Welcome to the Philippines
The Republic of the Philippines in the western Pacific consists of 7,107 islands, making it a sun-worshiper’s paradise. To the north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan, to the west across the South China Sea is Vietnam, to the southwest across the Sulu Sea the island of Borneo, to the south separated by the Celebes Sea the islands of Indonesia, and to the east the Philippine Sea and Palau.
The Philippines is a stark contrast to mainland Southeast Asia, geographically as well as culturally. The country’s overwhelmingly Catholic population, exuberant festivals, Spanish- colonial architecture and centuries-old stone churches are all vestiges of 350 years of Spanish rule. Following the Spanish, the Americans left their mark with mega-malls, fast-food chains and widespread spoken English. Through it all, the country has preserved its unique Filipino identity – warm and welcoming, and irresistibly upbeat.
Awarded the ‘Best Island in the World” title at the 2016 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, tiny Boracay 315km south of Manila is no longer just the Philippines’ top draw, but one of the world’s. Only 7km long and 500m wide, the island is small enough to explore on a rented bicycle or motorbike. Despite its size, however, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to beaches.
Most visitors usually head straight for White Beach, a 4km, postcard-perfect stretch of sand that, while crowded, offers outrigger sailboats and colourful parasails for hire, spectacular sunsets, live music, fire-dancers and partying. For a break from the action, head north to Diniwid Beach for the tranquility, or east to Bulabog Beach for the watersports, or secluded Balinghai Beach for the romance. Boracay is a place where you can find whatever you want if you know where to look – and those who feel like simply flopping down into a beanbag chair on the beach with a pineapple sling will never be bored by the spectacle of it all.