You want to study abroad in Asia but can’t decide on a destination. So you pull up lists of programs on GoAbroad.com and browse through each listing, looking for that one factor that makes you say, “that’s it!” While many students settle on common Asian destinations such as China and Japan, there are a few who choose to study abroad in the Philippines. Take a closer look at the reasons why this archipelago of 7,107 islands lures travelers like moths to a flame.
Amazing cultural experiences are found on every island in the Philippines. Photo by Ian Delgado
Most Locals Speak English. It’s far easier to find your way around a country where everyone knows how to communicate in your native tongue, compared to places where the locals have problems translating every word you say. With English as the language of commerce, education, and travel in the Philippines, it’s an easy country to navigate. In fact, many parents in other Asian countries send their children to the Philippines to study English.
English is one of two official languages of the Philippines; the other is Tagalog/ Filipino. Besides these, hundreds of dialects are spoken throughout the country. It’s always helpful to learn some words and phrases in the local language, as knowledge of English gets more spotty in the rural locations. Which language is spoken depends on exactly where you’re studying in the Philippines. But it’s a safe bet that when you get to the Philippines for study abroad, you can stow that English-Filipino dictionary, and converse naturally.
Legendary Filipino Hospitality. A lot has been said of the Philippine people’s hospitality. The comfort of visitors or guests is top priority, so much so that they are often given the best room in a house (if they are staying over) or the best seat at the dining table. Filipinos usually go out of their way to make sure their guests are comfortable even when out of their homes.
Visitors are often invited to partake of meals even if there is very little food on the table, and they get the best portions or are asked to help themselves before everybody else. When you visit a house during meal time, you are automatically asked to take a seat and eat with the family. Even when Filipino families have very little to spare, they make sure their guests receive the best food and the best amenities.
Remember to allow some space in your baggage as Filipinos are fond of giving gifts to departing guests. These gifts, called pasalubong, range from simple trinkets like native bracelets and necklaces, to local delicacies (often sweets).
Filipinos are probably the jolliest people you will ever meet. One explanation for the Filipinos' penchant for always finding something to smile about is their close family ties, a great support system in times of trouble.
If you ask your host the question, “Why do you always look happy?" you will most probably receive this answer: “Filipinos have so many problems that should make us sad. But there is no sense in frowning all day. So we smile in the face of our problems, and in doing so put a smile on the faces of other people.”
More Fun In The Philippines. With more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines has hundreds of attractions scattered around the country. Want to check out tarsiers, one of the smallest primates in the world? Go to Bohol, an island province south of Manila. Want to bask on the baby-powder sand at one of the most stunning tropical beaches in the world? Head over to Boracay Island in central Philippines. Want the opportunity to see a lake within a volcano within a lake within a volcano? Drive over to Taal, about an hour from the capital city, and take photos of Taal Volcano.
More Bang For Your Buck. The extremely favorable exchange rate to U.S. dollars means a student’s daily allowance simply lasts longer while studying abroad in the Philippines. Expenses like restaurants, manicures, and massages, which are luxuries for students in the States, cost just a few dollars in the Philippines.
There are probably a hundred other reasons why the Philippines is a great study-abroad destination. It’s the only country where you can, and probably will, echo the words of U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur when he visited the island nation in WWII: “I shall return.”