17 Interesting Things About Living in El Nido

1) Filipinos are some of the friendliest people in the world. They are always quick to give you a smile, extend a greeting, and help you out if you’re in need. You will never wait by the road long if your scooter breaks down. They’re just genuinely happy even if they have very little. No wonder they were recently ranked as the 5th happiest nation in the world!

A typical home in El Nido

2) The Philippines is a diverse blend of people with Filipino, Spanish, Malaysian, Chinese and American heritage. There is a large European and American ex-pat population in El Nido, and many of them marry locals. English is also an official language of the Philippines in addition to Tagalog, so it’s easy for foreigners to assimilate.

3) Filipinos love foreigners! We have never felt anything but genuine warmth and curiosity from all the Filipinos we’ve encountered. They definitely have an affinity for all things American, particularly music, as you hear 80’s American love songs on the radio all the time. Filipinos also love it when you love their country because they are very proud to be Pinoy!

4) Filipinos love any reason to gather and celebrate. That often means killing a pig and slow roasting it over a spitfire all day (lechon). Then eating a huge meal, drinking, and singing karaoke (a Filipino actually invented karaoke!). It’s fun to be around such fun-loving people!


5) The family unit is very important, families are very large, and almost every extended family is very close. It’s common for married children to continue living with their parents. Most of the locals have lived here their entire lives, and have no desire to live elsewhere because they are so close to their communities and families.

6) Filipino culture is very respectful. They use the term “po” to indicate respect, especially when addressing elders, bosses, customers, etc. They also do not address people by name, but by calling them kuya (older brother) or ate (ah-teh, older sister) whether or not they are older or younger.

Restaurants that cater to locals like this one offer meals for less than $1. ~46 pesos = $1 USD

7) The Philippines is one of the most underrated, under the radar destinations that can still be seen on a budget. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful destinations in the world, comprised of over 7000 islands! Tourists have definitely started to discover this paradise in recent years, as the Philippines continues to top most beautiful beaches in the world lists.

8) Filipinos love eating and sweets and never turn down a snack (though most Filipinos are quite slim)! They usually eat at least 5 times a day, and sometimes 6. Breakfast, morning merienda (snack) around 9:30 am, lunch, afternoon merienda around 3:30 pm, dinner and sometimes a midnight snack. And they are serious about their merienda and lunch break, which is when they often take a siesta.

9) Traditional gender roles are the norm here. Men do blue collar work like construction and farming while women cook, clean and raise children, though many also work as well while grandmothers raise children.

philippines3Squatters’ homes. Though with the tourism boom, they are quite prosperous as evidenced by all the cable tv satellites.

10) The Philippines is ranked as one of the most gay friendly countries in the world and the most gay friendly country in Asia. There is a very large LGBTQ community in El Nido and though they don’t have any legal rights, for the most part they are very accepted by society. We love living in such a diverse and accepting community.

11) Most kids play with very real looking toy guns. Guns are legal here, but they are not easy to obtain.

IMG_2655I wish you could see their adorable faces as kids love foreigners and posing for pictures!

12) Locals have very few modern conveniences. Most have a tv, fan and smart phone. Very few have a refrigerator and propane stove, and most cook with charcoal or wood. No one has a washer, dryer, dishwasher, air conditioner, microwave, vacuum, hot water, or closets.


13) The only public utility is electricity, and it is expensive so locals use it sparingly. None of the shops and restaurants in town have air conditioning, though most of the resorts do. You have to dig your own well to access water, buy propane gas to cook (though most locals use charcoal or wood), install your own satellite and cable tv, there is very limited/no mail service, and there are no telephone lines so everyone uses cell phones. Text is the main mode of communication and internet is only accessed on smart phones.

Locals push carts around town selling well water. 

14) Almost no one wears a helmet when riding motorcycles, and it’s common to see a motorcycle or any other type of vehicle packed to its absolute capacity (5 people on a motorcycle). Kids as young as 1 hold onto the handlebars of scooters with their parent driving. It’s funny how things shock you when you first see them, and then you get used to them and don’t give it a second thought… as is the case with toddlers on scooters!

A public well but locals often buy it from the carts because water is heavy.

15) There are a lot of roosters and they crow well before dawn and throughout the entire day. It used to wake us up when we first moved here, but we barely notice them now. The reason there are so many roosters is that cock fighting is a national pastime and you can find televised fights on tv daily. We can hear the roar of cheers when locals hold cockfighting matches every Sunday afternoon.

roosters are kept on leashes but hens are free to roam

16) The Philippines has changed drastically in the past 10 years, and the changes in both Manila and El Nido have been staggering. Increased tourism in El Nido (up 25% over last year) has brought much more job opportunities to locals. The small downtown changes on a weekly basis with modern shops and hotels popping up everywhere. On the one hand we’re really happy for the economic prosperity tourism brings to the hardworking locals. On the other hand, El Nido was like a secret destination for backpackers, way, way off the beaten path. It used to be you had to take at least 2 flights to get here, then a 12 hour bumpy van ride on unpaved roads to a city with limited electricity, no atms, and no credit cards accepted. Infrastructure improvements have cut travel time way down, but it also makes us a little sad to see this secret paradise getting so busy.

The market where meat is available only on Wednesdays and Saturdays

17) Most Palawenos (natives of the island we live on) are farmers. Rice paddies and water buffaloes are everywhere. Pigs and chickens are killed regularly for meals, though fish is the main protein staple. It is definitely a very different experience being so close to our food.

water buffalo