As the beautiful waters surrounding the 7,000 islands of the Philippines and the energy of the country’s vibrant capital gain greater international recognition as destinations worth the journey, the country better known for maids than moguls is making a statement this year, which has been declared Visit the Philippines Year by a national tourist board intent on increasing awareness of the Philippines on the global stage.

The campaign seems to be paying off; with a notable increase in destinations and frequencies to Manila, the principal port of entry for visitors to the country, adding to the efforts of the tourist board, the number of visitors is on the rise. True to our reputation for global exploration, Australians are already there, now ranking among the top five nationalities for inbound travellers to the Philippines.

It may seem that, until now, the Philippines has been the forgotten country among East Asian holiday destinations, but the country’s unusual history makes it a unique place to visit. With three centuries of Spanish rule followed by three decades of American administration, the multiple layers of contemporary Filipino culture make this one of Asia’s more interesting destinations.

The concentration of cultural highlights in Manila is impressive, but most visitors to the Philippines come to enjoy the exceptional beauty of the country’s outer islands where the colours of the sea are at their most resplendent. One legacy of the American period is the excellent English spoken by the great majority of the population; as in India, where English serves as a linguistic unifier among various subcultures with their own languages, the Philippines’ many distinct cultural groups, spread out as they are over thousands of square kilometres of ocean, use English in a similar manner. What already existed before the arrival of either the Spanish or the Americans was the extraordinarily warm hospitality of the Filipino people, who see visitors to their country as honoured guests to be welcomed with utmost respect and graciousness.

Back when the world was a simpler place and constant connectivity was still many years in the future, certain isolated places (isolated in the literal sense that they were islands) became the ultimate getaways for dropping out of sight for a week or a year.

Though other islands in the country have grown in international reputation as new resorts catering to sophisticated travellers have opened in recent years, Boracay remains the quintessential Filipino destination where collective enjoyment of a good time is had along the famous White Beach, a strip of powdery white sand that first attracted bohemian visitors in the 1960s and 70s and remains high on many lists of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Like fellow Asian (former) hippie destinations such as Goa and Bali, Boracay has moved up in the world, now attracting a more elite range of travellers accustomed to the best in accommodation, dining, and recreation in beautiful surroundings.

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