Surface area : 115831.0 km2
Population : 91983000 inhabitants
You can find a great selection of local handicrafts almost anywhere; from the local markets to the huge shopping malls - and there are many of those, the Filipinos love their shopping malls. In fact the SM Mall of Asia in Manila is the biggest in all of Asia.
The souvenirs to buy are jewellery and accessories made from mother of pearl and shell; woven items such as baskets and handbags; wooden carvings like those from the Ifugao and Mountain provinces; and even the Barong Tagalog, the embroidered national shirt made from pineapple fibre, worn at celebrations and special occasions.
Most shops are open from 10:00am - 8:00pm.
Fusing Malaysian, Chinese and Spanish influences, Filipino cuisine is varied and very tasty. Lots of rice, naturally, but also pork, chicken and fish such as the delectable tilapia, served with soy or calamansi (similar to lime) based sauces. The national dish is abodo, often pork or chicken served with a slightly spicy garlic, soy and vinegar sauce. Lechon meanwhile, (suckling roast pig), is usually eaten at large celebrations or fiestas. On the streets, you can pick up snacks such as chicken skewers, grilled banana, lumpia (spring rolls) or bagoong, a shrimp or fish paste eaten with green mango. You will also find a great variety of succulent fruit: pineapple, watermelon, paw paw, coconut, different varieties of banana and some of the juiciest mangoes you'll ever lay your hands on!
The Filipinos are very attached to family values, marriage and clan spirit. Courteous and profoundly respectful, they hate disagreement and conflict situations. More than often, if they have to refuse something, instead of pronouncing an explicit "no", they would rather use circumlocution. As for haggling, it is used on markets and with tricycle riders, but considered improper in shops.
You will need a minimum of three weeks if you really want to explore the archipelago, that is if you don't want to be rushed from island to island. Some interior connections are not always reliable (eg, bus and boat schedules can change) so it helps to be flexible; and to be flexible requires time!
The classic itinerary usually includes any of the following: north Luzon and the famous rice paddies in Banaue, the home of the (once headhunting) Ifuago tribe; the charming colonial town of Vigan, also in north Luzon; the divine beaches of Palawan, namely the archipelago of El Nido; the paradisiac party island of Boracay; the island of Bohol with its Tarsier-filled jungle and Chocolate Hills; and even Bicol's Mt Mayon (a perfectly shaped volcano) and whale shark excursions.
Then of course, there is Manila, the capital city which gets a bad rap but is actually full of interesting things to see and do if it's given a chance. While most people come to the Philippines to see the beauty of its islands and beaches, Manila is colourful, full of life and deserving of a few days on your itinerary.
And finally probably the most practical tips we can give you: Filipinos love their air conditioning, so when you take the local buses between cities always carry an extra warmth layer. A roll of toilet paper wouldn't go astray either as you won't see any in the public toilets outside of the larger hotels.
The Fort Ilocandia Resort is built around a private residence ...