Joana and I spent about 2 weeks over Christmas break in the Philippines - I suppose you could say we have a bit of a "tropics fetish", but who doesn't?? The timing was opportune as her mom was on Luzon visiting family, so we managed to make it something of a reunion, seeing both mom's side as well as dad's.
There are a mind boggling number of islands in the Philippines. We managed to visit three big ones: Luzon, Cebu, and Palawan. We started out in Manila, a huge, sprawling, metropolis. Redeeming features were a bit lacking as we bounced between slums and western style malls, without much in between, making plain the bimodal nature of income distribution... all too common in places like this. About an hour outside Manila, we visited the family home in Pampanga. It was a few days of relaxing, eating, drinking, playing cards, karaoke, and more eating. Grandma is in her late 80's - she had 8 children, several of which immigrated to the US. The money repatriated by these children now supports nearly the entirety of her extended family (dozens of grandkids and great-grandkids).
After the island of Luzon, we headed to Cebu, to see the paternal grandmother (93 years old). This was a bit of a different experience - she is ethnically Chinese, adopted by a Chinese family in the Philippines in the 1940's. With the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1912, thousands of Chinese from Fujian left for the Philippines to avoid famine and poverty. The Ques built a family business, a bakery, in Car Car Cebu, which operated for several decades and elevated them to what can be considered an upper class family. The children are Engineers, Doctors, and Nurses - most have immigrated to Europe or the US. Indeed, grandma now lives with several Filipino "helpers" who care for her, the house, and the business.
Our last destination was Palawan, an island considered to be one of the Philippines most scenic. This part of the trip was most typical of a tropical vacation - glorious white sand beaches around El Nido, jungle trekking near Puerto Princesa to an underground river. Our last few days were spent on Lagen island, at a resort with excellent snorkeling, kayaking, and even windsurfing (which is harder than it looks!).
Overall it was a great trip. I wouldn't necessarily recommend the Philippines as the top destination in SE Asia (Thailand still takes the cake for me) but the scenery was some of the best and there really is no limit to the number of different islands you can visit.