It's a pity that Manila is often disparaged, as there's much here to like. For one, all the adjectives often used to describe the Philippines - jovial, laid back, casual, corrupt, shambolic, earnest and more are on display here more than anywhere else in the country.
The Western Visayas
Generalisations fall short when describing this vast region of misty mountains, sprawling plains and endless coastline, whose population is as diverse and unique as the landscape. The central mountain range known as the Cordillera is the region's trophy piece, with lush green forests blanketing vast areas of gloriously crooked earth.
Mindanao & Sulu
Mention Mindanao to most Filipinos not living in this island province and you will see a look of mild befuddlement which quickly turns to genuine surprise when foreigners say they want to travel there.
Cebu is the hub around which the Visayas revolves. It is the most densely populated island in the Philippines and is second only to Luzon in its strategic and economic importance to the country. Its language, Cebuano, is widely spoken throughout the Visayas and parts of Mindanao, and its capital, Cebu City, is a magnet for migrants from all over the region.
Even though Panay is a microcosm of everything the Visayas has to offer, the long white-sand beach at Boracay is all that many visitors to the region, or for that matter the country, ever see.
Nothing defines Palawan more than the water around it. With seascapes the equal of any in Southeast Asia, and wildlife terrestrial and aquatic, the Philippines’ most sparsely populated region is also the most beguiling. Because of its silhouette – a long sliver stretching 650km all the way to Borneo – there’s a certain liberating logic to travel here.
The diverse, ruggedly beautiful island of Negros is a place we'd unhesitatingly recommend to any traveller. Wedged between Panay and Cebu, it's treated by too many as a mere stepping stone. Surprisingly few stop to refuel in the charming (yes, you heard right) campus town of Dumaguete, or to enjoy its surrounding dive resorts.
To many travellers, North Luzon simply is the Cordillera, with everything else fading into insignificance. These spiny mountains, which top out at 2900m, are beloved, worshipped and feared in equal doses by those who witness them and those who live among them.
As far as most visitors are concerned, Cebu City is Manila minus the mayhem. Its traffic is chaotic, but not insane. Its size and layout can actually be understood, rather than merely endured. And - sigh - hardly any of the taxi drivers here are employed by Satan.
City of Manila (Downtown)
The southern Luzon peninsula of Bicol is home to two of the Philippines' emblematic tourist attractions: the whale sharks of Donsol and the regal - and deadly - Mt Mayon volcano. But the outdoor action hardly stops there. Bicol is home to no less than 22 volcanos, all of which can be climbed.
Like an ambitious and beautiful pageant winner unwilling to relinquish her crown, Boracay primps and preens year after year, going through its own version of cosmetic surgery in the off-season in order to maintain its crown as the trophy beach of the Philippines.