The Philippines is one of the most extraordinary countries I ever visited. It has many islands and some beautiful landscapes. It also has some extreme poverty – the worst I have seen in South-East Asia.
The Philippines has a majority Roman Catholic population and boasts some amazing churches. I travelled the country just before Christmas. I’ve never seen anyone celebrate this important Christian festival as much as the Philippines do.
If you only have limited time, the best way to travel in the Philippines is by plane. Travelling by road or boat is an intense experience, but takes forever. My first stop was the capital Manila, a city of rich and poor, with some crazy traffic. A trip that should take 30 minutes will take you three hours during rush hour, which seems to last most of the day. I spent a couple of days in Manila before travelling to Legazip city to see the amazing Majestic Volcano – a place that had been highly recommended by Manilans.
I then took a flight to Laog city, in the far north of the country. Here, I photographed a Christmas parade. I then travelled for three hours by rickshaw to a nearby small town surrounded by rice fields. I had been told that the landscapes were incredible. I was not disappointed.
The following day, I travelled for 12 hours by coach to Vagan city. It is well known for its cobbled streets. After spending two days in this exhilarating place, I travelled for 24 hours by bus to the Banause rice Terrace. Here, I did plenty of hiking and met and photographed some wonderful local people.
I then took a bus back to Manila. Unfortunately, I was coming down with a bug and wasn’t feeling too well. Still I was determined to visit the Smokey Mountain slum, one of the largest landfill slums in the country.