use your devices. Normally the electric supply is 220 volts and 60 Hertz, where as in UK it is only 50 Hertz. You may also want to take a voltage regulator with you to protect your device against frequent power surges.
Outlets in most of the Philippines accept two types of plugs, the two pin flat type that you get in the USA and the two round pin type. If you have the three pin type that is common in UK, most hardware stores will sell an adapter for around 50 pesos.
BE CAREFUL OF A G.R.O.
Unknown to some tourists a G.R.O. is a guest relation officer, a fancy name for a bar girl who are nearly all available for a price! Normally these girls will work in bars, sometimes without a salary, but will get commission on lady's drinks. You may pay 100 pesos for your shot of Vodka and orange while you will have to pay around 300 pesos for a lady's drink, often watered down or containing no alcohol at all. Now, should you wish to take the girl out of the bar for some special activities you will have to pay a "bar fine" which can be as high as 5,000 pesos, which is often shared between the bar and the girl. You may decide to rent a room nearby for a few hours but be careful not to fall asleep as the girl may be gone by the time you wake up, and your wallet too!!! No point going to the police as they will just laugh at you!!!
If you are an old man, do not be so gullible when the girl says that she loves you----just look in the mirror and take a reality check.
Often the girl will ask you for money for her studies, her sick family, her house repair, her rent, her motorbike repair, or just about any reason she can think of!!!
Airport Cabs: Centralized BS
More friends are reporting airport cabs who are not using their meters. When a rider inquire on the reason, cab driver states that cab company has a new policy of centralized meters. Do not believe this! I would strongly recommend that you feign calling a friend or relative in the Department of Transportation and pretend to ask about centralized meters. For sure, cab will suddenly develop engine trouble and cab driver will ask you to just seek another ride.
So, from the start before you move a couple of meters away from the airport, insist to see driver turning on meter.
I attached a sample of an erring cab driver's plate number.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Work Abroad
- Family Travel
A delicate subject.
I am trying desperately to think how to write a tip which, as the title suggests, is rather a delicate one. Certainly I do not want to offend any of many many Philippino friends who were so good to me during my recent six month trip but for a first time visitor I think it needs to be flagged up.
Like many other places in Southeast Asia you will see European / American / Australian etc. men with "girlfriends" who are a lot younger than them. You will see bars which are obvious pick-up joints for prostitutes although these tend to be karaoke / videoke places and you will also see Philippino couples and even families on occasion in them which I found slightly odd. The girls in these places tend not to be pushy though and someone will politely ask you if you want company. A simple, "No thank you, I'm only here for a beer," and you will be left in peace, they do not seem to be pushy.
I am not making any moral judgements here and several expat friends of mine are happily married to Filipinas, indeed one got married to his long-term girlfriend when I was there. Many more are in long-term relationships.
Male visitors should also be aware of another potential problem, often carried out in collusion with the police. You will be offered female "company" by a girl who says she is 19 and may even produce papers to prove it. The age of consent in the Philippines is 18. Next day you have a visit from the local police saying that a complaint has been laid against you by the girl who turns out to be under 18. At this point you are looking at a long time in a Philippino jail which is not a prospect I would relish or, for a large sum of money and I mean very large,the girl's family will withdraw the complaint which means there can be no court case. I realise this is hearsay but I did hear of exactly such a case involving an Australian on the island of Cebu at the back end of last year.
I do not wish to present a negative side to a country and people that I have come to love deeply, I am merely pointing out to potential travellers what the scene is and possible pitfalls. If such things are not your scene, you will have difficulty avoiding seeing them but that is just part of the package.
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