How to survive as a vegan in the Philippines
It’s not easy being vegan in the Philippines. It’s not even easy being lacto-ovo-vegetarian in the Philippines. The people of this country truly loves their meat. And because of being a tropical land, you might expect fruits and vegetables to be a big part of their cuisine – but think again.
Always have snacks with you. This isn’t as easy at it may sound. Finding chips that are not meat or cheese flavoured is actually quite hard. Regular salted chips is apparently not very popular here. Even the classic red Pringles tube is hard to spot while the weirdly flavoured one’s are everywhere.
What you actually can find in most places:
- Oreos (a vegan’s lifesaver)
If you’re lucky you can also get:
- Dried green peas (very rich in protein but look out for the flavouring as it might have meat flavouring)
- Fruit – yes it’s actually hard finding fruit everywhere
- Müsli biscuits – “healthy” oat cookies that don’t taste the best but still very good snack
- Oreos with strawberry flavour
- Soy milk
I only found soy milk half way into my trip and by accident. It’s found not in “milk”packages but in glass bottles, so they’re used as a drink and not as a milk substitute. I found 4 different flavours; natural, thai tea, chocolate and double chocolate. The double chocolate was divine. I also brought the natural flavoured one to the café in the morning and ordered müsli without milk and used my own for for that and for my coffee since the café didn’t have any plant based milk themselves. It does get heavy if you want to make sure you have a few bottles with you, but they are small(330ml) and since they are stored in room temperature you will be more likely to finish it all when you open a bottle. Unlike bigger boxes where it goes bad or might leak if you’ve opened it and don’t use it all at once.
Warning: I also found soy milk in plastic bottles from another brand in the flavours chocolate and strawberry. But be warned! They tasted so chemically that I could not drink it. I had to throw them all away.
The Philippines is one of the places where the massive super fruit Jackfruit grows. In a food court in a huge mall in Cebu with more than 20 courts I managed to find ONE course that was vegan. It was a local food that I unfortunately can’t remember the name of but it was a soup with coconut milk and jackfruit. I had the soup with rice and it worked just fine as a stew. When riding on the back of a motorcycle in Dalaguete, Cebu I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a huge jackfruit hanging(!) from a tree! I don’t know how those enormous fruits.
Oreos, müsli biscuits and those disgusting soy milks I wrote about above(don’t buy)
Another (big) problem
Since tourism is still relatively new in the Philippines, hostels with kitchens to use is actually very rare. So because of this you can almost forget cooking your own food. Or you make sure to check the box for “kitchen” on facilities on hostelworld’s website when looking for accommodation. Then you can have a bag of lentils or beans etc. and make yourself. This is one of the thing’s I would’ve done if I could do the trip all over again. Making your won food makes it so much easier getting your proteins.
What to bring from home
I do have to say getting enough protein was a challenge, so I do recommend you to bring protein
- protein powder
- protein bars
- dried chickpeas – weighs little, tastes amazing and easy to make yourself
- don’t forget your B12 and iron tablets for this trip!
A few places where you can get vegan food
The Art Café, El Nido
This place is not on the cheap side, but they have a huge variety of food from all over the world to suit everyone’s taste. A nice terrace with good atmosphere and plenty of options for vegans. I do recommend you bringing soy milk so you can use it for your coffee or tea and with cereal or müsli for breakfast. I also have to recommend their bruschetta – I had it at least once a day when in El Nido.
Island hopping tour by El Nido Paradise
Going on tours where food in included makes any vegan a bit worried when it comes to the meals. I could tell the concept of veganisk was new to the chef but in only 3 days I saw a quick development in his creativity in vegan food. Started off basic but tasty with lots of vegetables with rice and fruits and then I got curry, and then lentil soup and then dessert with crispy thin pancake with fried banana with chocolate and caramel sauce and for breakfast the last day I got fluffy delicious pancakes. I have to applaud the chef we had on our boat who, with a small kitchen on a relatively small boat managed to provide us with food and snacks with an endless variety for 15 people + crew. He would even cut the fruits in beautiful shapes. Really recommend this company, not only for the fact that it’s cheaper than other tours, less people on board and a fully trustworthy crew but for the effort they made for me as the only person with a special food request.
Noordzee Hostel in Baljoon, Cebu
This hostel is located almost in the middle of nowhere but they have a restaurant that’s opened early morning to late night and they are very easy going and there’s no problem with having special requests for different courses to make it vegan. Pizza, noodles and sandwiches. For breakfast I enjoyed smoothie with warm toasted bread and with that I got a couple of bananas which I smushed and but some sea salt on. Sounds weird to some maybe, but I love that combination. I met another vegan and a couple of vegetarians on that hostel and we all found it easy(and tasty) with their menu that’s just big enough.
SM City Cebu
There’s a food court and almost all 20+ of them offer the same kind of food – with meat. But there was one that offered the coconut milk-jackfruit soup I wrote about before. It wasn’t just an ok food but actually very good and the girl working there was super sweet.
A few last tips
It does matter where you go in the Philippines on how it’s going to be with your food. Some places offer places that have vegan dishes ready. Here are some tips on how you can make it easier on your trip
- Research – Happycom.com, Vegan facebook groups, google etc.
- Stay in accommodation with a kitchen
- Bring a note with your food requirements in Tagalog(the language they speak in the Philippines) to avoid miscommunication
- And as always – always have snacks in your bag