Like a perfectly cut precious stone, there are many colorful facets to the Philippines and each side glimmers and glitters.
Nightlife is a melange of moods, music and movers. By day, the business tempo inevitably takes over, just as driven, as intense. Power breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Men and women in surreal black, with their Nokias and maddening ringtones. In the steel and glass towers in Makati and Ortigas, men and machines work in frenzied haste well into the night, until the firefly lights in the entertainment districts start to twinkle.
The entire archipelago of 7, 100 islands is a total shopping experience, a shopping bazaar ranging from glitzy goods to ethnic wares designed with world-class touches. There are supermarkets and department stores, convenience stores and pharmacy shops, big and small outdoor flea markets and mall bazaars - all to satisfy the buying itch.
The Philippines is a gourmet paradise, with chefs of all nationalities scattered in five-star hotels and restaurants while just a glance away sits the neighborhood "turu-turo," the small, occasionally shabby, outdoor restaurant where one simply points and points his orders.
The Philippines is a moving experience, an unraveling cultural show. It is a world of passionate people, rooted in Asian tradition and values, but also a child of its colonial past. Yet the Philippines is also very American, evidenced by its quick and easy acceptance of Western modes of life and fads and its fluency in the words and ways of America. As they say, English is spoken here and spoken well. The Philippines is said to be the world's third largest English-speaking country, after England and the United States.
The Filipino is basically of Malay stock with a good sprinkling of Chinese; then add to it Arab, Spanish and American blood. The Filipino character is actually a little bit of all the cultures put together, yet deeply rooted in Asian traditions and values. Filipinos are also divided geographically and culturally into regions, each group recognizable by distinct traits and dialects. Tribal communities are scattered across the archipelago. All in all, the Philippines has 111 dialects spoken, with Filipino also known as Tagalog, as the national language. Eighty percent of the people are Christians, 15 percent Moslem and the rest are Hindus and of other religions.
At the onset, a stranger may be in awe and impressed or regretful of having come, but so many more have stayed. The island magic never fails to weave its spell. There is that strange mixture of progressive and old-world ways that colors everything the Filipinos do and believe in. There is "hiya" or shame of losing face. There is "utang na loob," a debt that can never be repaid by deed or money and is carried until death. There is "kamag-anakan," where one is compelled to do all one can for a relative, distant or near, whether to hire, to send to school, to provide food and shelter, financial support or a job. The hospitality of the Filipino can never be truly explained until it is experienced - for it is dished out with the spontaneity, the warmth and the eternal enthusiasm of a people bathed in the tropical sun.
Even as the world moves into the second millennium and the internet truly transforms all the countries of the world into one, small global village, the Philippines will remain a charming paradox that will continue to entice, and welcome, the rest of the world. Truly an irresistible jewel of many colors.