malapascua-philippines-typhoon-haiyan, global warming, climate change, increased storms, (Blue Ocean – April 30, 2014) — Over the past three decades, economic and political misfortunes, coupled with some high- profile natural calamities, have kept the Philippines from taking its place among the world’s most popular destinations. Pity, when these 7,000 green islands contain some of the best scenery on the planet.

The good news is that now, “The Pearl of the Orient,” with growing economic strength, and relative stability in this crazy world, is emerging as a popular destination for travelers seeking an unspoiled tropical paradise. In fact, the negatives that held the Philippines back have, in the end, contributed to the islands possessing a multitude of scenic areas that have avoided over-development, which has all but ruined many popular destinations.

The country is also recovering well from the tragic devastation caused last year by typhoon Haiyan. Such events are rare and in any case limited to the August-October monsoon season, not the time anyone would want to go to any country in Southeast Asia. (Anyone who wants to help those affected by the storm may do so by contacting The Red Cross, at , or Catholic Relief Services, .)

The reality is that, while Leyte was sadly devastated most of the country had relatively little damage, and the majority of tourist destinations were not adversely affected. And there are certainly a lot of spectacular attractions that are worth the trip.

The Philippines has also become a magnet for the action-oriented traveler, with numerous destinations that are perfect for diving. Puerto Galera, Boracay and Bohol are other regions especially renowned as diving destinations, with amazing corals and diverse species of fish. World Heritage Sites of interest to dive travelers include the Underground River of Palawan, Tubbataha Reef Marine Park, all cited by UNESCO as natural wonders. The Apo Reef (second largest contiguous coral reef in the world) is another must-see site.

An advantage for Americans, Brits and Australians is the fact that most Filipinos speak English, and the favorable exchange rate makes commerce even more pleasurable.

But the most beautiful thing about the Philippines remains the sweetness of its people. The “Good morning, sir” and “Good evening, m’am” one hears so often in the Philippines are sincere and heart-felt, delivered with a distinctive warmth that will be long-remembered.

Photo: Apo Reef Natural Park, Wiki Commons