With a multi-cultural population of 100 million, unique Spanish-Filipino colonial architecture, beautiful nature and a rich culinary scene, the Philippines offers unrivaled diversity. Though visiting conflict-ridden areas in the south should be avoided, the remainder of the densely populated country – spanning over 7,000 tropical islands –is a rewarding summer destination.
Blogger and photographer Ann Louie Li, on this year’s 30 Under 30 Asia list spent her childhood and teenage years in the Philippines. A former competitive figure skater, Li’s appearance on “Big Brother” established her as a sweetheart in the entertainment circle. As testament to her Taiwanese-Filipino background, she describes her tastes as a “mix of everything, as long as it’s not too touristy.” Here are Li’s recommendations for visitors to Manila (and beyond).
1. Eat at Jollibee
Crackling, piping hot fried chicken: Jollibee’s fried chicken may appear familiar to fowl served in other fast food chains, but for oversea Filipinos, the chain evokes instant nostalgia. American products and influences took root during U.S. colonial rule in the region – extending to 1946 – and its influence on fast food is evident at joints like Jollibee’s. Around the country, even underneath official government road signs, are banners pointing to the nearest Jollibee, perhaps the unofficial fast food mascot of the Philippines.
“I don’t get the opportunity to indulge in my Jollibee cravings since I’m not based in the Philippines, so I’ve gotten to the point where I have mastered a few Jollibee inspired recipes! My go-to meal would be spaghetti with chicken leg and pancit palabok (a Filipino noodle dish topped with shrimp, fish flakes, pork cracklings and various fried ingredients),” says Li.
2. Laugh at Singing Cooks & Waiters