Before visiting, I read the travel advisory for the Philippines. It advised that I should visit with caution. I heard awful things about people stealing mobile phones while riding in a jeepney or pulling earrings straight out of passenger’s ears while they were waiting at a red light in a tricycle. But still, I was drawn to this country in a way that I can’t really put into words. I wanted to visit the Philippines more than any other country in the world, to be quite honest.
And I’m glad that I took the chance because what I found was quite the opposite of what I read. I met some of the kindest and most beautiful people while visiting the Philippines. The kindness of strangers was evident in small towns and large cities. I never felt so welcomed and respected in any other country in the way that I did in the Philippines.
The Kindness of Strangers
After arriving in Legazpi, I found that there wasn’t much to do when Mount Mayon was hiding behind a curtain of clouds. I rode around in a Jeepney to pass time before stopping to take pictures of an old church. I wandered around to find lunch and to get a massage before deciding that I most definitely wanted to get fake eyelashes.
I asked the massage shop where I could go. They directed me to the main shopping mall of the city. I walked into a few beauty shops with no luck before stumbling into a hair salon. The woman behind the counter directed me to an address, but I had no idea where she was telling me to go. I walked off thinking that I would cut my losses short.
After going back and forth in my own stubborn mind, I decided to go back to the hair salon that gave me an address because the woman behind the counter spoke English very well. I thought I would ask her for more specific directions. After asking, she offered to walk with me to the shop. We walked to that shop, but it was closed. We walked to another shop, but it was no longer there.
I thought to myself, I guess that’s it, but Toni wasn’t so easy to give up. She hopped into a tricycle with me to take me to another hair shop about ten minutes away where she knew they had fake eyelashes. After refusing to let me pay for the tricycle, she stayed with me for the entire hour while they added each fake eyelash individually.
Over the course of an hour, we chatted about her cooking career and her lovely family. I told her about my life living in China and traveling through Asia. I even told her about my phobia of getting my hair cut by someone new (which meant that it had been nearly a year since my last haircut). She told me to come back to her hair salon and she would have her most experienced stylist cut my hair.
I was hesitant, but after all of her kindness, I thought she wouldn’t steer me in the wrong direction. And she didn’t, the stylist cut my hair perfectly and wouldn’t accept any money from me. She then took me out to dinner with her and her partner where she, again, would not take my money. Then her and her partner drove me back to my hostel (which was quite an adventure as I couldn’t remember where I was staying).
Over the course of the next five days, we had more meals together, I met her gorgeous little boy, she bought me peanuts that were a speciality of the city, she convinced me to try balut, she showed me her family’s beautiful home, she introduced me to halo halo, and she drove me to the airport on my last day in Legazpi.
She truly showed me the kindness of a stranger. While writing this, I have goosebumps on my arms and I feel tears of happiness in my eyes. Such a beautiful person!
But that wasn’t my only story about the kindness of a stranger in the Philippines.
On my ferry journey to Bohol, I met two women (a mother and daughter) who chatted with me while we waited for the ferry. On the ferry, I was the only foreigner (today and, from what I understood, in a long time) so all of the local boys wanted to sit near me and talk with me. At the end of the ferry ride, the two women asked where I was going and told me that one of the older men who listened to our conversation offered to give me a ride to the city center (an hour away) with the two women for free.
In Bohol, I met a family of sixteen who invited me on their day trip to tour the island with them. We saw a beautiful old Spanish church, shared lunch on a river boat, showed me how to dance like a local, took me the Chocolate Hills, visited the tarsiers, and invited me to have dinner with them. They treated me like an extended part of their family the entire day. I felt so special!
On the same island, the owner of Bohol Coco Farm and Palwa Restaurant offered me a free dinner all made with ingredients from her farm (meat and vegetables) along with a tour of the beautiful farm. While chatting with her, I mentioned how the mosquitos were biting me up on the island, at which point she offered me her own natural remedy for mosquitos but wouldn’t accept any money.
In Coron, I met two woman while hiking to the top of the island. They talked to me about why I was traveling alone. I explained that I had spent nine months teaching English in China and that I was traveling through the rest of Asia for five months before returning to the USA. After chatting for a bit, they invited me to share their tricycle to the hot springs to relax after hiking – a popular itinerary in Coron. After spending time at the hot springs, they insisted on taking me to dinner. In the same city, another family that I spent time with on a day tour invited me and two others to dinner.
After chatting at a smoothie shop in Manila, a couple walked around the entire shopping center trying to help me find ear plugs to muffle out the sound of the other travelers in my hostel room and the music at the bar across the street. Even though we weren’t successful, they were still happy to help me and chat with me along the way.
During my three week visit to the Philippines, I experienced more kindness from strangers than I experienced in my other twelve months living in Asia.
What do you think?
Have you ever visited the Philippines or any other country and experienced the kindness of strangers?