Breathtaking Philippines

The Philippines are officially going into my books as one of the most beautiful countries I’ve visited, at least as far as breathtaking scenes per square kilometer go, they’re plentiful. The spectacular combination of mountains and water is everywhere and as I might have mentioned a few times, I am truly a sucker for this kind of scenery.

To me, riding around most of the islands that I’ve visited here has been a truly mesmerizing experience. I don’t want to sound cheesy, but it’s been borderline spiritual. You feel at one with all that beauty when you ride. You absorb it and it energizes you. You’re completely in the moment; and isn’t that in many ways the essence of being alive?

I haven’t often shot nature in the past, in fact I usually ignored it, but that’s changing. These days I consciously make an effort to visit beautiful places with the purpose of photographing nature. My latest trip to the mountain town of Tagaytay was a trip with exactly such purpose. What’s special about this town is that you get great views of the Taal lake and its volcano (which are below) from almost anywhere along its main road. This makes the area strikingly beautiful.

I didn’t have much time in Tagaytay and as I realized later, my luck was limited too. The view of the lake became obstructed with a film-like layer of haze during my last couple of days. I still managed to get some shots however. Because I had my bike, I could explore and get to the right places at the right time.

It’s worth mentioning that all my shots from above were taken from a restaurant or a cafe, of which there are plenty (understatement) along the road. In some ways this is annoying, as you can’t get a clear view, unless you’re willing to pay.

On the other hand, it’s fascinating how development, convenience and (almost) unspoilt nature have merged here. The merger seems to be relatively harmonious and those who have traveled around South East Asia will know that this kind of harmony is not that common.

More often than not, once development starts in a beautiful area, bad taste and overambitious plans usually screw things up pretty quickly. Tagaytay is a bit of a mystery in this regard. Even those giant, ugly concrete-slab houses that are so prevalent in many other places are relatively rare here. Not everything is perfect, but it could have been sooo much worse. Perhaps there isn’t more development because the volcano below is one of the most active in the Philippines and can basically “blow” any moment.

It's looking like I will be off to a town called Infanta in a few days. I hope to photograph a fascinating ritual that some people do there for Easter. You can get a better idea of what I am talking about by going to the websites of photographers who have already covered it before. One is a Filipino doco photographer by the name of Estan Cabigas his photos of the ritual are HERE. The other is Jacob Maetnz, an American living in the Philippines his take on the ritual can be seen HERE.