What to Expect When Travelling to The Philippines: Expectations vs Reality

What to Expect When Travelling to The Philippines: Expectations vs Reality

Don't be deceived by the pretty photos you see on the Internet. There is more to the Philippines than the facade it portrays online. Check this out!

The Philippines is home to some of the most pristine beaches and picturesque landscapes in the world. No wonder it has become one of the most photographed countries in Asia. However, as the old cliche suggests, “Looks can be very deceiving”. This is the real score for most overrated tourist spots, and this is the REALITY for some (not all!) destinations in the Philippines.

Also read: 20 Reasons Why Travelling to the Philippines is a Total Waste of Time

1. Hinatuan Enchanted River


Hinatuan Enchanted RiverImage credit: 2il org

Aptly named, the Hinatuan Enchanted River will put you under a spell once you’ve seen it in person. The clear emerald waters and unexplored depth have enticed travellers from all over the world to explore and discover this majestic wonder.


Hinatuan Enchanted RiverImage credit: Chill and Travel

If the Enchanted River can cast a spell, it will probably repel tourists from visiting the place. The Hinatuan Enchanted River was initially designed to accommodate up to about 200 people, but with the current rate of 500-1000 visitors per day, there is a huge chance that the future generations won’t be able to enjoy the place anymore. With the current control measures being done by the local government unit (LGU), hopefully, the river will be restored to its magical state.

2. Boracay



Boracay has been hailed several times as one of the best islands in the world. It is a popular destination for locals and tourists for its long stretch of white sand and turquoise waters. It is also preferred by partygoers because of its vibrant nightlife.


BoracayImage credit: Kullez

Little do people know that it’s a struggle to enjoy the beaches of Boracay. With tourists basically everywhere and several establishments near the beachfront, it’s near impossible to experience serenity in this island, once known as a haven of relaxation. But of course, who am I to stop people from enjoying Boracay’s charm? Other than the popular White Beach, there are still unspoilt corners for you to enjoy there, though.

3. Manila


philippines expectation vs realityImage credit: Alvin js5

As the popular song about the country’s capital goes, “There is no place like Manila”. Indeed! Manila is one of a kind. It is a booming metropolis that perfectly blends modernisation, urbanisation, culture and history.


philippines expectation vs realityImage credit: John Christian Fjellestad

But what the song failed to mention is the fact that Manila is also bombarded with grinding poverty that seems to be overshadowed by the Skyscrapers sprouting within the metropolis. While Manila is a haven for high-end establishments, it is also a home for poor people living in the slums.

4. Manila Bay


Manila BayImage credit: Ree Dexter

The Manila Bay is a natural harbour that has been a witness to the rich history of colonisation in the Philippines, especially during the Spanish Era. In modern times, the Manila Bay has transformed itself into a popular destination for friends, families and lovers seeking for relaxation within the busy streets of Manila.


Manila BayImage credit: Stefan Munder

However, due to its accessibility, beautiful sunset and the activities being developed within the area, the Manila Bay has been a picnic ground for people from all walks of life. With little supervision and control measures from the government, the people exploited the historical site and has made the water smelly and stagnant.

Also read: Manila is the Absolute Worst and These 20 Points Will Convince You

5. Ninoy Aquino International Airport


Ninoy Aquino International AirportImage credit: Carabaopower

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is the country’s primary airport. With over 36 million passengers going in and out of Manila, it has become the world’s portal to the beauty that the Philippines has to offer.


Ninoy Aquino International AirportImage credit: Patrickroque01

Since NAIA has a vital role of welcoming and foreigners, they become the first impression of the foreigners visiting our country. And so far, it has not been good. Hailed as one of the worst airports in the world, the NAIA has consistently disappointed the travellers and somehow discourage them from entering the Philippines again.

6. MRT


MRT ManilaImage credit: PhilippineRevolution

If you want to reach a place the fastest way possible, just take the MRT! With this in mind, most of the Manila commuters prefer this mode of transportation because it is cheaper compared to its land counterparts. This is also the best way to avoid the dreadful EDSA traffic.


Image credit: Antonio La Viña

Since it is the most preferred mass transport, the MRT gets really crowded. You would have to line up for a long time, especially during the rush hour when everyone is trying to get home. To add insult to injury, since the waggons of the MRT are really old, it breaks down easily and sometimes, the air condition does not work.

Also read: The Many Faces of the Philippines: A Juxtaposition for Travellers

7. Rizal Park


Rizal ParkImage credit: Maynard Rabanal

The Rizal Park Monument in Luneta is probably the most popular landmark in the country. Luneta, formerly known as Bagumbayan, is the place where Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, was shot dead by the Spaniards. Since then, it has become a significant national symbol.


Rizal ParkImage credit: Brynn Jonsson Julia

The image above might still look good but photos like this caused an uproar among Filipinos because of the building that seems to be innocently lurking behind Luneta. Dubbed as the “National Photobomber”, the Torre de Manila faced piles of controversies after still continuing their construction despite opposition from citizens concerned about the historical site’s backdrop.

Also read: I Love Manila and Here’s Why You Should Too

8. Quiapo Church


Quiapo ChurchImage credit: Shoestring

The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country and expectedly, there are churches everywhere. One of them is the famous Quiapo Church, also known as the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene. The basilica is the famous home of the black statue of Jesus Christ, devotees claimed to be miraculous.


Quiapo ChurchImage credit: Patrick Roque

Disregarding the thousands of devotees parading during the feast of the Black Nazarene, the Quiapo Church can still get very crowded even during non-mass hours. The church is surrounded by vendors of assorted items ranging from religious materials to the ironic abortifacient drugs, fortune-tellers and beggars asking money from passersby.

9. Cebu’s Sinulog Festival


SinulogImage credit: Roy Chan

The Philippines has a lot of festivals celebrating Saints, local products, food, etc. and one of them is Sinulog. Held every 3rd Sunday of January in Cebu City, it is a Filipino celebration of the Feast of Sto. Niño, or the child Jesus Christ. It is one of the most popular festivals in the country visited by tourists from all over the world.

Also read: First Timer’s Guide to Surviving Cebu’s Sinulog Festival


SinulogImage credit: Gate Crash Cebu

While several traditions are still celebrated up to this day, most tourists go to Sinulog for all the wrong reasons. The festival has been the hub for rave street parties that can get really crazy. In recent years, because of the crowd, there have been reported cases of stampedes and several crimes committed such as theft.

10. The Filipino Spirit


Image credit: DVIDSHUB

The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world. Located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, it is susceptible to typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and other man-made and natural calamities. In fact, the strongest typhoon in the history to make landfall was experienced by the Filipinos. As expected, this may give the people hopelessness and may dampen their spirit.


Image credit: Edward Allen Lim

But, no. The Filipinos are the most resilient race you’ll ever meet. No disaster will bring our spirits down. No supertyphoon, no earthquake too strong, no volcano too active, will ever destroy our positivity. We’re definitely not happy about the calamities, but for our country, it’s inevitable. We just prepare for it, we face it, we recover from it, and eventually, smile and laugh again. As the popular saying goes, The Filipino Spirit is Waterproof.

Also read: 20 Reasons Why You Must Visit The Philippines

The Filipinos are probably some of the proudest people in the planet. We take pride in everything that brings honour to the country. These include the different tourist spots and activities that put the Philippines in travellers’ itinerary. However, sometimes this pride goes beyond reason to the point that we portray a facade that initially impresses but eventually disappoints.

Nevertheless, these problems can be solved if the Filipinos will work hand in hand with the government in ensuring that we are not only beautiful in their expectations, but in reality as well.

About Author

Race Del Rosario
Race Del Rosario

Race is a beer-chugging backpacker who occasionally dabbles as a spermologist. When he's not travelling, he freelances as an events host and organizer. His ultimate dream? To travel the 6 continents before he turns 40.


Related Posts