I am celebrating the resurrection of my laptop and the fact that is my day off with a second post for today. (What else is there to do on a wet and windy November afternoon?)
As I said in an earlier post, I am a bit of a guidebook junky. So what guidebooks will I be taking to the Philippines?
To my mind there are three to choose from. First of all there are the Big Two: Rough Guide and Lonely Planet.
The most recent Rough Guide is the 2nd Edition, published in 2007, so it is now getting seriously out of date. I bought my copy from our excellent church charity shop Second Chance for the princely sum of £2. This book has had some terrible reviews from Amazon readers regarding inaccuracies and my own experience bears this out. For example, four years ago we visited Sabang in Palawan, where there are a number of simple ‘resorts’. According to Rough Guide, “the best of these is the quiet, idyllic Mary’s Beach Resort.” In fact, according to locals, Mary’s had been very good, but had gone downhill. The proprietors of other resorts were frustrated that tourists would make their way straight to Mary’s on the basis of the Rough Guide recommendation. And as for the entry on San Fernando Pampanga, a city we know well, why the obsession with the notorious Good Friday crucifixions and no mention of the Giant Lantern Festival at Christmas?
I am more a fan of Lonely Planet. The LP guide to the Philippines is revised far more frequently than RG and is now in its 10th edition, published in 2009 – this is the third edition that I have bought. Although not an overly large book (less than 500 pages) it seems to cram in a lot more than RG, perhaps because it uses a more efficiently sized font. The maps are not quite as easy to read as RG, which is printed in two colours as opposed to LP’s monotone. How does it compare to LP in the two examples given previously? LP has much a much more detailed and balanced section on Sabang, and seems up to date – it mentions the new Mid/Upper range Daluyon Resort, which was only opened 3 years ago. But San Fernando is once again mentioned for its crucifixions rather than its Christmas lanterns. Overall LP feels young adult/backbacker-oriented, with a great deal of space given over to bars.
So it looks like Lonely Planet is the winner. But read on… there is a third contender. This is the independently produced Philippines Travel Guide by veteran travel writer Jens Peters. Jens was involved in early editions of the Lonely Planet Guide to the Philippines and he follows a similar layout. The Philippines Travel Guide is far more detailed than the offerings of the Big Two, and little wonder, for it contains a mighty 816 pages. It is translated from Jens’ native German and the English is sometimes a bit stilted, but to my mind this is the best of the three. Inevitably there will be concerns about its accuracy as the most recent, 3rd Edition was published at the beginning of 2009.
Fortunately it is possible, thanks to websites such as Tripadvisor,to check out the latest prices and customer reviews. Ironically, two of the three hotels we are staying in in our Visayas trip are not listed in any of these guidebooks, because they have only been recently opened. Which shows the limitations of traditional guidebooks in a country like the Philippines, where resorts and restaurants open, close and change hands at an alarming rate.
So what guidebook will I be taking to the Philippines? Lonely Planet. Surprised? That’s only because my copy of Jens Peter’s book got left behind last time we were there, displaced by Mary Ann’s pasalubong (souvenirs and gifts) which filled our suitcases on the journey home. I look forward to being reacquainted with the Philippines Travel Guide in a few days time.
Jens Peters has a website also called Philippines Travel Guide.