Being transferred to the United States by my parents at age 3, I grew up only hearing the romanticized stories about my native country, the Philippines. I heard countless tales of the richness of the culture, the hospitality of the people, and the incredible landscape. As a resident of the USA for 33 consecutive years, I wanted to discover whether or not all those stories about the Philippines had any validity. Regardless of destination, traveling to other places usually ‘grounds’ a person & helps them appreciate what they have, that before the trip, they would normally have taken for granted.
In addition to bringing the usual tourist necessities like a camera, your passport, sunglasses, money, etc., below are few items for your backpack that you can’t go without when traveling to the local sites in the Philippines. Because comfort is important to me, the items listed here just helped me feel more at ease as we toured the local sites for an extended period of time.
Backpack Item #1 – The Backpack Itself
Bring a handbag or backpack with you as you visit the local sites in the Philippines. Be sure it sits firmly on your shoulders to preserve your back. Keep your important things like your wallet, ID, money and hotel key in a pocket inside the backpack itself versus storing them in an outer pocket so as not to tempt any would-be pickpocketers. The backpack also allows you to carry any souvenirs that may have purchased along the way.
Backpack Item #2 – Toilet paper (TP)
If you are the person with a big bladder that can hold “it” for a long time or can control your bowels at the snap of a finger, then disregard this item. Otherwise, pack yourself some toilet paper. Estimate how much you will use on your trip depending how often you typically go to the restroom. Our trip to the Philippines was a family vacation, so as mother, I was designated the official carrier and brought an entire roll.
What I found strange was that In the majority of the public restrooms there is no toilet paper holder. It’s absence is not due to the fact that it fell off the stall’s wall, nor that someone may have accidentally broke it; but because of the plain fact that it was never installed. Apparently, the owner’s of the bathrooms do not find value in providing TP for their customers. I was told by relatives that toilet paper is like gold; whenever, businesses left TP as a courtesy, the TP would disappear being taken by opportunists looking for a freebie. Thus, creating an added expense/loss for the owner of the establishment. Basically, TP became a ‘cost’ that had to be eliminated.
On top of TP, you may want to add portable seat-covers and hand soap to your backpack. Those items are frequently not found in a typical public restroom in the Philippines probably because they were also items worth taking too.
Backpack Item #3 – Foldable Fan
The climate in the Philippines is tropical because of it’s geographical orientation. It is warm and humid with occasional rains as a common occurrence. You will be glad you brought a foldable fan with you especially if you are utilizing public transportation. It will help keep you cool, thin the thickness of the humid air, and dissipate the fumes emitted from the exhausts of all the vehicles on the road from your breathing space.
Backpack Item #4 – Hand wipes
By bringing hand wipes or hand sanitizer, you have the convenience of being able to ‘wash’ your hands in the absence of soap and water. The hand wipes were great for keeping cool and wiping off perspiration. Avoid bringing a pump container for the hand sanitizer, otherwise, you risk having the gel getting smothered inside your backpack.
Backpack Item #5 – Bottled Water
The warm, tropical climate coupled with walking from place to place will make you thirsty. Keep yourself hydrated so you can increase your endurance and physical energy as you continue to visit the local attractions and shop for souvenirs.
Backpack Item #6 – Medications
Some medications to keep handy are anti-diarrheal medicine, anti-motion sickness pills, pain relievers and allergy pills. Nothing is worse than getting caught miles away, like being in a boat off the shore of Boracay, from these simple ‘fixes’ and have no other choice but to endure your ailment just because you didn’t bring your medications.
Backpack Item #7 – Bug Spray
I was told that the mosquitoes in the Philippines love to bite Americans – something about their blood tasting sweeter to the little critters? But I think it’s more attributable to the fact that the unsuspecting tourist may not have protected themselves with bug spray.
I loved my trip to the Philippines. And yes, ALL the childhood stories I heard were true: the Filipino culture is rich, the people are hospitable, and the landscape was incredible! I’m so glad I went to experience my native country and was able share that experience with my children who were only familiar with their own country, the USA, before the vacation. Despite being born in the USA, I hope I have instilled a desire in my children to continue to learn more about their ‘other” country, the Philippines.