An Ultimate Armchair Travel Guide to the Philippines

Greetings, fellow travelers! If you’re looking for an exciting and unforgettable journey, the Philippines is the perfect destination for you. As a born-and-raised Filipino, I can attest to the country’s rich culture, stunning natural landscapes, and warm and friendly people.

The Philippines is a country that boasts over 7,000 islands, each with its unique charm and beauty. From pristine white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters to lush green forests and towering mountains, the Philippines is a paradise for adventure seekers and nature lovers.

But the Philippines is more than just a beautiful landscape. It’s a country with a fascinating history and culture, influenced by a diverse range of civilizations, including Malay, Chinese, Spanish, and American. This cultural melting pot has resulted in a unique blend of traditions, languages, and cuisines that make the Philippines a truly remarkable destination to explore.

In this armchair travel guide to the Philippines, we’ll take you on a virtual journey through the country’s top destinations, must-see landmarks, and hidden gems. So, sit back, relax, and let’s discover the beauty and wonder of the Philippines together.

Movies About the Philippines

Himala (1982) directed by by Ishmael Bernal

Set in the rural town of Cupang, “Himala” tells the story of Elsa, a young girl who claims to have seen the Virgin Mary, leading to a series of miraculous events that attract pilgrims and change the course of her life. The film is a powerful exploration of faith, poverty, and the human condition, with incredible performances by its cast and a hauntingly beautiful score.

What makes “Himala” so special is its ability to transport you to the Philippines, particularly to the rural areas where life can be harsh and unforgiving. The film portrays the struggle of ordinary people to find meaning and hope in a world where they are often forgotten, and it captures the beauty and resilience of Filipino culture.

Watching “Himala,” you will be immersed in the sights and sounds of the Philippines – from the breathtaking landscapes of the countryside to the vibrant energy of the city. You will also gain a deeper understanding of the Filipino people, their struggles and triumphs, and their unwavering faith in the face of adversity.

Kid Kulafu (2015) directed by Paul Soriano

Kid Kulafu is a biographical film about the early life of Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao. Directed by Paul Soriano, the movie portrays Pacquiao’s impoverished childhood in General Santos City, a small town in the southern part of the Philippines.

The film’s attention to detail and cultural references immerse viewers in the Filipino way of life. From the humble, rural surroundings of Pacquiao’s upbringing to the bustling, chaotic streets of Manila, Kid Kulafu showcases the vibrant and diverse culture of the Philippines.

I appreciate the movie’s emphasis on Filipino values and traditions, such as respect for elders, strong family ties, and the importance of religion. These elements help to convey the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines and allow viewers to gain a deeper understanding of the country’s customs and beliefs.

Moreover, Kid Kulafu highlights the resilience and perseverance of the Filipino people, particularly in the face of adversity. Despite the challenges that Pacquiao faced as a child, including poverty and discrimination, he refused to give up on his dreams and went on to become one of the greatest boxers in history.

Ma’Rosa (2016) directed by Brilliante Mendoza

I highly recommend the movie Ma’Rosa, directed by Brilliante Mendoza. The film is a poignant portrayal of the struggles faced by ordinary Filipinos, particularly those living in impoverished urban areas.

Ma’Rosa follows the story of a small-time convenience store owner, Rosa, and her family as they navigate the challenges of everyday life in Manila. When they get caught up in a drug bust and are forced to come up with a large sum of money to avoid jail time, they are forced to rely on their resourcefulness and community connections to survive.

The film’s gritty, realistic portrayal of urban life in the Philippines allows viewers to virtually travel to the country and gain a deeper understanding of the social and economic realities faced by many Filipinos. The film’s nuanced portrayal of the characters and their relationships also adds to the immersive experience, giving viewers a glimpse into the rich and complex culture of the Philippines.

Toto (2015) directed by John Paul Su

“Toto” is a heartwarming Filipino film that revolves around the story of a young boy named Toto, who lives in a small town in the Philippines with his grandmother. Despite his difficult circumstances, Toto remains optimistic and dreams of one day reuniting with his mother, who works as a nurse in the United States.

The film takes you on a journey through the lush and vibrant landscapes of the Philippines, showcasing its diverse culture, traditions, and values. Through Toto’s eyes, you experience the warmth and hospitality of the Filipino people, their love for family, and their resilience in the face of adversity.

The movie offers a glimpse into the everyday lives of the Filipino people, from the bustling streets of Manila to the tranquil countryside. You get to see the vibrant colors, hear the music, and taste the delicious cuisine of this beautiful country. You’ll also get a sense of the challenges and struggles faced by many Filipinos, including poverty and the desire for a better life.

Maynila, sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1976) directed by Lino Brocka

Maynila, sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Light) is a classic Filipino film directed by the late Lino Brocka. The story follows Julio, a naive and hopeful provincial who moves to Manila in search of his girlfriend Ligaya. As he navigates the gritty and brutal realities of the city, Julio encounters a cast of characters from all walks of life, including corrupt officials, petty criminals, and sex workers.

The film explores themes of poverty, exploitation, and social injustice in the Philippines during the 1970s. It portrays the stark contrast between the promise of the city and the harsh reality that confronts many who come seeking a better life.

Maynila, sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag is a powerful and poignant representation of the Filipino experience, and it provides a virtual journey into the heart of Manila. The film showcases the bustling streets, crowded markets, and vibrant neighborhoods that make up the city, as well as the darker, more dangerous corners that lie hidden beneath its surface.

For me, as a highly cultured person and a local, watching Maynila, sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag is an immersive experience that brings me back to the Philippines of the 1970s. The film captures the spirit and struggles of the Filipino people and highlights the complex realities of life in Manila. It is a must-watch for anyone interested in Filipino culture and history.

Books About the Philippines

Po-On (1984) by F Sionil Jose

“Po-On” takes readers on a journey through the Philippines during the early 20th century. It tells the story of a Filipino family, the Samsons, and their struggles with poverty, political unrest, and cultural change. The novel is rich in historical detail and provides a vivid portrait of life in the Philippines during a time of significant social and economic upheaval.

One of the reasons why “Po-On” allows me to virtually travel to the Philippines is its vivid portrayal of the country’s landscapes, people, and cultures. The book transports me to a different time and place, and I feel as though I am walking alongside the Samson family as they navigate the challenges of their daily lives. Through the characters’ experiences, I gain insights into Filipino traditions, beliefs, and values that have been passed down from generation to generation.

As a local, I appreciate how the novel captures the complex and often conflicting forces that have shaped the Philippines’ history and culture. From the Spanish colonial era to the American occupation, the Japanese occupation, and the post-independence period, the book provides a nuanced understanding of the country’s past and present. It highlights the struggles of ordinary people who are caught up in the larger political and economic forces that shape their lives.

Smaller and Smaller Circles (2002) by F H Batacan

I can say that F H Batacan’s book Smaller and Smaller Circles is a remarkable read that offers a window into the country’s social and political issues. Set in Manila, the novel delves into the dark and gritty world of crime investigation, specifically the hunt for a serial killer preying on young boys from the city’s slums.

What makes this book so unique is its portrayal of the Philippines, a country with a rich and diverse culture that is often overlooked or misunderstood. Through the eyes of the novel’s two protagonists, Jesuit priests Father Gus and Father Jerome, readers are taken on a journey through the bustling streets of Manila, from the impoverished slums to the opulent homes of the elite.

But beyond the setting, the book also offers a nuanced look at the Philippines’ social and political landscape, including the corruption and ineptitude of the justice system and the widening gap between the rich and poor. Through the investigation of the murders, the novel exposes the harsh realities faced by those living in poverty, as well as the struggles of those fighting for justice in a society that often turns a blind eye to their plight.

For me, reading Smaller and Smaller Circles was like taking a virtual trip to Manila. Batacan’s vivid descriptions of the city’s sights, sounds, and smells transport readers to the heart of the Philippines, allowing them to experience its unique culture and atmosphere. As a local, I can attest to the book’s accuracy in depicting the city’s character and the struggles faced by its people.

May Day Eve (1947) by Nick Joaquin

“May Day Eve” is a short story that is set in Manila, Philippines, during the Spanish colonial period. It is a haunting tale of love, passion, and betrayal that explores the themes of time, memory, and fate. The story centers on the lives of Agueda and Badoy, two lovers who are bound together by a love that spans generations.

The story begins on the eve of May Day, a traditional holiday in the Philippines, where Agueda and Badoy reminisce about their past and the events that led to their separation. Through their conversation, we are taken back in time to the night of their first meeting, where they engage in a passionate conversation about love and destiny. However, their love is short-lived, and they part ways, only to meet again years later with tragic consequences.

The book allows you to virtually travel to the Philippines, as it vividly captures the social and cultural landscape of Manila during the Spanish colonial period. Through the story’s rich description of the city’s architecture, language, and traditions, one can experience the sights and sounds of Manila, as well as the complex social dynamics that exist within Filipino society.

As a local, I can attest to the accuracy of the book’s portrayal of Filipino culture and society. Nick Joaquin’s writing beautifully captures the Filipino spirit, our love of storytelling, and our deep connection to our past. “May Day Eve” is a timeless classic that has resonated with readers for decades and is an essential read for anyone interested in exploring Filipino literature and culture.

Noli Me Tangere (1887) by Jose Rizal

Noli Me Tangere is a novel written by the Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal, in 1887. The title, which means “Touch Me Not,” refers to a biblical passage where Jesus Christ tells Mary Magdalene not to touch him after his resurrection. In the book, it is used as a metaphor for the social cancer that plagued the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period.

The novel revolves around the story of Juan Crisostomo Ibarra, a young and idealistic Filipino who returns to his home country after studying in Europe. He is shocked by the corruption, poverty, and oppression he sees in his homeland, and he becomes determined to change it. However, his efforts to bring about change are met with resistance from the Spanish authorities and the corrupt Filipino elite.

Through Ibarra’s story, Rizal exposes the injustices and abuses suffered by the Filipino people under Spanish colonial rule. He also critiques the Spanish friars and their exploitation of the native population, their hypocrisy, and their suppression of local culture and language.

Noli Me Tangere allows readers to virtually travel to the Philippines by immersing them in the country’s colonial past. The novel vividly describes the Philippine landscape, culture, and way of life during the Spanish colonial period. Through the characters and their experiences, readers can learn about the social, political, and economic conditions that prevailed during that time.

The book is considered a masterpiece of Philippine literature and is an essential read for anyone interested in Philippine history and culture. It has inspired countless Filipinos to fight for their rights and their country’s independence. If you read it, you will gain a deeper understanding of the Philippines and its people, and you will feel as if you have traveled back in time to witness the struggles and triumphs of the Philippine Revolution.

Florante at Laura (1869) by Francisco Balagtas

I can tell you that “Florante at Laura” is an epic poem that has become a beloved classic in Philippine literature. The poem tells the story of Florante, a prince who is forced to flee his kingdom because of the treacherous schemes of his own family members. Along the way, he meets Laura, a princess who has also been forced into exile. The two fall in love, but their love is constantly tested by the challenges they face in their new life.

One of the reasons why “Florante at Laura” is such an important work of literature is that it offers a glimpse into Philippine culture and history. The poem was written in the 19th century, during a time when the Philippines was under Spanish colonial rule. Balagtas was able to use his poetry to highlight the struggles and injustices faced by the Filipino people during this time. In fact, “Florante at Laura” is considered by many to be a political allegory that speaks to the struggles of the Filipino people against their colonial oppressors.

Reading “Florante at Laura” allows you to virtually travel to the Philippines because it immerses you in the language, culture, and history of the country. The poem is written in Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, and is filled with references to Philippine history and culture. As you read, you will encounter descriptions of the lush landscapes and majestic landmarks that make the Philippines such a beautiful and fascinating place.

A Music Playlist to Virtually Travel to the Philippines

This selection of songs is perfect for virtual travelers who want to get a taste of the Philippines’ diverse musical culture. Each track captures the essence of the country, from its catchy pop hits to its soulful ballads and rock anthems.

“Basang-basa sa Ulan” by Aegis is a classic OPM (Original Pilipino Music) track that perfectly captures the romantic and melancholic spirit of the Philippines. This song is great for virtual travelers who want to experience the country’s rainy season, which typically runs from June to November.

“Himig Natin” by Juan De La Cruz Band is a legendary rock anthem that celebrates the unique and vibrant sound of Filipino music. With its upbeat rhythm and catchy chorus, this song is perfect for virtual travelers who want to immerse themselves in the country’s lively music scene.

“Ang Huling El Bimbo” by Eraserheads is a nostalgic ballad that tells the story of lost love and the memories that linger. This song is a great way to experience the bittersweet feeling of longing that is so common in Filipino culture.

“Kahit Kailan” by Southborder is a pop ballad that celebrates the power of love and the importance of commitment. This song is perfect for virtual travelers who want to experience the romantic side of Filipino culture.

“Narda” by Kamikazee is a high-energy rock track that captures the rebellious spirit of Filipino youth. This song is great for virtual travelers who want to experience the country’s vibrant music scene and the passion and energy of its young people.

“Sundo” by Imago is a soulful ballad that celebrates the beauty and complexity of human relationships. This song is perfect for virtual travelers who want to experience the emotional depth and richness of Filipino music.

“Anak” by Freddie Aguilar is a timeless classic that tells the story of a parent’s love and sacrifice for their child. This song is great for virtual travelers who want to experience the strong family values that are so important in Filipino culture.

“Before I Let You Go” by Freestyle is a heartwarming ballad that celebrates the power of love and the importance of cherishing the people in our lives. This song is perfect for virtual travelers who want to experience the warmth and hospitality of Filipino culture.

“Tala” by Sarah Geronimo is a catchy pop hit that celebrates the joy and beauty of life. This song is great for virtual travelers who want to experience the upbeat and positive spirit of Filipino music.

“Sana Ngayong Pasko” by Ariel Rivera is a soulful Christmas ballad that captures the warmth and spirit of the holiday season. This song is perfect for virtual travelers who want to experience the festive and joyful atmosphere of Filipino Christmas celebrations.

Leave a Comment