Hungarians can spend 30 days in the Philippines without a visa. Visitor numbers are consequently hard to come by. The numbers certainly aren’t high, and the South-East Asian nation wants more Hungarians to see its treasures. It may not be quite as far as it looks on the map.
“Tropical paradise” is one of travel’s threadbare phrases but, let’s face it: if you’re near the equator and the weather forecast is invariably “hot”, “sunny” or “rainy” and you’ve got thousands of kilometres of pristine white-sand beaches with clear sea and coral on one side and palm trees on the other, it’s a description that fits.
Philippines Ambassador to Hungary Eleanor L. Jaucian told a gathering of travel professionals in the embassy in Budapest recently that the country is very unique in Asia. Having been under Spain for more than 300 years, it has Christian and democratic values. Ambassador Jaucian said there are no taboos in this very open, freedom-loving and cosmopolitan society. There had been ups and downs through the years but economic growth is currently more than 7% despite natural calamities. Go and see for yourself, she urged.
A representative from the Philippine Department of Tourism office in Frankfurt said the country is a mixture of West and East, and thus has a Western mind, Latin heart and Asian soul. The people are very friendly and warm. The world has shrunk and air services have brought the Philippines closer.
“Mabuhay” is Filipinos’ way of greeting, she said: “buhay” meaning “life” and “mabuhay” meaning “to life”. They love life, they love friends and “mabuhay” encapsulates this.
There is one number that constantly comes up concerning the Philippines: 7,107. This is the number of islands in the country, giving it 36,289 kilometres of coastline, the fourth-longest in the world, which accounts for all those picture-postcard beaches.
Boracay island has a seven-kilometre stretch of sand that has seen it listed as one of the world’s top 10 beaches. For many people it is the classic Pacific island paradise, with an average water temperature of 28 Celsius.
Cebu island saw the first Catholic cross in Asia, planted by Portuguese explorer and navigator Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Cebu claims the best mangos in the world but some different countries do too.
Bohol island features 1,260 limestone hills called the “chocolate” hills because they go brown in summer. It claims to be the Philippines’ prime eco-tourism destination and is home to the tarsier, the world’s smallest monkey, measuring only about 85 to 160 millimetres.
Palawan island province has about 1,780 islands and islets, enough to let you have one of your own for a while. The nature is undisturbed, the resorts are on stilts and pearls are high quality.
The Philippines has 518 of 600 known species of coral and 3,000 species of fish.
Inland, there are the UNESCO-listed rice terraces, such as those in north Luzon, like a stairway to heaven. Intramuros, also called the Walled City, is the oldest district of the capital city Manila. Construction of the defensive walls was started by the Spanish colonial government in the late 16th century to protect the city from foreign invasions.
Manila is famous for its “Jeepneys”, which were left by the Americans after the Second World War and converted into colourful passenger vehicles by the Filipinos.
Qatar Airways flies there daily via Doha to Manila and Clark International. These two airports are 60 kilometres apart and you can fly into one and out of the other, if desired. Budapest to Doha is about five hours and Doha to the Philippines about nine hours, with connection time in between.