Dear me in the future,
Note to self: These are the things you should have known before you went traveling around the Philippines for a month and a half. Kindly remember them the next time you visit. You'll thank me later.
Don't eat a meal before going to visit family who live in the Philippines
Don't even snack. They will feed you. No, this is not making any unfair assumptions. They will feed the shit out of you. Filipino hospitality is a thing, and it mainly consists of feeding you until your life flashes before your eyes — and then expecting you to eat more. If you say no, they'll probably act fine...probably. But trust me, someone will be upset.
If you are in Manila and you need to be somewhere, leave early. Very early.
Traffic in Manila is absolutely horrendous. The only thing you can do about it is acknowledge it, grumble, but ultimately, just leave early. Anticipate what seems like a 15-minute trip actually being somewhere around — oh, I don't know — 45 MINUTES.
And that's if you're lucky.
More likely, it may take around an hour especially during peak traffic (Good luck getting to a dinner appointment on time). Don't expect to be exactly on time for anything. It doesn't matter if you're Filipino or not. In the Philippines, you all run on Filipino time.
It's not exactly the best place to go if you're looking to work while you're there
Even cafes and coffee shops don't usually provide free internet. Not even Starbucks, I think (Whaaaaat? I know!). A huge shoutout to Commune cafe for having great lattes and a resident cat, but having to pay for wifi every two hours was not awesome.
Okay, granted, the wifi honestly wasn't that expensive, but when you and your boyfriend's livelihood depends on having a consistently good internet connection and the ability to be in one place for literally hours, it adds up.
Palawan is beautiful but...
Palawan was simultaneously one of the highlights of my Philippines trip and...the most disappointing. Not that there was particularly anything wrong with it, it's just that our expectations for it were way different than what we got. In all honesty, a lot of that was our fault for not doing enough research. Here's where we went wrong, so don't make our mistakes again:
"The Philippines has some of the best beaches ever. Oh, you're going to Palawan? It's so beautiful there. Palawan is aweeesomeee," says literally everyone. Ever. Yes, the beaches are great. But Palawan as a whole isn't really the paradise we thought we were going to get. Don't expect to be laying out, soaking up the sun whenever you feel like it. There's no easy way to get out to the beaches from anywhere — except by paying for island hopping tours.
Speaking of the island hopping tours, if you're trying to see Big and Small Lagoon in El Nido on Tour A, choose the one where a kayak is included in the price. We did not. Apparently, pretty much everyone, unless you're an Olympic swimmer or crazy, gets the kayak. But no one will tell you this.
So I'm telling you now: Get 👏🏻 the fucking 👏🏻 kayak 👏🏻
When you get to Small Lagoon, you park HELLA FAR from the entrance. If you don't have a kayak (which you will because you're reading this), you're expected to swim there. And you'll want to actually see all of Small Lagoon, right? You won't be able to see nearly as much if you don't have the stupid kayak. It's just too big. Even though it's called Small Lagoon.
Then there's Big Lagoon. It's actually really, really big. You know where I'm going with this so just get the damn kayak.
Luckily for us, we were able to rent one last minute, though they had a hard time finding one for us. Save yourself the trouble and do it in advance.
Also, force yourself to be on vacation in Palawan. The internet connection is not even 1 MB down a lot of the time. Hotels will tell you that they have wi-fi, but if it's not a blatant lie, the connection is bad anyway.
And you definitely don't need to stay in Palawan for three weeks. Stay for one or two weeks tops.
Don't bring so many pairs of pants
It's way too hot, and you're going to hate your life. The mosquitos are going to bite you anyway. They're evil and don't care if you have pants on or not. Next time, just bring two or three pairs of pants and invest in a large can of bug spray.
Look up more. You'll love it.
Stop looking at your feet while you walk. Forget about that gross stagnant water you stepped in in El Nido. It happened once. Honestly, sometimes those things happen — so cross that bridge if you get there.
It's so easy to get caught up in your routine back home, but you're not at home. You haven't been home for a long time. Enjoy it.
Enjoy the Makati skyline, it's gorgeous during sunset. Smile at people you pass, Filipinos (mostly!) smile back. Stop by the little mom-and-pop bakery you keep walking by. The Philippines is crazy, hectic, and amazing all at once. There will always be something you like and dislike about literally everything. It just comes with the territory of traveling. Embrace it!
You won't always be 20-years old with absolutely no obligations except to go wherever in the world you want to go next.
And honestly, if you don't watch where you're going, you might get hit by a car anyway 🙈