The Philippines is a study in contrasts. Immediately upon leaving the airport in Manila, you notice there is no middle ground - gorgeous landscapes lie beneath heavy pollution; strong familial bonds and pacific tradition are influenced by western consumerism; densely populated communities living in poverty border gated subdivisions where the wealthy enjoy their privacy. The long history of colonialism endured by the Filipino people is evident throughout their culture. But from an independence born out of oppression, a complex and resilient society stands, teaming with a diversity unparalleled in the South Pacific. The over 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines each have their own iteration of language, cuisine and culture. It is a place where you simultaneously feel skeptical and secure, yet always filled with wonder.