Ben and Patricia De’Ath, founders of The Regions, have been working with Filipino people for the last seven years. Earlier this year, Ben and Patricia enjoyed a working holiday in The Philippines and discovered more about this beautiful country and its culture.
Tropical weather, the best fresh mangoes in the world, amazing seafood and white sandy beaches… what’s not to like about The Philippines. But our family trip to this Southeast Asian country earlier this year, introduced us to so much more than just beautiful food and stunning scenery. We were privileged to experience the Filipino culture, gain a greater understanding of daily life in The Philippines, and find out more about this loyal, hardworking and reliable population, many of whom are calling New Zealand home.
A country of shared values
When Ben and I first began working in the agricultural industry seven years ago, it didn’t take us long to realise that farmworkers from The Philippines were genuinely interested in pursuing a better life for their family on New Zealand soil. We discovered the passion they had for betterment corresponded with our values in seeking to find a viable solution to New Zealand’s skilled labour shortage on farms.
So, when The Regions was born, it was a natural evolution to continue our relationship with this beautiful country and their people.
In January of this year, we opened our first office in The Philippines, headed up by our Licensed Immigration Adviser, Sam Luscombe. In May, we felt it was the right time to embark on our own mini working holiday to this island nation. What we found was a country where the warmth of the people matched that of the island temperatures and where the richness of the food matched the experiences we were privileged to enjoy.
After having this opportunity to visit The Philippines, I wish to encourage all our clients to book a holiday to this stunning country. We know how busy life can get, especially this time of year for kiwi farmers, so we share this next portion of the article with you to help inspire your next break away after your hard work in the busy season. So here’s my mini travel guide as to what to expect, the foods to eat, moments to experience, and memories to treasure.
Patricia’s top tips for a visit to The Philippines
What to eat: Sampling the local cuisine is a must when visiting any destination and The Philippines is no different. Foods to eat include seafood, mangos (the freshest I have ever eaten!), fruit shakes at the beach (from the lady who has been in business for years), and all you can eat buffets. Be sure to try a Halo-halo as well. Nothing beats the heat like a bowl of this sweet chilled dessert of crushed ice, evaporated milk and a concoction of ingredients, such as coconut, fruit slices and a dollop of ice cream on top.
[Top tip] If you want to slice up your fresh mango, expect to ask for a knife. Something we noticed in many local restaurants was that the tables were set with a spoon, but hardly ever a knife.
Where to stay
Boracay Island: If you are looking for a fun party island with a stunning beach and the most beautiful sunsets, head to the west side of Boracay Island. If a more peaceful destination is on your wish list, then I’d recommend the east side. Whichever side you stay on, White Beach is worth a visit. It’s the island’s most picturesque of all the beaches and for good reason!
Our Boracay Island experience with young kids was a bit short. We spent five days at Fairways Resort, which had a huge golf resort, lots of privacy, and peaceful swimming pool areas on the east side of the Island. It’s also good value for money.
We also met other families, many of whom recommended the Movenpick Resort & Spa Boracay, so we’ll be sure to stay there next time!
Things to experience in Boracay
White Beach, the stunning sunsets, the hours of music and revelry with plenty of activities, a swimming pool-like ocean… it’s all magical.
We also enjoyed sand sculpting on the beach. It was a really nice way to interact with local children who were on holiday. Our boys made new friends and played together with the local Filipino children – the language barrier didn’t matter when you’re on a quest to build the best sandcastle around!
There’s also an abundance of water sports on offer at Boracay. Our boys loved water skiing, I enjoyed the scuba diving, and we all enjoyed tucking into the best Butter Garlic Lobster of our lives afterwards. The 800grams of this mouth-watering seafood cost us NZ$80 but was worth every cent!
Places to visit
Palawan Island: We spent seven days on this beautiful island, staying in the Puerto Princesa, the bustling capital of Palawan Island. Our stay included a road trip from Sabang Beach to Puerto Princesa city as well.
Things to experience in Palawan: Puerto Princesa Subterranean River: The world-famous Underground River in Puerto Princesa is the longest navigable underground river in the world and one of the official new 7 Wonders of Nature.
Sabang Mangrove Forest: An educational tour by boat through Sabang’s lush mangrove forest where marine life coexists with other local wildlife and plants.
Sabang Zipline: It is an 800-meter adrenaline rush adventure that includes climbing a mountain and zip lining across the waters of Sabang. My oldest son (7) and I absolutely loved this and were rewarded with a beautiful view from the top.
Seafood Kalui Restaurant: It is the best seafood restaurant in Puerto Princesa, we ordered six different dishes that was plenty for dinner and lunch the next day, all for NZ$75 (including drinks).
Scuba Diving: If you enjoy scuba diving, Dive Puerto Princesa Dive Centre is highly recommended.
The instructors were very knowledgeable and helpful, and we could see turtles, sharks, lobster and all sort of fish.
Evening swims in the ocean: We loved going for a swim in the ocean at 8pm with the water at 37 degrees!
A cultural experience
While the warm topical temperatures (30+ degrees most days in May), the stunning scenery and the fresh food from local markets made for a wonderful holiday, what was most memorable was the insight we gained into the culture of The Philippines.
At The Regions, we work hard to ensure every farmworker who arrives in New Zealand from The Philippines is made to feel at home, and further insight into the culture has enabled us to enhance the experience we give them.
It really is an incredibly beautiful country to visit and one Ben and I feel very privileged to have ties with. As a client of The Regions, we highly recommend you visit The Philippines to gain greater insight into this beautiful country, the culture and to enjoy a well-earned holiday, knowing your farm is in good hands!