Why Visit the Philippines: Interview with Jasper Ribbers, the Traveling Dutchman

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2013 • 08 • 29

He calls himself the Traveling Dutchman, and he has been to the Philippines so many times, he lost count.

After working for an arbitrage trading firm for 6 years, Jasper Ribbers decided to leave it all behind and travel the world. He’s been to over 50 countries, but he always finds himself in the Philippines. He has set foot on Manila, Batangas, Puerto Galera, Boracay, Siargao Island, Cebu, and Palawan. But it seems like he isn’t done with the Pearl of the Orient yet. In September, he is headed to this side of the Pacific again and he’s got his eyes on Butuan and Malapascua Island.

But before he pays this country another visit, we were able to talk to him about what he thinks of the Philippines so far and what keeps him coming back!


1. What were your expectations about the Philippines before coming here? Were these expectations met?

I thought the Philippines would be somewhat similar to other Asian countries like Thailand and Indonesia. It turned out that this was not the case. First of all, I didn’t realize that almost everyone speaks English in the Philippines. Secondly, I felt like the culture is more similar to western culture than other Asian countries.

2. What was your first day in the Philippines like? What were your first impressions?

The first day I ever spent in the Philippines was in Cebu City. It’s a long time ago, so I don’t remember the details, but I do remember noticing the colorful jeepneys and the positive attitude of the Filipinos. It seemed like everyone was smiling, making jokes, and enjoying themselves. I felt like people were trying to make the most of life, by playing music and singing karaoke for example.

3. You mentioned in your blog that Siargao is your favorite destination in the Philippines. What makes it special? 

To me, Siargao Island resembles the perfect place to get away from the stress and worries of normal day-to-day life. It has this ‘don’t worry be happy’ vibe. I think it’s the combination of the friendly locals and the surfers visiting the island.

There are some amazingly beautiful spots around the island. In addition, there is a great range of activities to do. Surfing, diving, boat rides, kayaking and, one of my favorites, riding a motorbike around the island.

jasper ribbers motorbike

Siargao Island
Siargao Island
Aerial View of Siargao
Aerial View of Siargao
The Traveling Dutchman becomes the Flying Dutchman at Sohoton Caves
The Traveling Dutchman becomes the Flying Dutchman at Sohoton Caves

4. How was your experience in the Philippines different from your trips in other countries?

The combination of the abundance of natural beauty, the friendly people, and the possibility to connect with the locals in English is quite unique. In addition, I’ve never been to a country before where a double rum-coke is cheaper than a single rum-coke because the rum is cheaper than coke.

5. When you hear the word ‘Philippines,’ what is that single memory that pops up in your head?

I immediately think about Siargao Island, as it’s really one of my favorite destinations in the world.

6. What are the areas of Philippine tourism that needs improving on?

When I visited Palawan I went snorkeling in Honda bay. My guide insisted that I wore a life-vest, which kind of kills the snorkeling experience as it makes it hard to dive down. I thought this safety procedure is a little extreme and unnecessary.

Other than that, it can sometimes be a bit hard to find adequate transportation or get local information. I kind of like how that adds to the adventurousness of the journey though.

The Diving Dutchman in Puerto Galera
The Diving Dutchman in Puerto Galera

7. Any tips for foreigners planning on hitting Philippine shores?

Sure, plenty of tips:

  • Get a local SIM card with 3G when you arrive. Data is very affordable and comes in handy having Google Maps as it can be hard to find places sometimes.
  • Join some local Philippinos for karaoke, a great way to make friends.
  • Don’t drink too much of the locally produced Tanduay Rum; you might regret this the next morning!
  • Make sure you have an onward flight booked before your arrival in the Philippines. This is required and you won’t be able to check in if you don’t have one!

philippines coke

Jasper Ribbers traded his financial career and everything he owned for a live long dream — to travel the world full-time. Read about his adventures in different parts of the world on his blog — www.thetravelingdutchman.com. Stalk him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google!

WHY VISIT THE PHILIPPINES is a series of interviews aiming to attract more international visitors to the Philippines.

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