It can be done: This Swiss guy traveled the Philippines without taking any flights

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Given the current laglag bala crisis at the airport, maybe we should take the cue from this Swiss guy and try going on a flightless travel instead.

Philipp Aellig, a 28-year-old traveler from Weinfelden, Switzerland, tore through the Philippines without going to an airport to ride an airplane. He arrived in Metro Manila in April and in a span of seven months was able to visit 23 provinces either by ferry, bus, van, motorbike or banca.

A flightless travel was not in the initial plan. “I was actually thinking that when I travel the Philippines, I was going to take many flights in small sports aircrafts. But I decided to take ferries and buses because it was cheaper and the access was easy, plus I had plenty of time,” he told Coconuts Manila. 

Philipp’s plan to travel the Philippines was formed two years ago when he heard about Typhoon Haiyan. He did not know anything about the Philippines other than it was a country with many poor people and beautiful beaches that was ravaged by a super typhoon. 

“I always have a big sympathy to the Philippines. I’ve never been here before but it has always been a thing for me to go here. And after Haiyan, I felt so sorry for these people that I have never even met,” he said.

His preparation for the trip took one year. He had just ended a relationship, was tired of his day job and preparing to leave Switzerland after finishing getting his diploma in Construction Management. He started working at 16 and was already saving money for no particular reason. Little did he know, he’d be spending it on a trip.

After graduation, he packed his backpack and booked a flight.

Philipp first’s stop when he landed in Southeast Asia was the famous Banana Pancake trail, which covers Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. He recalled that when he hopped on his plane into Manila, he had no idea of what to expect.

“The only thing I knew was that I wanted to witness the crucifixion in Pampanga because I arrived during Lent,” the Philippine first-timer said. After witnessing sado-masochism in the flesh, he went back to Manila to pick up his brother Marcel. They traveled for two-and-a-half weeks and visited the Cordilleras, Anilao in Batangas and Donsol in Bicol.

When his brother left, Philipp continued his journey alone. We chatted with the Swiss guy, who had just finished his travels. 

You traveled the Philippines without taking any flights. How stressful and tiring was that?
It was never really stressful. On my whole trip, it was easy to take ferries. I’m not a fan of bus rides so whenever it’s possible, I always take short bus rides and then split my travel time in two days. Or if it is possible, I’ll just travel by motorbike.

The most memorable trip was the 68-hour ferry ride. The biggest decision was when I was in Camiguin and I wanted to go to Palawan. There was an idea of going to Cebu and book a flight to Puerto Princesa. Another idea was to work my way to Negros, then Iloilo to take a ferry.

But I decided to take land and sea transfers because it was cheaper. And I will be going to see Negros anyway, which I haven’t seen before. So why not travel by land and then ferry.

Sorry, did you say 68-hour ferry ride? How was that like?
My dive master who gave me the idea of taking the ferry from Iloilo to Palawan said that the ride was going to be 24 hours to 30 hours. The trip ended up 68 hours because there was a storm! There were so many delays.

There was no proper food in the ferry although you can buy some instant noodle soup. It’s a good thing that I brought chips, bread and water but 12 hours later, it was all gone. We had a stopover in Cuyo Island [in Palawan] and then that was the time when I went to an eatery for a proper meal.

I did not starve because I did a lot of sleeping. It was choppy in the ferry, so sitting in bed or walking was not possible because I get seasick. The only way to travel was by lying down and sleeping.

You actually took a flight in the middle of your trip, but it was because you needed to go out of the Philippines. Why did you leave?
Unfortunately, my free visa is only good for 30 days. I extended for a couple of times but the prices of visa extension here differ every time. Sometimes it is expensive, sometimes it is cheaper.

I wanted to see Hong Kong so I booked a cheap flight from Clark and then went back to the Philippines to get another free month instead of paying a lot of money for another extension.

What’s your favorite destination in the Philippines?
After seeing all the pictures, I definitely fell in love with Banaue and Batad. I also like Moalboal [in Cebu] because I stayed there for a long time for diving. I also had a lot of friends there. And typically just like any other tourist, El Nido is just a stunning place. There’s everything there except ATMs.

What was your least favorite experience?
When I came back to Manila after Mindoro, I went out for dinner and caught a heavy rain. I had to walk to my hostel in flooded streets. I lost my flip-flops but found it again. I made a couple of steps barefoot and it’s scary because you don’t know where you stand. I stayed in the Malate area.

I lost track of my hostel and was ganged up by street kids. They robbed me. I caught the kid who got my wallet and I didn’t let him go until he throws my wallet to the ground. He took all the cash out but I saved my credit card and my id card. I also got scratched because my foot hit something. I was worried about getting an infection.

Was it difficult for you to move around the Philippines?
Philippines is pretty easy to travel because everybody speaks English. I’m not that shy to ask if I need something and the people are very helpful. Some of them even tried to be more helpful than they can actually be.

How much did you spend overall?
I spent less than expected even though I did get my dive master course and that cost a lot of money. But because I stayed two and a half months in Moalboal, I didn’t have travel expenses and I got a cheap apartment. I saved money on that. All in all, maybe I spent USD7,000 (PHP238,000) or roughly around that.

You’ve seen and observed so many things around the Philippines, what can you say about the Filipino culture?
The Filipinos are very laid-back and relaxed. I tried to enjoy it as a Swiss person but sometimes it’s hard when you have an appointment and people show up one hour late. Even months after being here, I’m still not used to it but I appreciate that they are never in a hurry.

Most of the time, they are always friendly. They are helpful and sometimes too much helpful. They just try to help you as much as they can.

What would you say to other travelers who would like to travel around the Philippines?
Traveling in the Philippines is not hard but it takes a long time. My experience is wherever you want to go, it takes you one day of travel time. Do not think it’s not far, spare at least one day.

Because he arrived during Holy Week, Philipp’s first stop was the Cutud cruxificion in Pampanga 

Batad, Philipp said, was his favorite place in the Philippines.

Catching the Donsol sunset after a day of swimming with the whale sharks

El Nido

Swimming in Moalboal, Cebu

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