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THE PHILIPPINES: RIPE FOR TOURISM

LongIsland.com

The political instability that churned in the Philippines the past two decades virtually barred tourism from the U.S. to these beautiful islands. But now comes the silver lining. A surprisingly peaceful presidential election and a ...

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The political instability that churned in the Philippines the past two decades virtually barred tourism from the U.S. to these beautiful islands. But now comes the silver lining. A surprisingly peaceful presidential election and a cease fire by rebels in the south have put the Philippines on the brink of a renaissance in tourism, and the fact that visitors have not overun its attractions all these years has left these natural wonders pristine and uncluttered by overdevelopment.

What all this means is that those who are searching for a tropical paradise and who've been disappointed by the high rises in Hawaii and even Thailand, will find those palm-tree'd
beaches in the Philippines, at places
like Puerto Galera and Boracay, where you can still enjoy modern comforts, but in an unspoiled setting worthy of what Captain Cook would have marveled at. Diving enthusiasts, especially, will find the waters around Philippine resorts to be as clear, even clearer, than what they'll find anywhere in the Pacific, with coral reefs among the best in the world. Natural wonders like the Rice Terraces of Banaue and Taal Volcano beckon the adventurous, as do the rainforests of Bukidnon for jungle trekkers. Whitewater rafting and canoeing have also become top action pursuits, along with cycling, windsurfing and hang gliding.

Those more interested in urban pursuits will find some of the world's best shopping, dining and nightlife in the Philippine capital of Manila, which has undergone its own revival under its no-nonsense, Guiliani-style Mayor, Lito Atienza. His new "Baywalk" beckons vistors to enjoy cafes and outdoor entertainment along the once blighted shore of Manila Bay, while fabulous luxury hotels like the Shangri-La Edsa cater to their guests' every whim. A favorable exchange rate for the dollar doesn't hurt either.

It's been a while coming, but the tourism hiatus may have worked to the Philippines' advantage, making it the last, best place in Asia. For further information, log on to their website, www.wowphilippines.com.ph, or contact the Philippine Touism Office in New York at pdotnyc1@aol.com. Enjoy!