"..a bardy view!"

The Philippines…a rose by any other name would smell as sweet….

 I regularly receive emails from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. They begin like this:

This email is to advise you that an article matching one of your interests has been published: Philippines travel advice.

"Latest travel advice for those travelling to the Philippines. Includes information on entry requirements, security, local laws and health. This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Safety and Security – Terrorism section. The overall level of the advice has not changed; we advise against all travel to south-west Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago; we advise against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao."

PhilmapVery recently they have been including a map. This is very unusual.

There are an abundance of maps on the Philippines available on the web, but this one is different because it is an official FCO map with Crown Copyright 2011 stamped on it and highlights the areas of trouble.

I am free to reproduce it here because it is not being used for any commercial purpose. (I mention this for the benefit of any Crown Servants who are reading).

I write this for two main reasons. 1. The advisory rarely changes, and when it does it highlights severe weather conditions such as typhoons. 2. It is the principle get-out clause for insurers.

Note that it says: The overall level of advice has not changed.

Occasionally there may be advice about a kidnapping or murder which tourists should be aware of eg the targeting of visitors – but such things are to be expected just about everywhere.

Tourists to Miami, one of the most popular destinations for British holiday-makers, will receive similar advisory notices. (That is for those who are remotely bothered to read them.)

No – the key about this is that they are benchmarks for insurance companies. Most travellers take out insurance and don't read the small print. A visitor to the Philippines will take out his insurance in good faith, but should he decide to visit areas of the south and encounter problems, his insurer could refuse to honour a policy because he failed to follow FCO advice. A whole region of the Philippines is coloured red or yellow indicating advice against all travel, or all but essential travel.

It is on the onus of the policy holder to notify the provider should he or she venture into such areas. But how many will know? Will the insurer expect a larger premium or simply invalidate the policy?

Those who follow FCO advice will miss out considerably from some of the most beautiful parts of the world. Those who ignore it do so at their own risk.

For many years I have complained about the over cautious advisories from the FCO. But as a government department they have a duty to protect their citizens, yet their zealous enthusiasm can inadvertently effect economies and impact on local communities which would truly hope for tourism to improve their lifestyles.

But it's not just the UK who give over cautious advice. The CIA country profile for the Philippines suggests that indigenous drivers tend to be less disciplined than those in the USA. A polite diplomatic euphemism meaning that they are bloody dangerous!

Not so. If you want to experience danger on the roads go to Spain, Italy or Egypt. The first two are members of the EU, and there will certainly be no negative advisory about travelling there.

On the issue of Filipino drivers, many years ago I thought they really were the worst. I realised eventually that they were probably the safest. Such is the volume of traffic almost all are exceptionally considerate to their fellow road users – if they weren't then chaos would ensue.

Add to that the lack of pavements (sidewalks) and  the roads are heavily used by pedestrians, particularly children. Consideration and caution is paramount.

Of course there are bad drivers, but invariably that's because some are just bad, and not selfish, arrogant and bad like those drivers on the streets of London which I encounter regularly.

The British driver will posture, swear and be extremely aggressive. The Italian will wave his arms around like an orchestral conductor and sing a robust expletive rich-ridden aria. The Spaniard couldn't give a toss and compose a similar overture, and the Egyptian doesn't even know what a road is for.

Meanwhile on the roads of North America, drivers have their designated six lane highways and cruise along in top gear oblivious to the world around them. That doesn't mean they are better drivers, they just have much more space to be comfortably bad drivers and sing even worse.

I've never been to Africa, Russia, India or China. I've never been to South America. But I can bet their drivers are just as bad.

I had a point to make somewhere…Oh yes, I remember! Terrorism!  The FCO map indicates danger – that's why it has red bits.

Terrorism is the 21st Century excuse for loss of freedoms. Presumably the FCO map for Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, the Far East, most of North Africa, the horn of Africa, Somalia, Ethiopia, the Asian Sub-continent, Indonesia, Russia, India, Sri Lanka, Congo,  South Africa, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Brazil,  Mexico, Venezuela, Northern Ireland etc (please add a country of your choice), must be crimson. 

The Philippines does not come into these categories – so lets paint the place with a rosy hue. Even the most beautiful roses have thorns, just be careful how you handle them. It's common sense!

The title of this post is from Shakespeare "What's in a name. That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Romeo and Juliet


July 12, 2011 - Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, General, Humour, London, The Philippines, Travel, United Kingdom | , , ,


  1. My dear old fellow, in most African countries that I have been to, they don’t drive, they aim.


    Comment by Spook Moor | July 13, 2011 | Reply

  2. Or they may drive aimlessly….


    Comment by Bar De Ness | July 13, 2011 | Reply

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