Why I’m proud of my Philippine passport

Kach Medina

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'I think it’s about time someone discussed the advantages of having a Philippine passport from the point of view of a long-term traveler,' writes Kach Medina
FULL MOON PARTY. Young and free at a Full Moon party in Koh Pah Ngan, Thailand. All photos courtesy of Kach Medina

Having read a lot of articles lately surrounding the so-called limitations of having a Philippine passport, I’ve seen way too many comments like, “Oh, we only rank number 69 in the world for free entries and can only visit 58 out of 218 countries!”

I think it’s about time someone discussed the advantages of having a Philippine passport from the point of view of a long-term traveler. When I say long-term, I mean that I’ve been traveling for over a year now and plan to travel for 3 years more! (READ: Choose your career or go travel? Why not both?)

Sometimes I’m not sure how to answer questions like, ‘Where is your home?’ We move around a lot and make our home in many places. However, whenever people ask me where I’m from, where I was born and where I eventually plan to settle down, I always answer loudly and proudly, “The Philippines!”

The Philippine passport and visas

SAYING GOODBYE. The day I left Philippines: 17 months ago in Clark Airport

If you’re a long-term traveler, regardless of which country you come from, you probably prefer to travel to places that fit your budget and where you can easily pick up freelance/casual work.  

When I say freelance, I refer to working for hostels or restaurants in exchange for food, teaching yoga or even teaching English – not as a career but just to replenish your travel funds. These kind of jobs are ideal in Asia and South America, where we Filipinos are often Visa-Free or Visa-On-Arrival. (READ: Applying for a visa? Keep these 5 tips in mind)

In our case, however, we’re long-term travelers and tend to stay in countries longer, so we often have to apply for a visa in the embassy (read more on that here).

With Jonathan (my boyfriend and traveling buddy) having a British passport and me holding a Philippine passport, we have the same requirements, yet my passport often has the advantage of saving us a lot of money on visa fees, like our 6-month multiple-entry visa for India. I only paid $69 while Jonathan had to pay $132. That saving was our budget for 3 days! 

Having a Philippine passport has never been a problem for us since we started this trip. We’re Visa-Free or Visa-On-Arrival in Southeast Asia and now that we’re in South America, I can easily go to Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia with a free visa. 

While getting a visa for Argentina, Chile and other some other Central American countries may not be free, that doesn’t mean that it’s hard.  It’s a common misconception that if a visa is not FREE then it’s hard to get. Nope, not at all!

TIME TO EXPLORE. Laos and Vietnam Border

As for traveling to “Western countries,” sure, Jon, who has a British passport, can travel to many countries unhindered by such things. So, for example, why can the British travel and work in Europe freely when we can’t? Do they hate us? Nope, they’re part of the EU, it’s as simple as that.  A trade and work policy agreement.  

We have ASEAN, they have the EU.  No one is picking on us, we just don’t do as much business with them! 

They pay a lot of money to travel to Asian countries, whereas most of them are free for us. If Jon wants to visit the USA, however, or even just transfer through it, then he has to pay.  Getting a work visa or residency – most don’t even consider this as an option!

 As Filipinos, we can travel in most of Europe with a 90-day Schengen visa. We can get a 6 month tourist visa for the UK and up to 10 years tourist visa in the USA, albeit the process may not always be easy. (READ: 10 commandments for your next travels)

To be honest, your budget for one year in Asia or South America would probably only last for 2 months in these countries, which is why you see so many foreigners who prefer to live in the Philippines and other Asian countries. Not to mention that to them, it’s a postcard paradise.

TAJ MAHAL. One of the highlights of our 3 months in India – the Taj Mahal, Agra

Jon has already practically insisted that when the time comes, we settle down in the Philippines!

Local prices

Although not totally unique, Filipino backpackers are a rare sight in the world of long-term travel, especially in comparison to the hordes of other nationalities. People are usually curious about where I am from, what language we speak, where it is on the map, what our food is.

Local prices are often jacked up when vendors see foreigners who may not know the local rates, or aren’t used to haggling. Traveling with Jon around Asia sometimes costs us more, so he often hides while I do the haggling and when the deal is done, he jumps out like a shiny white surprise!  

THIS IS THE LIFE. Beautiful Scenery in Karahunj-Sisian, Armenia

Still, it’s great when people are genuinely interested in finding out about who you are, so enjoy it.  

MACHU PICCHU. Dreams do come true
Discovering what we’re known for around the world

Filipinos are known around the world for a number of very positive reasons; friendly and welcoming, helpful, hardworking and a lot of fun are a few things we are renowned for.

The reason so many people know about us is that as a nation, we actually travel quite a lot. Most of these travelers are Overseas Filipino Workers, who are able to work abroad thanks to their own hard work, dedication and commitment. There are thousands Filipino nurses working in hospitals in Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada and the UK. These and many other OFWs are testament to the number and quality of educated professionals coming out of the Philippines. 

Filipinos are undoubtedly some of the most traveled people in Southeast Asia and we have always found a strong, although sometimes small, Filipino community wherever we go – even here, in southern Peru, where we are right now.

STRIKE A POSE. Having fun at the Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Natural paradise

It’s easy to forget how beautiful your own home is sometimes. We always seem to look outwards at the unknown. New and exciting places tempt us with the promise of new experiences, people and stories to tell our friends and future children and of course, that’s all part of what traveling is all about. 

Often though, we lose perspective of what we have on our own doorsteps. We have one of the most beautiful places in the world to call home, much of it still largely unspoiled unlike many other Asian destinations.

AROUND THE WORLD. Castaway Island Tour, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

People from all over the world visit the Philippines for its mountains, lakes, rivers and picture perfect beaches with crystal-clear water. People who have never visited our country hang pictures of it on their wall.

One important lesson that traveling the world has taught us both, is to really appreciate the places we come from.

When you really get to know your own country first and to understand what you already have, you gain a higher level of appreciation for the new places we visit and the people you meet.

So there you have it – my own reasons to be proud of a Philippine passport. Travel, experience, live! – Rappler.com

Kach is a proud Filipina who quit her corporate job to become a long-term backpacker. She’s also a travel writer behind twomonkeystravelgroup.com. She loves beautiful beaches, electronic music, yoga, mayonnaise, Nutella and haggling! Follow her at facebook.com/twomonkeystravel

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