why do we want to go MAD?
Through meeting people whom we wouldn’t normally encounter in our daily lives, we can develop greater empathy towards those who were born into less fortunate circumstances, learn about their culture, and find hope and inspiration in their strength.
That’s why we go MAD: because we believe that travel has the potential to change perspectives and inspire us to build a kinder, fairer world.
Sam Aldridge, Australia
Gawad Kalinga (“to give care”) is a global movement that started in the Philippines and aims to end poverty by first restoring the dignity of the poor. Since it was formally established in 2003, GK has expanded its work to over 2,000 organized communities throughout the country.
The GK Enchanted Farm is a unique business and education platform where society converges to build a world-class Philippines in which no one is left behind. The GK Enchanted Farm is situated two hours away from Metro Manila, in Angat, Bulacan.
GK Enchanted Farm, Bulacan
GK Silver Heights, Caloocan
Sitio Yangil, Zambales
GK Maribojoc, Bohol
GK Valencia, Dumaguete
GK Diteki, Aurora
MAD’s co-founder, Tom Graham, in his book, ‘The Genius of the Poor’
prepare your madventure
The Philippines was shaped by Spanish colonial times and occupations by the U.S. and Japan. Traces of these foreign cultures can therefore be found in many local traditions.
Due to Spanish colonial rule, the most practiced religion in the ocuntry is Roman Catholic, with more than 85% of Filipinos baptized in this faith. This explains the common practice of praying before starting a meal or any kind of event.
Another important aspect of Filipino culture is family and family life. It forms the foundation of many Filipino practices and is held in high regard by Filipinos young and old alike. Respect for elders and authorities are also key for inter-personal relations. Children might greet you with the traditional “mano po” (hand, please) which involves the children holding an elder’s hand to their foreheads to signify the reception of a blessing. It is also common courtesy to use the word “po” when talking to someone older or of authority.
As with many cultures, Filipinos bond over food. People greet each other with the phrase “kain tayo” which means “let’s eat.” Food and drinks are almost immediately offered to guests in a Filipino home. Refusing food may be considered impolite by some hosts and should be done so carefully. If you really don’t want to eat anything let your host know that you are really thankful for the offer but way too full to have any food.
Filipino breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are typically served with a cup of rice. For afternoon snacks, or “merienda,” Filipinos eat sweet snacks such as sticky rice and turon (banana spring rolls). Being a vegetarian is not commonplace but is possible. Table knives are not typically used – just spoons and forks are used for dining.
There are more than a hundred local languages and subsequent dialects registered in the Philippines. However, most Filipinos you will encounter on your travel with us will have at least a basic fluency in the national language, Filipino (Tagalog). An ability to speak and understand English is also common in the Philippines but should not be completely expected in more remote areas. Below are a few key Filipino phrases you can use when interacting with Filipinos during your travel:
Salamat – Thank you
Walang anuman – You’re Welcome
Magandang Umaga/Hapon/Gabi – Good morning/afternoon/evening
Masarap – Delicious
Magkano? – How much?
Paano pumunta sa (name of place)? – How do I go to (place)?
Mainit – Hot
Malamig – Cold
Maganda – Beautiful
Ingat – Take Care
Paalam – Goodbye
Kamusta? – How are you? (may be used to greet someone hello)
While the climate in the Philippines is generally hot because it’s a tropical country, there are two main seasons in the Philippines: Dry and Wet.
Wet season is typically from June to October while Dry season is from November to May.
- Passport and printed ticket out of the Philippines
- Cash (in Philippine Peso)
- SG to Philippines adaptor
- Light weight clothing (including pants, shorts, skirts, T-shirts, etc.)
- Shoes and clothes you’re don’t mind getting dirty
- Something to cover your shoulders when necessary (i.e. a shawl)
- Bathers and swimming shorts
- Sunblock & Mosquito Repellent
- Water Tumbler
- Towel & Toiletries
- Padlock (not essential but useful)
- Sandals and/or comfortable walking shoes
- Laundry – If your tour is situated in a big city like Manila, Dumaguete, or Bohol, there are normally several laundry stations in which you can do your laundry. Hotels, hostels, and even communities you stay at also offer laundry services
The currency in the Philippines is Philippine Peso. That converts to around 50 US Dollars. There are several money changers in cities and towns but ATMs are scarce in the provinces. Guests are advised to withdraw enough money for their small-town trips while they are still in the big cities. We also strongly encourage guests to take any and all precautionary steps to keep their money safe as MAD Travel is not liable for any losses experienced in the trips.
Socket / Plug types in the Philippines are types A, B, and C with a standard voltage of 220V and a standard frequency of 60hz
- For inter-island travel in the Philippines, domestic airlines and ferry lines are available. Drop us a line if you want to arrange your travel with us!
- For inter-city travel in Luzon, the bus is your best bet! If you want to travel more comfortably, we can also book a van to take you to where you need to go.
- For going around a city or town, there are several ways to travel: Uber, Grab, taxi, train, bus, jeepney, or tricycle. You can also try to walk to nearby destinations if you want the extra exercise! Just make sure to be extra careful and cautious of your belongings when commuting. A small towel to wipe off sweat might also be of help!
health & safety in the Philippines
Rest assured that MAD Travel tours are limited to safe and secure destinations.
Still, as in any country, safety precautions have to be exercised when in the Philippines. This includes keeping your valuables closeby and in secure places, not travelling with flashy items, being discreet with gadget use, never giving personal information (like hotel rooms, amount of cash brought, etc.) to strangers, and the like.
Before coming into the country, it is advised that you pack a mosquito repellant that works best for you. Also try to be more cautious during early morning and early evening as these are the times when mosquitoes are known to be most active. Avoid places with murky, still water and do your best to cover up. When sleeping in open areas, ensure that your bed has a mosquito net and don’t forget to use it!
Regularly updated information about Dengue, Malaria, and Zika are available on the web. We advise that you take a bit of time to read about the ways you can further prevent these diseases.
The national and local health departments in the country are also regularly updated about any outbreaks or causes of concern regarding these diseases. Should we find any reports leading up to your trip, we will take the necessary steps to inform you immediately.
While we design our adventures to keep you free from danger, you, the traveller, also play a big part in ensuring your own health and safety.
Make sure you always stay hydrated on your adventures with us. We recommend bringing a reusable tumbler. There are several places in each town to get clean, potable water.
Protect your skin from the sun by packing the essentials: sunscreen, a cap or hat, and some sunglasses. You might also want to wear protective gear on our treks.
When visiting islands, forests, or mountains, take precaution when touching items that look out of the ordinary. Your best bet in uncertainty is always to ask your guide first.
Any traveller is typically recommended by their respective governments to get routine vaccines before they visit any destination. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), polio, and your yearly flu shot.
When visiting the Philippines, your doctor may also recommend getting vaccinations for Hepatitis A and Typhoid. While we ensure that our guests eat clean and safe food, we will not be able to control what you eat outside of our tours.
For other vaccine and health concerns, please consult with your doctor.
We try to make your experience as authentic as possible so we let the communities you will be visiting cook most of your meals. Should you have any dietary requirements or food allergies, please tell us prior to your trip, so that we can prepare accordingly.
You may want to try some local beer or rum. This is okay to do outside tour hours, but remember to drink moderately. Everyone in the team likes to have a good time but we also know how one bad hangover can ruin your trip. We wouldn’t want one night of heavy drinking outside the tour to mess with the authentic and fulfilling experience we have prepared for you.
Do note that consuming alcohol in Gawad Kalinga communities is prohibited because of the nature of the community members’ backgrounds and the values GK tries to instill in the people who live there. As such, we expect our guests visiting these areas to uphold the rules set by the communities.
For special events and occasions on tour, moderate drinking is permitted. You may consult your MAD Travel tour coordinator about this before your trip or event.