(Col’s play on the country tourism’s slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines!”)

Here’s a quick summary of my observations and experiences in the country:

– Thrift shopping is just as good as the US. Even small small towns have discount stores that sell loads of clothes from Korea, Japan, Europe, and the US. My guess is that these are donations for disaster victims. Really good selection of winter clothes that locals don’t care much about. Col scored a brand new Ralph Lauren X snowboarding pants for $5. We checked online and it’s sold between $400-$600! I didn’t find any sweet deal like that, but still got a few coats and jackets for $1-2/piece.

– Everyone addresses you as Sir/Ma’am. Store clerks, jeepney drivers, hotel owners… It weirded me out and made me feel so impolite. I adopted it after a week.

– Lots of young mothers.

– They have great customer service. We walked into the trendy SM mall in Cebu dressed like hobos and all the sales people smiled at us and were so helpful and polite. Try that in Vietnam, they would give you death stares.

– So so many beer-bellied 60 years old bald guys walking around holding hands with their tanned 20-something Filipina gfs/wives. These white men like to acknowledge Col while completely ignoring me.

– Everyone thought I was Filipina and talked with me in Tagalog/Cebuano. My favorite phrase of the trip was “I’m not Filipina.”

– Accommodations are way expensive. Compared to Vietnam, you pay twice the price for half the value. $7 gets you a cockroach cave; $12 gets you an icky room with thinned-out saggy mattresses in a shabby building that 110lbs me had no problem shaking by simply stepping heavily; $22 gets you a somewhat decent room with or without hot shower.

– Infrastructure is lacking. Housing is so basic. If Vietnam is a 5 out of 10, the Philippines is a 1.5 or at most a 2. Electricity and pipe water aren’t a guarantee. Few businesses have decent wifi.

– It’s shocking how random kids on the street (not beggars) would shout out “Give me money” in complete seriousness as we walk by.

– Hustlers and fixers are much more relaxed. The positive: they’re less pushy. The negative: they’re less open to negotiating and making a deal.

– People don’t read much. Newspaper wasn’t a common sight.

– Lots of information is available in English. 80% of the news channel, 85% of the signs (notices, advertisements, etc.)

– They party. Even in small towns, you have no problem finding resto-bars with entertainment that are open till 2a.m. They usually have live music for weekend nights.

– Palawan is the best!