Philippines itinerary 2 weeks – the ultimate gay Philippines travel experience



A sun-blanched string of over 7,000 islands clustered near the equator on the Pacific Ocean, the Philippines is an island destination served with a smile. As well as year-round sunshine, famed Filipino warmth exudes from every angle; from toothy vendors touting their coconuts to lithe, leather-skinned seamen cheekily bartering their day tours, you can’t help but grin back. Lose yourself in the feverish chaos of the city and its nightlife before moving to remote islands for more relaxing endeavours. Here are our suggestions of how to spend two weeks in the Philippines, including a tranquil resort stay in Palawan and a wild surf sesh in Siargao.

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Palawan | Photo: Cris Tagupa

LGBT situation in the Philippines

Gay Philippines boasts an established LGBTQ+ community with recognition and acceptance of bakla (gay men) and binalaki (lesbians) widening across Filipino culture. While same-sex partnerships are still not recognised by law, one LGBT political party has been steadily pushing for progress in LGBT rights, having successfully lifted the ban on gay people serving in the military.

The Philippines LGBT community is centred in the Malate district of Manila. While traditionally, the intersection of J Nakpil and M Orosa Street held most of the city’s gay life, today the best clubs and bars have moved to the Fort district (BGC). Manila’s first pride parade in 1994 was the first gay pride held anywhere in Asia, running annually since then towards the end of June. Outside of the capital, you can also find a well-established gay scene in Cebu City, with smaller parties in various island towns.

El Nido | Photo: Daniel Lazarov

Alona Beach, Panglao | Photo: Vasile Stancu

When to Visit the Philippines

A sub-tropical nation with high year-round humidity and monsoon tendencies, the Philippines is more temperate outside of summer when the rains come and typhoons hit the islands at force (from May to October). For adventures in Manila, try booking between late December and April, while Boracay is best seen from October onwards. During this time the temperature hovers between 24-31°C and stays pretty dry during daylight hours. The mercury will rise consistently from March to April, with highs of around 34°C which last through the summer season when crowds lessen and the scenery is at its greenest.

How to spend 2 weeks in The Philippines

Though there are thousands of islands in the Philippines to set your sights on, realistically, with just two weeks to explore, you’ll want to limit your itinerary to just two ‘big’ islands. This way you can get a taste of how island lifestyles differ without having to constantly move around. Many international flights will land in Manila allowing for one or two nights of city living ahead of six days in Cebu (incorporating a day trip to Bohol if you get an inkling) and a second week in Palawan. With added time, tacking on a third destination such as Siargao also becomes a possibility. Otherwise, whittle down your itinerary options with our recommendations of things to do in the Philippines, being careful to limit yourself to two or three regions.

Photo: Lorenz Narbs

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Manila will win you over with its wild diversity of food, culture and language with a distinct Manileño culture found nowhere else in the country

Manila

Travellers with an aversion to crowds and chaos may want to rethink Manila. Both the summer heat and the air pollution feel most overpowering within the capital, making for sweaty and less than calming exploits. If you overlook the downsides, however, Manila will win you over with its wild diversity of food, culture and language with a distinct Manileño culture found nowhere else in the country. As a bonus, Manila is also the city with the strongest gay credentials. Besides the countless gay bars Manila has to offer, the city even has its own slang language known as ‘Swardspeak’, used by the region’s queer subculture since the 1970s (including Mr Gay World 2017, John Raspado).

Manila | Photo: Ramon Kagie

Cebu 5-7 Days

Centre of the Visayas and the nation’s most densely populated island, Cebu is a top first choice for holidays in the Philippines. Not only does Cebu have enough natural attractions to keep you busy for weeks, but it also serves as the jumping-off point for further adventures to Bohol, Malapascua, and beyond. Though gay Cebu City can give the capital a run for its money thanks to its wide selection of Cebu gay bars, numerous malls and an emerging food scene, most of Cebu Island remains undeveloped, based primarily along the beaches along the northern and southwest coastline.

The northern edge can put you within reach of outlying honeymoon islands, but we recommend travelling south towards Moalboal to get the most of Cebu’s natural wonders, including over 100 waterfalls (namely Inambakan, Dao, Kabutongan and Aguinid Falls, fronted by the ever-popular Kawasan Falls). Hike up to the falls on a solo day trip or gear up for a canyoneering adventure, jumping into pools and sliding down rock at pace with the fast-flowing water. Nearby, Osmeña Peak can offer a spectacular sunrise or sunset, while Moalboal White Beach is perfect for a carefree beach day and freediving opportunities.

Renting a motorcycle or hiring a driver are great ways to explore Cebu’s coastal road in its entirety, passing through Oslob for snorkelling and scuba-diving among whale sharks, often found feeding just offshore. After exhausting the main island’s activities, venture out to smaller islands such as Malapascua, where the beaches are known for their powdery perfection and opportunities for diving with thresher sharks. Alternatively, Kalanggaman Island is another getaway to consider, known for its odd shape and overnight camping options on its main beach from where you can walk the longest sandbar in the Philippines at certain times of day.

Photo: Nuwan

Photo: Daniel Lazarov

Bohol 3-6 Days

Charter a private boat from Cebu Island to our next stop of Bohol, home of unique landscapes, little primates and much untold natural beauty. The Panglao area holds the island’s best beaches and its tourist centre, though a more authentic look at Boholano life and unique cultural heritage lies largely on the mainland. While staying on Panglao for a few beach days underscored with water sports and diving is not a bad idea at all, make sure to sign yourself up for a tour of the island’s top attractions. Not far from Panglao, Loboc river cruise runs the easiest route through Bohol’s dense rainforest, an activity often made all the better by traditional Filipino lunches and dance performances on board. Kayaking and paddle-boarding are also common activities along Bohol’s other rivers, with businesses along the Abatan River also offering firefly tours and kayaking rentals.

From there, move to Carmen to view the 1,776 limestone hills, all magically in proportion and spanning an area of 50 kilometres. Though more green in the rainy season, these hills turn the colour of chocolate in the dryer months, hence the name Chocolate Hills. A common addition to Chocolate Hills tours include a visit to one of two tarsier sanctuaries (the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary and the Tarsier Conservation Area), to view one of the world’s smallest primates. Notoriously shy and averse to noise, these little guys are strictly protected with strict rules for visitors in order to keep the tarsiers safe. On the way back to your accommodation, make a stop within the Bilal man-made forest, an inspiring photo-spot of mahogany trees which stretches 2 kilometres either side of the main road.

Bohol | Photo: Hitoshi Namura

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The Ha Long Bay of the Philippines, Palawan is hard to beat for its incredible karst landscape lapped by clear turquoise waters in one of the country’s least populated regions

Palawan 6-9 Days

The Ha Long Bay of the Philippines, Palawan is hard to beat for its incredible karst landscape lapped by clear turquoise waters in one of the country’s least populated regions. Palawan’s main strip of land stretches 650 kilometres towards Borneo, largely dominated by rainforest and edged by incredible white-sand bays. Base yourself in the north at popular towns of El Nido or Coron, each a perfect base for those planning to take on the Bacuit Archipelago and Calamian Islands further out. El Nido may get busy in high season but it remains a firm favourite thanks to its convenient tour operations taking visitors to the best of Palawan’s beaches. Alternatively, charter your own private boat and control your own itinerary, opting to camp overnight on a remote island for ultimate solitude and stargazing to remember. In Coron meanwhile, find more of the same beatific surroundings, accented by the pristine Kayangan Lake, which hosts some of the region’s best diving thanks to its WWII shipwrecks and countless reefs.

If travelling in high season, consider leaving these busier basecamps in favour of lesser-known gems such as Port Barton and Balabac. While Port Barton can bring you ever closer to the island’s marine life – through kayaking, snorkelling and island-hopping tours – Balabac allows for exclusive travel to the province’s private islands and islets, by either negotiating with the owners and local guides on arrival or via a travel agency prior to travelling.

El Nido | Photo: Rona Lao

Palawan | Photo: Alana Harris

Siargao 5-7 Days

With a third week of island bliss to create, Siargao is a winning choice for surfers and non-surfers alike. Though it’s appeal has a lot to do with its fine sand beaches and choppy surf, Siargao also offers a fair few alternative adventures, by way of hidden coves, mangrove swamps and winding rivers all boasting rugged views and intriguing compositions. Most of the island’s best resorts are based on the beachfront road between General Luna and Cloud Nine beach, in the township of Dapa. Get around by scooter or hire a driver for a small extra cost, travelling 45 minutes from General Luna to the Magpupungko rock pools at low tide, staying the afternoon for sunbathing, cave viewing and cliff jumping among the weird rock formations.

Depending on your predilection for doing nothing, spend a day or two on any of the laid-back beaches dangling from a hammock with a cocktail in hand before whipping up some action on the Maasin River, just 30 minutes from General Luna, where you’ll find a great swimming spot centred by a coconut tree swing. Closer to del Carmen meanwhile, Sugba Lagoon allows for canoeing, rafting, paddleboarding and snorkelling in crystal waters. While there’s no end to Siargao’s forest and waterfall attractions, you can also opt to leave the main island for an island-hopping tour, covering as many as three islands at once, such as Guyam, Daku and Naked Island, each with its own distinctive edge. Alternatively, charter a boat to Sohoton Cove on the Bucas Grande island chain. Though somewhat difficult to get to, hardy visitors to Sohoton will be rewarded with their pick of remote lagoons, caves and karst cliffs to explore, plus the chance to swim with stingless jellyfish.

Photo: Jah Cordova

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While there’s no end to Siargao’s forest and waterfall attractions, you can also opt to leave the main island for an island-hopping tour, covering as many as three islands at once, such as Guyam, Daku and Naked Island, each with its own distinctive edge

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