Category Archives: News

Adventurous travellers live like locals in the Philippines

Living with the locals in Palawan

living with locals in palawan

The Philippines has a growing reputation for its hospitable and accommodating people. Forbes magazine called the country the friendliest in Asia - ”The ever-present smile and constant happiness of the Filipino people, even in the face of adversity, is contagious.”

A new and fast growing homestay network, run by Flip Flop Tours Inc., provides adventurous travellers with a front row seat into this unique and welcoming culture. For only 600PHP (15USD) per night, travellers get to live like a local, staying with a Filipino family, experiencing their way of life. Homestays can be booked online and are located in the islands of Malapascua, Bantayan, Palawan and Bohol around the Philippines.

The Filipino-New Zealand team who operate Flip Flop Inc. is lead by New Zealand born Anna Cleal, who first travelled to the Philippines for civil engineering work in 2008, and was amazed that so little was known about this tropical paradise.  She has made it her mission to encourage more travellers to hit the Philippines shores in ways that benefit local communities.

“Often beach resorts have serious environmental impacts and pop up in areas where the average income is $1 per day,” said Cleal. “The homestay program aims to direct money into the heart of some of these communities, as well as hoping to provide travellers with more of an experience,” she added.

Comments and feedback from international tourists is highly positive. Typical comments include:

“I’ve travelled all around the world but staying with this wonderful family was by far one of the best experiences of my adventures.”

“They were excellent hosts and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”

Filipino homes that are eligible for the FlipFlop homestay program do not usually have access to the internet so the company often has to travel to remote areas to find suitable homestays. FlipFlop’s aim is to give travellers an experience very different to what they might find in their own country. “The families who we support live very simple lives, they are in touch with the land and the community of people living nearby,” says Gaudioso Calibugan, a Filipino on the Flip Flop Tours Board of Directors.

Gaudioso Calibugan believes that travel is having a positive impact on how we see the world, how we accept people of different backgrounds and how we appreciate the diversity of life.

“The key thing I noticed when I first arrived in the Philippines is their sense of community and fun-loving nature. I really want more travellers to experience this, and to take it back home with them. Obviously The Philippines is well-known for its beaches and diving but there is so much more to discover – there is a heartbeat about The Philippines that you really have to witness to believe. Homestays are a way to be a part of this heartbeat,” commented Anna Cleal.

FlipFlop Inc’s message to independent travellers around the world is: Come to The Philippines, To be a bit adventurous, get out of your comfort zone and make the most of your visit by including a homestay in your plans. You will not regret it.

source:  Tatiana Rokou

Philippines: four million arrivals in 2012, five million in 2013?

State Secretary for Tourism Ramon R. Jimenez more fun in the philippines


There is at least one thing that all countries of ASEAN share together at ATF 2013: a positive evolution of their tourism! The Philippines was no exception to it. Under-Secretary of State for Tourism Benito Bengzon Jr. indicated during a press conference in Vientiane that the Philippines surpass for the first time the fourth-million international arrivals into the country. “We set up a new record of 4.27 million visitors, up by 9.1% over the previous year. We were slightly short of our target of 4.5 million but this shows an excellent evolution,” he stated.

Northeast Asia continues to be the bulk of Philippines tourist arrivals with a market share of 47.7%. Surprisingly, despite political tensions with China which translated into a partial boycott of the destination by Chinese travellers, total arrivals from the Mainland continued to grow last year.“We saw a plus of over 3% in 2012, translating into 251,000 Chinese visitors to our country. Since peaceful negotiations started with our Chinese neighbours, we see the situation normalizing rapidly. We have again many charter flights coming from China, especially to Kalibo, near Boracay,” indicated Benito Bengzon Jr.

Philippines success hangs a lot to the new State Secretary for Tourism Ramon R. Jimenez, a former advertising executive, who reshaped last year the tourism department with a new campaign, “It is more fun in the Philippines”. The dynamic tagline is supported by an increase in the budget for tourism promotion. “The budget is now tripled, from 10 to 30 million US dollars on an annual basis”, explained Benito Bengzon Jr.

There has been also a concerted coordination between the Department of Tourism, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Works and Highways. “Improving infrastructure is of utmost importance and we are conscious that the Philippines is confronted with many shortcomings when we talk about transport infrastructure. How can we attract more tourists if we cannot provide them with good infrastructure such as hotels or air facilities? ” told the Under-secretary.

A program of national highways is being pushed as well as improving airport’s infrastructure. “We now have expansion at many airports such as Puerto Princesa in Palawan or in Cebu. The Department of Civil Aviation is also installing new night landing instruments at 14 airports including Manila. It will then help to relieve congestion by extending operational hours at our airports,” indicated Mr. Bengzon. They are now a dozen of new hotels in the pipeline, especially on Luzon Island –where Manila is located- but also in Davao, Boracay, Palawan and Cebu, some of the most popular destinations in the country. In total, some 15,000 rooms will be added to a total of 180,000 available rooms throughout the country.

The Philippines is now targeting five million arrivals in 2014 and is confident that it will reach before the end of the decade 10 million arrivals. “We might not reach that figure. But we have the strong ambition to achieve it!” declared the Under-Secretary.


Siargao, El Nido among 46 ‘must-see places’ in 2013—NYTimes

siargao, surfer

A surfer takes a gentle ride on the waters of Siargao. Photo by Jes Aznar for the New York Times.

A surfing mecca and a luxury island getaway in the Philippines are included in the 46 must-see places in the world based on a list published online by the New York Times.

In the list,  ”The 46 Places to go in 2013″, Siargao and El Nido were chosen by editors of the internationally-read broadsheet.

“Idyllic white sand beaches, secluded, little-known surf towns, and pristine reefs are among the natural draws of this country,” it said.

The article raved about how “luxe” the country’ surfing and beach destinations are.

“The new Dedon Island resort on Siargao, for example, is close to one of the world’s best surf breaks, Cloud 9 (Kelly Slater is a fan), and has an outdoor cinema along with spa and paddle board classes. And the private island resort of El Nido Pangulasian opens this month in the Unesco biosphere of Palawan, right by some of the world’s most pristine diving spots. ”

Aside from the Philippines, only two other Southeast Asian nations were included: Singapore and Thailand (which appeared on the list twice). Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s capital, topped the list. “Because the whole world will be there in 2014 (World Cup)” it said.

source:  By Joseph Holandes Ubalde