Manila Memories: A Conversation with Hillary Branman

January 5, 2016

This month, we’re interviewing women from all over the world and asking them about their experiences traveling to the Philippines . We had the privilege of speaking with Hillary Branman about her experience traveling through Manila. Here’s a glimpse into our conversation.

Tell us about yourself! What do you do when you’re not traveling the world? Where do you live? What made you decide to go to your most recent destination?

Hailing from Long Beach, California, I am the co-owner of the travel blog, Uncontained Life, and formerly an instructor at University of California, Irvine. I became a digital nomad in March of this year, have traveled throughout 16 countries on three continents in 2015. I have my sights set on visiting Cuba and 12 to 14 additional countries in 2016. Visiting the Philippines was a spur of the moment decision after visiting South Korea for a month. I wanted more beaches, a different culture, and affordable accommodations. The Philippines provided all three criteria.

How long did you go for? How did you spend your time?

I spent a month in the Philippines, first in Manila but primarily on the island of Palawan. In Manila, I toured Intramuros with Bambike Ecotours (bicycles made out of bamboo!). Once on Palawan, I floated on the Underground River, went island hopping in El Nido, dined at many of the waterfront restaurants in Puerto Princesa, and relaxed at an eco resort in the fishing village of Langogan.


What were your most memorable experiences? What were the biggest disappointments?

Three memorable experiences I won’t forget were eating a worm, sinking a kayak, and hiking through the jungle to a secret waterfall. The biggest disappointment was the Underground River tour. It was not worth the cost or time.

What do you wish you knew before you went?

I wish I knew that the taxi system in Manila is a ripoff. I ended up waiting five hours for a metered taxi.

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Any favorite restaurants/hotels/hostels/sites you’d like to recommend? Tell us what made them great!

In El Nido, I recommend Republica Sunset Bar which features delicious drinks, scrumptious small bites, and beautiful sunset views. In Puerto Princesa, sample traditional Filipino foods at Haim Chicken Inato (if you’re brave, suck down a Palawan delicacy, the Tamilok (fresh mangrove worm). Also, stop by Palaweno Brewery (owned by two women and the only craft beer on Palawan) for a taster flight of beer.


Is there anything that women specifically should know before they travel to your destination?

While foreign travelers will not be in danger if they wear their bikinis at the beach, it is good to recognize that the Philippines is, generally, a more conservative place—local women will be wearing cover-ups while swimming. Wearing swimwear in the streets will mean a lot of uncomfortable stares, so it is a good idea to bring clothes to wear over your swimsuit.

About Real Deal

On the Real Deal, women share the highlights and challenges from their recent trip–and what they wish they knew before going.

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