Visayas

                                Visayas is the name of a group of islands located in the central Philippines comprising Western, Central and Eastern Visayas regions. These group of islands is where many of the pristine white beaches of the Philippines can be found such as Boracay Island in the Western Visayas, Panglao Island in Central Visayas and Calicoan Island in Eastern Visayas, not to mention Siquijor Island off Negros Oriental's Dumaguete City and its dramatically beautiful, diving and snorkelling-friendly neighbour Apo Island.

Boracay island has brought the Visayas into worldwide focus as it is continually featured as either the best or one of the top 5 best beaches in the world or in Asia, beating Thailand's beaches for a number of awards.  The powdery white sand of many Visayan beaches has to be experienced in person: it is always comfortable in bare feet.

                                Western Visayas is a region composed of the provinces of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Iloilo, Guimaras and Negros Occidental. Cental Visayas region is composed of the provinces of Bohol, Cebu, Siquijor and Negros Oriental. Eastern Visayas is the region comprising the provinces of Biliran, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar, Southern Leyte and Western Samar.

                                The main islands in the Visayas group are Panay Island, Negros Island, Cebu Island, Bohol Island, Siquijor Island, Leyte Island, Biliran Island and Samar Island: the best known is tiny Boracay Island off Panay Island's Caticlan.

                                The main dialects in the Visayas region are Hiligaynon, Cebuano and Waray. The people in the Western region re commonly called Ilonggo, in the Central region they are known as Cebuano while in the Eastern region they are generally called Waray. Generally, the people in the Visayas are called Bisaya since they speak Visayan languages.

                                The best Filipino dive sites, beaches, massive caves, falls and rock formations can be found in the region together with some surfing sites. The region is between the main island of Luzon and the southern Mindanao region. 

                                Investment opportunities in the tourism industry are  primarily in the hotel sector (including smaller bed and breakfasts) due to the increasing arrival of tourists from South Korea, China, Australia, Russia, Singapore, Canada and to a far lesser extent the United States, as consumer spending is static in the latter. Tourism from Japan had markedly declined, a worldwide phenomena, but has now started to rise again.  Demand for accommodation by local travellers is five times the demand by foreigners.

The diversity of accommodation has markedly improved since 2000 with Cebu and Boracay in particular enjoying a wide selection from budget to luxury 5-star.  Previously less prominent islands such as Siquijor are starting to attract Europeans, UK residents and Australians in particular due to their stunning white sand beaches and the absence of multi-storey tourism developments. 

The Philippines' transport options from both Manila and Cebu have dramatically improved since 2004 with Cebu Pacific (airline) now hubbing some smaller ATR-500 flights through Cebu to previously unserved destinations such as Dumaguete.  AirPhilsExpress, a subsidiary of Philippine Airlines has begun to do the same.  Flight frequencies from Manila to Cebu and Kalibo (the latter for Boracay) are excellent with Zest Air and SEAsian Airlines (the latter bookable through www.tigerairways.com.au)  as other airlines.

Airliines such as Cebu Pacific have begun to develop other hubs such as Iloilo.

2go Travel (http://travel.2go.com.ph) is the main ferry operator.  It traverses the Manila to Cebu and vice versa route at least five times a week.  TransAsia is one reputable company that links Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao overnight (three times a week each way) with the Visayas' Cebu using modern vessels with a typical one way sole use or cabin for two costing about P3200..  

The quality of food has risen in the past decade.  For an example of Filipino urban planning that beats many Western cities, visit The Terraces' three-storey dining area next to Cebu's Ayala Center Mall.

The Visayas is known for fresh mangoes, scenic drives, frequent bus services by companies such as Ceres Liners (although not fast at an average speed of 30 to 35 kilometres per hour depending on traffic conditions) and a multitude of smaller islands to explore, dive or snorkel at. 

Island hopping in small islets is undertaken by outrigger boats ('bangka', sometimes spelt 'banca.') Foreign travellers often agree that local folks in the region are most hospitable people on earth and speak English.

The best months to visit are December to early June, although most of the region avoids the typhoons that plague Manila and northern Luzon between August and November.

It's more fun in the Visayas!