“Everything is slowing down here.”

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Sunny Carsten immigrated last year with her husband Stephen and children Sim, Tin and Giggs to the Philippines. A country with a lot of natural violence and contradictions, but just as much a place where they feel at home.

“My husband and I were in Manila ten years ago. To be honest, I thought it was a smelly city at the time, which I wanted to leave ASAP. So when Stephen was asked about a job here, I had my doubts. However, we took a risk. : We wanted to live in another country with our children, because we also lived abroad in our youth. We knew how special it was to experience something like this with your family. Moreover, this city seemed to me full of adventure, a little different than usual.

One drawback was that we arrived in the Philippines exactly during lockdown. We were only allowed to leave our house for groceries; Children were not allowed to go outside at all. Only three months later we got out of town as a family for a weekend away. Only then did the boys see the above-ground power lines, the roadside merchandise stalls, and the people walking barefoot in the street, and they smelled all those odors everywhere. And we saw them think: This is something very different from what we are used to.

family vacation philippines

So many contradictions

Manila is a city of many contradictions. We have a very beautiful house with a swimming pool and a beautiful garden full of plants and shade. It is located in a “village”, a kind of complex. If you go out the gate there, you’ll see palm trees and mango trees, but also electric cables and mice running through sewers everywhere. There are a lot of tall buildings and traffic, it is always crowded. However it is a beautiful city, you just need to know where to go and how to escape the crowds. We know that now.

For example, we like to go to Mindoro Island. After a two-hour drive and an hour on the boat, you’ll instantly arrive in a completely different world. It is calm, the beach is beautiful, the water is bright blue, there are palm trees: just like the well-known tourist photos of the Philippines. We often rent a panca, a boat, with which we sail from island to island – as soon as we dock we have lunch in a restaurant. Boys jump off our boat on the way, snorkel, dive or lie down. On the island you can also have a great walk, there are beautiful waterfalls with blue pools where you can swim.

“After a two hour drive and an hour on the boat, you will instantly arrive in a completely different world.”

Another favorite getaway is Tagaytay City. It’s a little higher than Manila, which makes it a little cooler; Many people from Manila go here to escape the distress of the city. The road to Tagaytay is really worth it; You drive on streets where something different is always being sold. There is a street with large earthenware pots of all colors and sizes and many plants. In the adjacent street you will find all kinds of Asian rattan tables and chairs. You can enjoy here all day long. Tagaytay itself is located on a lake, with a volcano in the middle that you can tour.

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Natural disaster

When we first got to our house, a document was ready with instructions: “What to do during an earthquake.” We had already experienced the first earthquake by then, in the quarantine hotel after arrival. I felt like someone was shaking my bed.

That’s when we realized we don’t know what to do when something like this happens: do you go outside or should you stay inside? We ended up searching on google. I am now more used to the idea that there is a lot of normal violence here. A volcano erupted nearby, and there are regular big tornadoes, which are big storms. We are very comfortable with ourselves – what else can you do? The stark contrast between the rich and the poor is heartbreaking. We try to help where possible and involve the children. But you cannot solve everything.

Read also – Traveling through Colombia with Kids: 8 Tips for an Adventurous Vacation>

more time

We’ve lived here for nearly a year now and people keep asking us if it doesn’t sound like one big vacation. This is not the case: the boys go to school, and we have our work. On the weekend we head to the soccer and hockey matches, just like in the Netherlands.

“The big difference with Holland: everything is going a little slower here”

However, there is a significant difference: everything is going a little slower here. We now have great friends here, but social obligations are much lower than in the Netherlands. That’s why we have so much time together as a family. We really get together on the weekends, and the small group of people we meet here feel like family.

The way we lived in Holland, always very busy with young children and a lot of work, nothing left of that here in the Philippines. As a result, I became a more relaxed person. To experience this with each other and as a family is very valuable.”

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to sleep


The Olive Tree Villa in Tagaytay is a nice and compact base for hiking trips and you can enjoy delicious food.


luxury. luxury

At The Farm in San Benito you can enjoy the absolute luxury of nature, massage, yoga and above all nothing at all.



If you really want to get out of the city, Sunset at Aninuan Beach Resort on Mindoro Island is a nice address. Not very great, but the best service.



Coco Grove Beach Resort is located in Siargao. This is still a pretty undiscovered island, and everything is just as beautiful.


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to eat


Blackbird Restaurant is an oasis of calm in the center of Manila. They have a beautiful garden where you can sit and have delicious wine and food.

blackbeard dot com


People’s Palace in Manila is a Thai restaurant where you can find the best tiger paki (steak dish) or vegetarian curry.


dim sum

You can eat real Asian food at Din Tai Fung in Manila. Perfect for kids, especially dim sum.


Coffee and ice cream

We love having coffee, breakfast or lunch at Wildflower Café. And we get the best and biggest ice cream in Coldstone.

wildflower.com.ph, facebook.com/coldstoneph/

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to do


After the Pinto Art Museum, end the day with a late lunch or drink at The Crescent Moon Cafe and Studio, where you can make your own crockery or purchase beautiful ceramics.


to walk

You can take a nice walk in the Philippines. Through the pinoymountaineer.com website, you can find all the beautiful hiking and hiking trails, categorized by region and walking level. Also nice with children.

This article was featured at Kek Mama Summer Special 2022.

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