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The Philippines: May 7-21, 2018


The Philippines, known as Pearl of the Orient, is one of the great treasures of Southeast Asia. Often overlooked by travelers, the Philippines rewards those who go the extra distance to reach and explore it. Because it’s off the beaten path, the Philippines is a great place to escape the multitudes who descend upon other parts of Southeast Asia. The country is the second-largest archipelago in the world, being composed of more than 7,000 islands. The Philippines boasts a fantastic landscape with wonders enough to stagger even the most jaded traveler, such as: the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Banaue with its amazing the Rice Terraces (called my many the 8th wonder of the world) and fascinating reminders of the islands’ rich history in places such as Vigan. But that’s not all the Philippines has to offer. If you’re after palm-fringed, white-sand beaches, the Philippines offers that too, on a scale and beauty that one might have expected to find in Hawaii decades ago.

The Philippines has three major regions; Luzon to the north, Visayas in the center, and Mindanao in the south. Manila, located in Luzon is the capital. The Filipino culture, has affinities with the Spain due to three centuries of colonial rule, and has an American influence, largely the result of a major military presence during World War II. The rich culture and tradition reflect the diverse indigenous groups from its many islands. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, being the only Catholic country in Southeast Asia. Tagalog is the official language though English is widely spoken.

Travelers who have been to the Philippines will universally comment that it’s the Filipinos themselves who make the country such a joy to visit. Photo friendly and full of smiles, the people open themselves and their lives to visitors on a scale only matched by places like India and Myanmar. The Philippines truly qualifies as one of the last great frontiers in Southeast Asia. This is your chance to be among the few to explore and photograph this amazing destination. 

Itinerary The Philippines
Day 1:
(May 7)

Arrive in in Manila, where you will be picked up at the airport and taken to the hotel. This evening, we will have an orientation meeting followed by dinner at a nearby restaurant. Spend the night Manila.

Day 2:

Today, cameras in hand, we set out for a Manila City tour.  Some historical landmarks and interesting parts of the city we'll view include: Rizal Park, the country’s premier park and the site of many important events in the country’s history; and Intramuros, the Spanish colonial city. Its historical landmarks include Fort Santiago, the old Spanish military headquarters; San Agustin Church, the oldest stone church in the city which has a museum of religious and secular art; Barrio San Luis, a complex of reconstructed period houses depicting the Filipino life styles of the 19th century. The tour also includes Quiapo, a district popular to the locals for its open market and its church which enshrines the black statue of Jesus Christ.  Finally, we'll see the Chinese Cemetery known for its peculiarity of having grandiose mausoleums with fascinating blend of different religious elements.   We'll spend the night in Manila.

Day 3:

This morning about 8:00 we set out in our own private Jeepney to visit and photograph a bustling fish market, and then Manila’s largest flower market. In the afternoon we ride a mini, man-powered train, and explore life along the railroad tracks. We spend the night in Manila.

Day 4:

Today we fly to Laoag, where we'll meet up with our co-leader for the rest of the tour, Jacob Maentz. We'll be transported two hours south by private bus to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Vigan.  Upon our arrival in Vigan we do a short orientation walk and perhaps some late afternoon and evening shooting in Vigan’s old cobblestone street and historic district. In pre-colonial times, Vigan was an important trading post for Chinese junks, trading gold beeswax and other products from the central Cordilleras for exotic Asian goods. Many Chinese traders settled in the mestizo district, marrying locals and starting new bloodlines. Vigan was captured and settled by the Spanish in 1572, and grew to become a center of Spanish political and religious power in the north of Luzon.  We'll spend the night in Vigan.

Day 5:

This morning we are up early and head out to explore Vigan. We visit the Mestizo District which offers a wonderful glimpse into the Philippines’ colonial past. The ancestral houses were mostly built by Chinese traders using an eclectic mixture of local, Asian and Spanish architectural styles. St. Paul’s Metropolitan Cathedral was built by Augustinians around 1790 and features a unique design intended to minimize earthquake damage; a style that came to be known as “earthquake baroque”. We'll see an feng-shui inspired  bell tower and see Plaza Salcedo, the site of resistance leader Gabriela Silang’s public hanging in 1763. Close by is the Ayala Museum, with Ilocano artifacts and Burgos Memorabilia.   After our evening shoot in this historic district, we have a nice, outdoor café dinner and then spend our final night in Vigan.

Day 6:

Today we take a long scenic drive along the amazing, photogenic road through a Philippine National Park to Sagada. Sagada is a small town nestled in the middle of a valley at the upper end of Malitep tributary of the Chico river about 1,500 meters above sea level. It's a lofty little town, dirt-free air, with the smell of towering pine trees. The journey is one of the prettiest drives in Luzon, and takes about 6 hours due to sharp bends & bumpy roads through the Cordilera Mountains. We pass the highest point in the Philippine highway system and pass some amazing terraces which we will stop and photograph along the way. Spend the night in Sagada.

Day 7:

Today we rise early to photograph rice terraces in and around Sagada, then set off to explore the famous hanging coffins. Hanging coffins are an ancient funeral custom. Coffins of various shapes can be seen hanging either on beams projecting outward from vertical faces of the mountain, are placed in caves in the face of cliffs, or sit on natural rock projections. We spend the night Sagada.

Day 8:

After breakfast we board our bus for a 250 kilometer trip to Baguio, a city on the Cordillera mountain range in the middle of the island of Luzon. Due to its cool mountain weather, Baguio is considered the summer capital of the Philippines. Because of its many pine trees it is also called the City of Pines. In the afternoon we do a bit of photo-wandering in Baguio, then have dinner and relax at our hotel. Spend the night in Baguio.

Day 9:

Sleep in, enjoy a magnificent breakfast and a late morning departure by private bus from Baguio to Clark International Airport where we'll catch our flight to the island of Cebu. We'll stop along the way, as time permits, to take photos of workers in the vegetable fields or whatever strikes our fancy. Spend the night in Cebu.

Day 10:

Today we’ll photograph a bustling local fish market and then boxing at a local gym in an impoverished part of Mandaue. (Boxing is only 2nd to Basketball as the most popular sport in the Philippines.) If time permits, we will visit and photograph preparation of Cebu’s famous Lechon at a local restaurant. Spend the night in Cebu.

Day 11:

Today we'll visit a starfish processing plant on an adjacent island. In the evening, we’ll make our way into Cebu City to photograph the “Sinulog dancing candle ladies of Santo Nino Basilica. Spend the night in Cebu.

Day 12:

After breakfast at our hotel in Cebu we'll board a ferry to the neighboring island of Bohol. After checking in at our resort hotel, there will be time for a quick swim, relaxing or photographing on the beach.  At sunset we walk the beach photographing the seascape, fishermen and children frolicking in the water.  This evening we enjoy photo sharing and an open-air dinner overlooking the ocean. Spend the night in Bohol.

Day 13:

This morning we rise early and head to the Tarsier Research and Development Center to photograph the Tarsier, a strange, tiny monkey with large eyes.  After photographing Tarsiers, we take an  bnoat ride through the local jungle, and on the way back to the hotel make a short stop to photograph the Chocolate Hills. The Chocolate Hills are a rolling terrain  of nearly symmetrical   limestone mounds.  During the dry season, the grass-covered hills dry up and turn chocolate brown. This transforms the area into seemingly endless rows of “chocolate kisses”. We spend the night in Bohol.


Day 14:

Today we'll do a portfolio review, relax at the beach and/or arrange optional excursions throughout this tropical island. We spend night in Bohol.

Day 15:

Group will return to Manila, then connect with their flights home.


Karl Grobl

Karl Grobl

Karl Grobl, (co-founder and trip leader), is a humanitarian photojournalist specializing in the photographic documentation of relief efforts and development work of NGOs worldwide. Calling upon his superb photography talents, both technically and creatively, he proficiently leads photo workshops and international photo tours (on this website). Beyond his photography attributes, tour clients frequently commend his helpfulness, professionalism and savvy about navigating global travel.

In 2013, Karl relocated from San Diego, California to Siem Reap, Cambodia, where he now lives full time. Karl considers Cambodia the perfect place for his Asia-based NGO work and photography tours and workshops. When ‘deplaning’ from his rigorous international travel schedule, Karl lecturers on photography and photojournalism, works on personal photography projects, and scouts out new off-beat photo tour destinations in Asia. In his free time, Karl says that he enjoys "hanging out at the nearby temples of Angkor, the rural villages and rice paddies, and occasionally getting completely soaked by the refreshing monsoon rains".

Many of Karl’s images have appeared in publications such as Newsweek, CNN, Geo, Town and Country magazine and The Chronicle of Philanthropy, though the majority of his photos appear in the annual reports, newsletters and communications materials of his humanitarian organization clients.  

Over the last ten years, Karl has worked in over 50 countries and has covered and photographed post conflict peace building efforts in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and East Timor, HIV/Aids issues in Africa and Asia as well as human trafficking in Cambodia and the Philippines. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Karl spent more than a month embedded with five different non-governmental organizations (NGO) documenting tsunami relief efforts in India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.  The international press has taken notice of Karl’s provoking images:  The 2005 Haiti photo-story “City of God” was nominated for a World Press Photo Award. Karl is a member of the Advisory Council of Focus For Humanity, a non-profit organization, whose mission is to provide financial support, resources and training for professional and amateur photographers wishing to work with NGOs.

    “From an early age, my parents instilled in me a desire to explore and learn firsthand about the world around me. Our family vacations and weekend excursions were general education courses disguised as fun. Knowingly or unknowingly they set me on course for a journey that today, is still just beginning. For me, the ongoing quest to document the world’s people and global events that shape our common humanity, have been instrumental in breaking down stereotypes, preconceptions and prejudices. 

I believe that the more of the world we see and experience, the more we understand. It seems people everywhere, share similar goals, aspirations, hopes and desires. It is with a strong sense of obligation that I share through photographs, the people, places and events that have profoundly shaped my vision of our world. By sharing these experiences with you, I hope to make a small, positive contribution to a heightened sense of world community.” -K. Grobl

Mob. phone: 

Jacob Maentz

Jacob Maentz

Jacob Maentz is a freelance travel, culture and documentary photographer based in Cebu, Philippines. His passion lies in creating images that communicate a strong sense of place and cultural awareness in unique, challenging situations. His photographs often reflect his background in conservation and explore issues related to the human condition and natural world.

Jacob’s dedication to visual storytelling is enhanced by his love for travel and cultural exchange. Travel is something Jacob grew up with as a young boy and his time in Latin America during college is where he discovered his passion for the camera. In 2003, he was brought to the Philippines when he joined the United States Peace Corps and returned a few years later to start a professional career in photography.

Jacob works primarily as a freelance photographer. He has been commissioned by corporations, private organizations, NGO’s, universities and independent writers for organizations as varied as Save the Children, MyShelter Foundation and Leo Burnett. Most of his travel and documentary work is represented by Corbis Images and his photos have appeared on everything from TV commercials and billboards to magazine and book covers.

For more about Jacob, or to see some of his work, click here.

Mob. phone: 

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Cost Includes:  All 14 hotel nights, airport transfers, all ground transportation, in-country flights, all breakfasts, all dinners, entrances to tourist sites, boat rides, English-speaking guides, drinking water.

Cost does not include:  International flights, passport & visas fees, travel insurance, vaccinations and medical cover/treatment, meals not specified, tips to guides, drivers and bellboys, and personal expenses such as alcoholic beverages/snacks, internet access fees, laundry fees, etc.

Deposit and Final Payment

A deposit of $800 per person is required at time of booking. Full payment is due 90 days prior to departure.

Cancellation:  On cancellations more than 120 days prior to departure, all monies are refunded less a $275 administrative fee.

Less than 120 but at least 90 days prior, total deposit amount is forfeited.
Less than 90 but at least 75 days prior, 50% of trip price is forfeited.
Less than 75 days prior to departure, 100% is forfeited.

Notification by phone or email is acceptable, but please follow with written notice. In the unlikely event we have to cancel a tour, a full refund will be given.


Jim Cline Photo Tours LLC and their agents act only in the capacity as agents in all matters pertaining to hotel accommodations, sightseeing tours, and transportation, and are not responsible for any loss, damage, theft, or injury to person or property resulting from a defect in any vehicle, or the actions of any persons who provide services for this tour or for the action or inaction of any third party. Baggage is at the owner’s risk entirely. The tour operator reserves the right to withdraw the tour at any time, to decline any person as a member of the tour for any cause at any time. All prices are based on current rates of exchange and, while every effort will be made to hold them firm, they are subject to change. All participants are required to submit a signed Assumption of Risk and Release of Liability form prior to the tour’s departure.


It is the responsibility of each tour member to inform the tour operator of any possible health problems or handicaps upon registration. By forwarding a signed reservation form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you or other trip participants. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements.


To allow for any unexpected contingencies, all participants are strongly urged to purchase trip cancellation and interruption insurance.


While Jim Cline Photo Tours LLC endeavors to make the itinerary as accurate as possible, it should be considered as an approximate schedule of activities rather than a rigid schedule of events. Trip itineraries are subject to revision due to weather, ocean or trail conditions, government restrictions, and other reasons beyond our control. The tour leader has the right to make changes in the published itinerary whenever in his sole judgment conditions warrant, or if he deems it necessary for the comfort or safety of the tour.


Country Info



Health Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website.  To see whether this country is currently affected by Malaria click here.  The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

Money:  Currency in the Philippines is called peso. Currency exchange rates 

Visa, Diners Club, Mastercard, American Express, and other credit and debit cards are widely accepted at major stores, restaurants, and hotels.   Foreign currency may be exchanged at most hotels, and in most of the large department stores, banks and authorized money changing shops. Exchanging money anywhere else is illegal and the laws are strictly enforced.

Internet Access:  Broadband Internet is widely available at public Internet cafes, offices, etc. 

Electrical  Converters & Adapters Required 

VISA ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: U.S. citizens may enter the Philippines for purposes of tourism without a visa if they present their U.S. passport, valid for at least six months after their date of entry into the Philippines, and a return ticket to the United States or an onward ticket to another country. 


Packing Ideas

We take pride in our trip testimonials. We hope you’ll take a moment to read those below written by previous participants of this tour. 

"This trip was Fantastic- ranked as a 10 [most favorable]!  It was a life-changing/enhancing experience for me, as I tend to be a traveler with trepidations.  I enjoyed the people in our group, many were more advanced, and very generous to me with tips and instruction. And, of course, there was much learning from viewing the work of the others.  The local guides were helpful and Karl is a great guy.  We were well taken care of.  Throughout the trip, I really enjoyed meeting, conversing with, and photographing the Filipinos.  They ware warm, congenial, and handsome. I particularly liked photographing the children, and shot some great pictures.  Thanks for the opportunity."  -Lawrence B. 2013


"I flew to the Philippines, but I had no idea what to expect . . . I was assuming it would be another opportunity to improve my photography skills.  Little did I know . . . the countryside with the endless green rice terraces, the magnificent  mountains, the  islands with their amazing  white sandy beaches – all so heartbreaking beautiful.  The Filipinos are the warmest, nicest people one can imagine, whether living in the big city of Manila, old Vigan or the Island of Bohol. What a great and wonderful surprise .  . . lots of fun . . .YES, we did [take great pictures]. It was hard to come up with poor images when the surrounding is so beautiful and Karl being such a great teacher. So many people have said nice things about you [Karl] through the years . . . your way of dealing and approaching the individuals whose images you have captured . . . when I look at the images [you take] I can see the sparkle  in the eyes of those you have photographed, and I know you have talked to them, showed a real interest [in them] and smiled. They in return have lowered their defenses, engaged with a smile of their own, a giggle or may be even sadness- but no anger or toughness.  And at times, when I look at the images [Karl's], I just sit there and wait for these people to begin talking. Almost always there is a dialogue.  The ability to carry a dialogue and share is a strong feature in Karl’s teaching.  He offers the information, he shares his knowledge.  You don’t have to ask for help, Karl watches you in action and is there to encourage or correct – either way you feel you gain.”  -Ruti A. 


“Karl was great. He is one of the best tour leaders we have had. He made sure that we were well informed about settings and anything else we asked for. His constant reminders to check settings at the stops made us think about what we needed to change before we got going at each location. He’s a great teacher. He knew when to let us go and when to remind us of tricky situations for our set ups. . . Outside of the people I’d say Vigan [my favorite part of the trip] was nice and Sagada was a great spot for photos . . .  [The local guides]  were good but Karl was so much better. . . the trip was well priced. . .  Loved the discussions with Karl and the group.”  -Ed F.


“I really loved all the locations we visited  . . . the mountain roads and areas  . . . (e.g Bagio & Sagada) were spectacular.  I liked the accommodations in the G Hotel in Manila . . . The Lodge at John Hay was spectacular, and the Salcedo de Vigan and Amarela Resort were both charming.  I liked the fish market dinner we had in Manila, and dinner at the John Hay and Amarela resorts were also very nice . . . There were excellent photo opportunities in almost every place we went  . . . Karl was an excellent teacher in helping me learn how to take control of my Nikon D-90 and learn what I could do with a little bit of thought and preparation . . . I feel I made great strides forward.. The favorite part for me was discovering the beauty of a country that I knew very little about. I was also very taken by the friendliness and openness of almost all of the Filippinos we met and we photographed. Not only were they very friendly and polite (even in the poorest areas-e.g railroad bridge in Manila) but there seemed to be a real sense of community – i.e. of caring for their neighbors and family – in so many places we visited  . . . The local guides were knowledgeable and helpful. I especially appreciated Ferdz taking time to critique my photos and suggest a number of ways to improve them . . . This trip gave me the support I needed to become a better technical photographer, and also a few tips on how to compose better pictures . . . I learned a great deal about how to use [my Nikon 10-24 wide angle lens] effectively. I thank Jim Cline for recommending that lens  . . . I think I got some very good pictures . . . I would recommend the trip to someone who was at least a serious amateur photographer. It’s a great way to see a country, meet many people, and learn some of the stories of the people and places – and at the same time improve your photography and take some nice (if not great) pictures. I am looking forward to future trips.“  -Herb H. 


The pre-trip information was excellent and well enough in advance. Great info for things to pack based on the region.  The hotels were wonderful and staff very accommodating.  We ate very well . . . especially [at] the seaside restaurant in Manila . . . where they cooked [fresh fish] right there for dinner. Yum! The walking tour [in Manila] was nice. The people were a definite highlight. I also enjoyed the fish market in Bohol. It was a great photo op! I loved the peacefulness of Bohol and scheduling the beach at the end of the trip was a good call. I liked Karl’s reminders about various [camera] settings and his suggestions about how to shoot in particular lighting situations. I really liked [guides and fellow photographers] Red Santos and Ferdz. They really added to our trip. Ferdz was especially helpful. Both guides really added to our trip.  Jim and Karl are wonderful and accommodating. I appreciate Karl’s enthusiasm and the time he took to scope out some really incredible photo opportunities.”  -Anietra H. 

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