Good night life
Outside of the Makati district in Manila, everything in the whole country is bargain-basement cheap. A hotel room in the provinces will run you 5 to 10 bucks. The cheapest room I ever paid for was 2 bucks a night in a guesthouse.
Food is awesome, better than Taiwanese as it’s mostly local not imported (which means fresher). Just throw a dart on a menu and dig in.
Great beaches and snorkeling are literally everywhere, with one exception: avoid the Greater Manila Area, it’s a polluted garbage heap. In fact, just try to avoid Manila as much as possible - it’s a dangerous, crime-ridden, polluted eyesore. If you have to spend a night there because of your flight, that’s unavoidable, but get out to the provinces as soon as you can. The Lingayen Gulf has the 100 Islands, which are a must-see. Palawan is a remote province with some amazing unspoiled underwater scenery. Almost any island in the Visayas would be an ideal beach bum paradise. Really, it’s like throwing a dart on a map - there’s little industry in the PI, so the beaches are almost all clean and unspoiled. The only place I would avoid would be western Mindanao, because of the terrorist situation. Do not go there! Also, be very careful treading in the hills of interior Luzon - there are still some active Communist guerillas around and about.
Good shopping? Well, on that day in Manila, investigate the open-air markets. The Baclaran Market or the one in Chinatown, both are good stops for cheap clothes and stuff. There are quite a few malls dotted around Manila, as well. Out in the provinces, the pickings are pretty slim. The PI isn’t exactly a shopper’s paradise, most of the people are too poor.
Good night life? Err…well, if you’re into “night life” similar to downtown Bangkok when the sailors pull into port, you won’t need to look for it, it will come to you - the touts will annoy you to no end as you’re walking down the street. But, if you’re looking for something more wholesome, there are plenty of nightclubs and danceclubs around the tourist belt in Manila (Malate/Ermita). Around the big circle at the end of Malate there are several decent clubs to go dancing and listen to live music. Also, Makati is the upscale neighborhood of Manila and there are quite a few places to go - head to the Glorietta Mall in the center of Makati, there are a bunch of clubs around that area. That’s about as adventurous as I got because like I said Manila can be a very dangerous place for a gringo to be hopping about at night. In the provinces the night life is a lot more relaxed but in every village there’s at least one joint with a jukebox where you can grab a cold San Miguel and bust out on the karoake machine. Filipino life is a lot more socially active than Taiwanese, so the small towns aren’t as totally dead as the comatose Taiwan small towns.
Some good places to see:
- Baguio (high up in the moutains; the famous rice terraces are in the same province)
- 100 Islands
- Cebu (the Chocolate Hills are on the next island over, as well)
- Pasingan (spell? - it’s the lush jungle lake where they shot Apocalypse Now)