“Is it even possible to visit the Philippines right now? Hasn’t the hurricane leveled everything?”
This is a common question following the aftermath and extreme devastation of hurricane Haiyan, which claimed over 5000 lives and left a wake of destruction in its path. Just about everything I read about it made it seem like such a massive disaster that the entire country was affected.
But how can that be when there are over 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines, spanning over 115,831 square miles?
The reality is, the vast majority of the country was untouched by the typhoon.
Meaning there’s tons to see, experience, taste, smell, and swim through in this gorgeous country. So, yes, now is still a great time to visit the Philippines.
“But I can’t imagine laying on a beach when people are suffering,” a friend said to me.
There’s no denying the difficulty that many people in the Philippines have endured as a result of this natural disaster, and I certainly don’t mean to make light of it in the least. That said, there’s every reason to visit the Philippines now, and more than ever, as revenues from tourism is a crucial part of the economy.
Where I went:
My flight initially landed in Cebu, where I fully expected to see evidence of the hurricane. It turns out that the north of the island was impacted the most, which is an area I never made it to. South, however, in Moalboal, there was no evidence of any hurricane-related issues. I was actually surprised to find the accommodation in the area almost fully booked!
This was rare throughout the rest of the Philippines, however, where there is less chance of dive master trainees booking up rooms for a full month.
Then there was Bohol, which has had its fair share of natural disasters, dealing with an earthquake in October as well. One of the employees at the guest house I stayed at in Bohol told me that normally they’d be fully booked that time of year (right before Christmas), but post-earthquake, all of the reservations had been cancelled.
The evidence of destruction was visible from time to time, but power is back, water is running again, and aside from some quite unfortunate damage to churches and what used to be the highest point on the island at the lookout point at the chocolate hills, tourist infrastructure is relatively untouched.
From there I headed to Camiguin and Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao which suffered no damage, but still had the occasional power outage.
From there I just had to check out Boracay for New Years Eve, where there was no damage and tourist infrastructure is doing just fine. Perhaps a little too fine as seen by the McDonald’s and Starbucks. That said I did really enjoy my time there and was even able to find some almost-private beaches just a boat ride away.
I had also heard that the hurricane destroyed Apo reef near Coron, which was my last stop. Apart from a limited area that did suffer some damage, the diving there is still incredible and the reefs are still beautiful. Besides, 40 meters down, the impact is going to be minimal.
Coron, however, definitely experienced some destruction. The area I stayed in clearly had been almost blown away.
That said, each day they were rebuilding, welcoming tourism and moving forward.
The best thing we can do as tourists is let them do exactly that – move forward, and help them to do so with our tourism dollars and helping hands where needed.