My wife, my youngest son and I, are on holidays in El Nido, Philippines. Based on what I have seen so far, I don’t understand this country’s absence from the top tourist destination lists. El Nido is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to and that includes comparisons with the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Polynesia. It is also the most affordable.

It´s not that I don´t see the negatives. The Philippines is very close to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore well developed countries. But, in terms of poverty and inequality, it is more similar to Mexico, Venezuela or Centra America, other ex Spanish colonies, than Asia. The social landscape in Manila, can be depressing: children begging in the streets and extremely impoverished neighborhoods. The Philippines shares the negative consequences of Spanish colonization: unsustainable population growth related to the absurd opposition of the Catholic Church to the use of contraceptives and a high level of corruption typical of all Latin America. Now while these negatives make Phillipines a so so country to live in they do not affect it as a tourist destination.

If you are here on vacation, Pilipinos like many Latin Americans, love to party and they are the most fun in Asia. And once you leave the polluted city of Manila where the only fun thing to do is to shop, you make it to the most undeveloped and beautiful beaches I have seen anywhere in the world. Here are some testimonials.

Right now we are at “El Nido”. This is a wonderful place. Better than over rated Bora Bora in French Polynesia – where I spent my honeymoon – and it costs a third! Its beaches remind me of those in the Thailand but much less crowded. Besides El Nido, there are plenty of other options for the more budget travelers. We ran into a Greek couple who was spending 20 days flying all over the Phillipines for 1000 euros local air travel included (Athens/Manila/Athens was 700 euros).

I was also thinking that this is also a good place to consider if you are thinking about working for an NGO or simply taking a year off on a budget. The Philippines is one of the countries most in need of aid in the world and they are open and welcoming. There are many different development opportunities and challenges for improving the quality of life of its people.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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