5 Philippine trips to date.
by RJ Smith
(Vancouver, WA, USA)
My wife is a Filipina, we frequently travel to her home, in the provinces (Asingan).
We arrive after 18 hrs of flights from the west coast USA. We meet with family that have arranged to rent an air-conditioned minivan, referred to locally as an "aircon van". The price ranges from $100 (11 years ago) - $250 USD on the most resent trip.
Once home we make the most of our local activity's on tricycle unless more than four of us wish to travel in which case we hop on the jeepney or hire one for the day for family use.
Visitors should understand that the trikes frequently carry as many as 5 Filipinos and I have personally seen one on the freeway in which I could count 14 heads including the driver and the 2 people sitting on the handlebars. Simply put, don't do it! Corruption varies by the officer and area, and what is ok by one officer could be ticketed by the very next officer, personal experience.
I advise a local guide for the average person, preferably one vouched for by someone you know.
The northern part of the islands are by far safer than the southern, Muslim contested areas. There are many touristy area's including the former US military bases which are now economic zones for the Philippines.
I would however suggest taking in some of the less touristy areas and just get out there and see how they live. The entire country is covered with interesting landmarks and cultural attractions. An example was a suspension bridge out in the middle of nowhere. It turned out that my father-in-law was one of the military officer's in charge of its defense during construction. The gov had hoped to further develop the area but rebel activity levels changed their minds and sent the development further inland. The story's that each of the family members were able to tell me about the area while they were there were intriguing to say the least.