1) Learn the local lingo. Almost everybody in the Phils speak some sort of local dialect of English. Nobody expects you to grind through learning the (vastly different from region to region) native languages here, but learn the local’s take on English at least. You will be duly rewarded for it in ways you didn’t even think possible. Showing a little respect at this level goes a long long way into making your vacation experience an exemplary one.
2) Don’t be afraid to try the local cuisine. Filipino cuisine is highly highly underrated stuff. Don’t just take my word for it
that’s all you should need to be convinced of its total awesomeness. You will find tons of non Filipinos praising the cuisine, and that’s how you know you have stumbled onto greatness here. Especially try adobo, balut, and dinaguan.
3) Pick up one of these travel packages to the Philippines and don’t try to re-invent the wheel all by yourself. There are people who can do it cheaper than you, but don’t sweat it. The Phillipines is a difficult country to navigate for the firs time, in every sense of the word, from the visa process to getting around etc. Especially, the first time around, you want the help and the experience of a local agency. It’s more than worth the money, it will save you money!
4) Don’t just stay in Manila. The Philippines islands are vast and super diverse, much more than you may have thought. Climb a mountain, like Mount Apo for example. Visit the archipelago and go diving for the wrecks of WWII naval vessels. Talk to the local agency you have a relationship with since you took the advice in #3. They are a valuable resource. The more off the beaten path you go in this country the better a time you will have.
5) Don’t be in a rush. Manila especially may be a stressful and chaotic place for the locals (see #4), but even if you are in Manila for whatever reason, plan things loosely. Count on lots of traffic in that case, and just slow down. Things don’t happen on a very rigid schedules here, and that’s the way most of the locals like it. Which brings us straight into….
6) Don’t try to change the country. You are a guest here, remember. Many people can feel frustrated about this or that thing that they took for granted back home but is deficient or lacking here. Try to focus on the positives, and be realistic with your expectations of what you want out of the place. Keep in mind also that you don’t come from paradise. Don’t fall into the trap of being that smug arrogant foreigner who thinks he knows everything about the country he or she is visiting as a tourist. Also keep in mind that it’s not your fight. See above. Tourists are guests.
7) Wear sunscreen. Bring it with you at all times, unless it’s night time. That’s the only time you won’t need it. At all other times, religiously apply it over all exposed parts every hour or two, and after lots of sweat. ing (easy to do in that weather), or after swimming. Try not to be in the water between 11am-2pm, as a matter of fact. This is no joke. Take this advice doubly seriously if you are coming from a high latitude, anything over say 35 degrees away from the equator (most of the continental USA, almost all of continental Europe). If you’ve never experienced the sun at lower latitudes, you can’t imagine what it’s like, and the risk of damaging yourself is real. Consider a hat and even long sleeves if you are going to be out in the day for extended periods of time.
8) Remember the siesta. Plan around it. In the whole country, from 12:00 to 1:30 or so in the PM, everything shuts down for the siesta. You should too. You should be resting under the shade. This ties in nicely with #6 and 7. Siestas are actually good and bring many health benefits. This is a big case of being in Rome and doing as the Romans do working out in your favor.
9) Don’t complain. And really, as someone who can afford to go all the way to the Phillipines and enjoy themselves, you have very little to complain about! The locals have every right to complain. You don’t. Especially, don’t complain about the Manila traffic, unless you actually have to be the one that drives in it. Then you have the right to complain a little.
10) Enjoy the people. The Phillipines ultimately is a country rich in human capital. Get to know the locals; make it an essential part of your bucket list of things to do while you are in the Phillpines. Even if you know a thousand Filipinos in your home town, there’s nothing like seeing people where they actually come from in their own environment to get a true sense of them. And you will come away amazed.