Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Foreigners Who Fell In Love With The Philippines : Stefan and Sebastien

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We've heard a lot of good feedback with this blog series so we're very excited to give you more stories about foreigners who fell in love with The Philippines. The second edition we've had was with Will Hatton of The Broke Backpacker, this time we are featuring a gay couple travelers from the United Kingdom Stefan Arestis and Sebastien Chaneac of Nomadic Boys. They have recently visited The Philippines for 30 days and they'll tell us why they love The Philippines. 

Nomadic Boys as mermaids, Boracay, the Philippines, June 2015

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?

We are gay couple, Stefan and Sebastien. We quit our jobs and London life last year to eat our way around Asia and plan to make travelling a long-term lifestyle and career.

Stefan, 32 is a former lawyer, of Greek Cypriot origin, born and raised in London. Sebastien, 33, is an IT geek, originally from France but moved to London to work in the finance industry. London is where we met.

Bon Voyage, Stefan (right) and Sebastien leave London to travel the world

2. When did you first visit the Philippines?

We first visited the amazing Philippines in May 2015 for 30 days (that’s how many days we get on a tourist visa – clearly not enough!).

Sunset at Palawan island, Philippines, June 2015

3. Why did you choose Philippines?

We chose the Philippines because we are travelling around Asia and it naturally fell into our travel plans between Vietnam and Malaysia. But more importantly, in London, we have many Filipino friends and in Bangkok (one of our bases during this trip) we have another large circle of Filipino friends. We love them and have heard so much about this stunning country through them.

Christmas in Bangkok with our Filipino friends, Thailand, December 2014

In addition, all our friends who have visited the Philippines have each raved about it, comparing it to the Maldives and the Thai islands, so naturally it would be a crime to travel in Asia and not visit!

We arrived in the Philippines with extremely high expectations, which were not only exceeded but also left us with a strong craving to return.

Carabao beach, Palwan, the Philippines, June 2015

4. What do you love most about the Philippines?

Oh we have a massive soft spot for the people: their faces just exude this wonderful friendliness and warmth. Filipino hospitality is second to none. We made so many life long friends in the Philippines because everyone is so friendly and welcoming.

Posing with our Filipino friends from the Flower Island resort in Palawan, the Philippines, June 2015

Despite the Catholic Church’s anti gay views, we found Filipinos to be open minded towards us as gay tourists. For example, we never felt discriminated in any way or felt any fear of being discriminated against compared to countries like the Maldives or Sri Lanka. In addition, we never felt uncomfortable to request double beds in hotels, whereas in countries like India or Russia we were far more cautious about this.

Having a catch up with our ladyboy friendRegina in Bangkok, Thailand, February 2015

The presence of ladyboys is another pleasant surprise in the Philippines. Back in Europe, ladyboys are unfortunately discriminated against in society, particularly so in the gay communities, and dismissed as prostitutes. In the Philippines, ladyboys are regarded as a norm and appear to be completely accepted in society. Puts us to shame in Europe doesn’t it? We have a very good Filipina friend called Regina who now resides in Bangkok who taught us more about what life is like as a ladyboy in Asia: http://nomadicboys.com/ladyboy-bangkok-thailand

Oh and did we mention the food? Lechon, pork sinigang, chicken adobo, we could go on!Here’s 10 of our favourites:

Stefan embracing his first tapsilog in Boracay, Philippines, May 2015

5. Your top 3 destinations in the Philippines and why?

Our itinerary in the Philippines was based on the best prices of internal flights we could find at the time of planning, being: Manila as a transport hub to enter and leave the country, then our time here split between Boracay and Palawan.

First, we loved the islands around El Nido over and above everything else. This is your image of that dream isolated tropical island paradise. We love snorkelling and scuba diving, so the underwater world here made it that even more special.

Finding Nemo snorkelling in Palawan, the Philippines, June 2015

Second, we loved Boracay because no where else we know of in the world can you dress up and learn to swim like a mermaid – ha haha! Carabao and Puka beaches are another isolated paradise on an island which has a reputation for being too touristy.

Stefan and Sebastien posing and learning to swim like a mermaid on Boracayisland, Philippines, May 2015

Finally, we made heaps of friends in Manila, particularly in Quezon City, which made it special for us. We saw a different side to the Philippines here compared to the islands and coming from big city London, it was nice to see a taster of the Filipino big city equivalent.

Our Filipino friends showed us the gay scene of Manila in the Philippines, June 2015

6. What's the least thing that you like about the Philippines, things that need improvement?

Give us more than 30 days! Seriously – how do you expect people to get more out of this stunning countries with over 7,000 islands in just 30 days?!!!!



In all seriousness, infrastructure in more remote places like El Nido could do with some development – there’s no ATM there for example. But, this is of course a double edged sword and can go the direction of becoming a new Boracay. Controlled development needs to happen so as not to ruin all these magical 7,107 island gems.

Oh and balut…sorry guys, we tried it and really forced ourselves to go at it with an open mind, but we just didn’t take to it at all! Ha haha



Check out their video as they swam through and discovered the magical underwater world of the Philippines:


Follow Stefan and Sebastien's adventures:
Instagram: @nomadicboys
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC99ODSH8UaA1JAIrQmxXTig/videos


Do you know any foreign traveler who also fell in love with the Philippines? Let me know their contact details so I can also feature them here. Please comment below or hit me an email at glen@escapemanila.com.

Let's make The Philippines a better place to live and a better place for travelers to visit. Let's work hand-in-hand to promote responsible tourism which will ultimately lead to a sustainable tourism industry in the country.


***Photos were provided by Stefan and Sebastien.