Traveling Safely in the Philippines

Beyond the beaches, coconut trees, colorful public transport and funky duck eggs featured in ‘Fear Factor’, there is an underlying concern by tourists wanting to travel to the Philippines – safety.

Recently, an American Peace Corps volunteer by name of Julia Campbell was found buried in a shallow grave in a Philippine mountain village.  This prompted some people to raise the question “Is this country safe for foreigners?”

When asked to comment on this unfortunate incident, Philippine Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales issued a rather controversial statement implying that the victim was ‘careless’ and that may have been one of the reasons she got killed. 

Of course the statement was callous and highly inappropriate at that time since the victim did not travel here for vacation but rather to help the indigent people on their plight, but what about the tourists?  Should they be held accountable for their own safety?  How ‘careless’ really is careless?

If a tourist, say for example, walks around the streets with an expensive digital camera around his neck as they snap pictures of whatever they like, that’s not being careless, that should be considered safe. 

If, however, they sat down on bench, left their camera on that bench to get a snack or something, they shouldn’t expect it to still be there when they get back.  That is expecting too much. We’re not saying it’ll be gone for sure, but the likelihood is definitely above average.
It is also advisable to always travel with a buddy, especially at night.  There is, as they say, safety in numbers. A tour guide wouldn’t hurt if you have money to spare. 

If you carry a thick wad of cash and wave it around as you go shopping, that is being blatantly careless and would almost automatically attract criminal elements. Inconspicuous is safe. Traveling inside villages without a local companion is quite risky; it would be a lot safer to travel with someone from the inside. Of course, the local police should be able to offer tourists the best protection they can; it’s their job.

New York-based risk consultant Kroll has this advice to travelers who think they would be visiting a dangerous country –  “The guiding rule is to ask yourself if you are prepared and informed. You can travel safely, but you have to do it right”. 
That is one big careful step in being safe.  It is true that the Philippine government should cover everything necessary to keep tourists safe, but it is also very important for the tourists themselves to know how to avoid being careless to ensure they have a trouble free vacation. 

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