The US State Department is currently issuing a warning to its citizens of the risks of travel to the Philippines, in particular to the Sulu Archipelago and the island of Mindanao. This Travel Warning is dated January 30, 2013, and reflects continuing threats in those areas due to terrorist and insurgent activities — a heavy conflict between Muslim militias and the Philippine government.
In 2009 this region was declared the world's most hazardous area for journalists by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Travelling to this region is dangerous and strongly discouraged. If it is necessary to visit, inform your embassy, remain cautious at all times and avoid public gatherings.
Climate: The weather in the Philippines is characterized by high temperatures, oppressive humidity, and plenty of rainfall.
There are two seasons in the country: wet and dry.
During the wet winters (November–February) the monsoon brings cooler temperatures along with the rain.
The dry(er) summer is almost seven months long, running from March to October and hitting its peak temperatures (30ºC) in May, when any locals with the means to do so will head to the cooler mountainous regions around Baguio on Luzon.
Language: English and Filipino (based on Tagalog)
Currency: Philippine peso
Time Zone: GMT +8
International phone code: +63
Transportation: Canadians can enter the Philippines without a visa for 30 days with a return ticket and a passport valid for at least six months beyond their departure date. If you intend to stay longer than 30 days, you can apply for a visa extension at the Bureau of Immigration.
While there are several international airports throughout the archipelago, most visitors will unfortunately fly into Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) in Manila, which is regularly voted one of the world's worst for both facilities and corrupt officials. For a more congenial start to your trip, try flying into Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB) in the Central Visayas, in the middle of the archipelago.
Despite its reputation as a fairly liberal haven for the LGBT community, the country has failed to guarantee legal protections in accordance with United Nations Human Rights Conventions. A bill protecting gay people from discriminatory practices and policies has been debated in the Philippine Congress since 2009 but has yet to be signed into law. While they are generally tolerated, if not accepted, gay people still face widespread discrimination.
The most visible members (and perhaps the biggest reason for the country's misleading reputation for liberalism) are the Bakla — gay men who display feminine mannerisms, dress as women, or identify as women. The term is not the equivalent of the English term "gay" but suggests a third gender. While the word is sometimes used in a derogatory sense, the Bakla themselves have largely embraced it.
The heart of Manila's gay nightlife is the intersection of Maria Y Orosa Street and Julio Nakpil Street in the Malate district. Located at the southern end of the city, it is bordered by Manila Bay to the west and Ermita district to the north.
Other large cities — Cebu, Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Davao — also boast bars and discos, but the establishments seem to come and go very quickly. Be sure to check websites before venturing out.
If you're looking for quieter times, White Beach, near Puerto Galera on Mindoro Island, and Camiguin Island are recommended getaways.