Country Guide and Travel Tips: Philippines & the GK Farm

calle_crisologoCalle Crisologo Heritage Village – Source:

Republic of the Philippines

More than 7,000 islands make up the Philippines, but the bulk of its fast-growing population lives on just 11 of them.

Much of the country is mountainous and prone to earthquakes and eruptions from around 20 active volcanoes. It is often buffeted by typhoons and other storms.

The Philippines – a Spanish colony for more than three centuries and named after a 16th century Spanish king – was taken over by the US in the early 20th century after a protracted rebellion against rule from Madrid.

Spanish and US influences remain strong, especially in terms of language, religion and government. Self-rule in 1935 was followed by full independence in 1946 under a US-style constitution.

  • Capital: Manila
  • Population 96.5 million
  • Area 300,000 sq km (115,831 sq miles)
  • Major languages Filipino, English (both official)
  • Major religion Christianity
  • Life expectancy 66 years (men), 73 years (women)
  • Currency Philippine peso


The Philippines is blessed with a tropical climate that has relatively generous amount of rainfall and gentle winds. Basically, there are three noticeable seasons namely the wet and rainy season (June-October), the cool but dry season (November-February) and the hot and dry season (March-May).

When To Go?

The best time to make a trip to the Philippines is from the middle of December to the middle of May because that is off-season for typhoons. Any travelers to the country in December (Christmas) or April (Easter) are advised against traveling more than necessary as the entire country is on the move, making it difficult to get a seat on any type of transport. January, May and December are the best months to visit the Philippines if colorful celebrations and fiestas are on your list of ‘purpose for making the trip’.

What To Bring?

The golden rule of traveling is to bring as little of your belongings as possible. Fortunately, most of the things that you might require are easily available upon arrival in the Philippines. Apart from the basic traveling necessities and your own special personal needs, it is not necessary to bring anything else other than (perhaps) a travel plug adapter, a pocket calculator, a torchlight, an umbrella and photographic supplies. Medications can be found at drug stores in major cities. In the event that you are confronted with problems when finding the things that you need, the ever-helpful staff at any Tourist Information Center will advise you as to where you can acquire them.

What To Wear?

Like its wonderfully varied culture, the country also has enough climatic changes that would require a wide variety of clothing. It is advisable to bring light and loose clothing that are suitable for tropical temperatures when visiting the cities of Philippines. If you are planning to make a trip to the mountains or scale the odd volcano, do bring along warmer clothing such as jumpers (sweaters) and a light jacket, even on the hottest months. And also, do bring along your thongs or flip-flops as you might find it useful in hotel bathrooms, showers or when you visit the beach. Don’t forget to pack some of your formal clothing, as you might need it when you attend formal gatherings, festivals or religious services.

What to Expect at the Farm?

For information on what to expect at the GK Enchanted Farm, head to the Info pack prepared by MAD Travel. MAD Travel has also provided a list of Things to Pack . This will help in ensuring your trip is as comfortable and smooth as it can be. For instance, as you will be staying in shared dorm accommodation, consider bringing ear plugs or an eye mask  to make sleeping more comfortable.

The Info pack also contacts important information on the internet connection, photos of the accommodation, the type of food you’ll be eating as well as a glimpse of life inside and outside the farm. This forms mandatory reading as it will help prepare you for this experience.

Airport Tax

Travelers are requested to pay an airport tax of P500 when departing from Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport. If departing from Cebu City, the airport tax is P400, while in Davao, it is P220. Travelers are advised to check with their travel agents on this issue before departure as the fees are subject to change.


Unlike most Asian countries, the culture of tipping in the Philippines’ service industry is becoming more prevalent with much influence from western countries. Although, nearly all major hotels and restaurants have a policy of automatically adding a 10 percent service charge to your bills, a small token to show you gratitude is still expected in the form of a tip, leaving the amount for the tip to the customer’s own discretion. Apart from hotels and restaurants, other smaller service establishments as well as taxi drivers expect a small gratuity in return for the service rendered.

Business Hours

In Manila, most shops are open six days a week, from 9 or 10am to 7 or 10pm. As for shopping centers, supermarkets and departmental stores, the operating hours are from 10am to 7pm daily. Shops located outside of Manila don’t usually follow a fixed schedule or business hours due to shop owners’ attitude of ‘whatever happens’ (Bahala na).

Government, private offices and public authorities operate from Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm with workers breaking for lunch from 12pm to 1pm. Some private offices are also open on Saturdays from 8am to 12 noon. Business hours for banks are Monday-Friday from 9am to 3 or 3.30pm. Embassies or consulates are open to the public at 9am and close at 1pm. The opening hours of post offices in the Philippines differ from one place to another. Usually, post offices are open from 8am to 12 noon and from 1pm to 5pm on weekdays. And for those that operate on Saturdays, the business hours are from 8am to 1pm.


The standard voltage of electricity used by most business centers and residents in the Philippines is 220 volts AC, 60 cycles. However, quite a few major hotels in some areas also have the US-style 110 volts capability.

MariMari [ONLINE],, viewed 30 November 16

If you are spending some time in Manila prior to the Study Tour, visit:

How to be a Manila local: 10 tips on faking it

Insider Guide:  Best of Manila.

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